Forget fixed hours and embrace flexibility

Job van der Voort, CEO and Co-Founder of Remote, elaborates on the transformative power of asynchronous work for global organisations.
By: | February 29, 2024

In today’s hyper-connected world, building high-performing global teams can seem like a logistical puzzle. Enter asynchronous work, a revolutionary approach Remote is championing. By breaking free from the shackles of fixed schedules, async empowers teams to collaborate across time zones, tap into diverse talent pools, and ultimately, maximise productivity.

In this interview with HRM Asia, Job van der Voort, CEO and Co-Founder at Remote, shares how async fosters a culture of trust, autonomy and flexibility, empowering individuals and teams to thrive on their own terms.

Can you elaborate on the concept of asynchronous work – what sparks this approach, and how can this approach be instrumental for organisations in building global teams?
Van der Voort:
Asynchronous work, or “async” when shortened, is the practice of working on a team that does not require all members to be online simultaneously. In asynchronous work, teams can organise the order in which tasks are executed to align with their timetables and communication is not expected to be immediate.

It’s become more prominent as organisations become more global and teams become more distributed. Our Remote Workforce Report 2023 found that 44% of organisations are increasing their international hiring, which means more people working together across more time zones. We do it at Remote because we have found it to be the best way to work and we wanted to foster a culture that is global, productive and empowers our teams. Global teams work best when they are async. It provides flexibility across diverse time zones but mostly, it’s also about setting the right culture. Async work prioritises productivity and outcomes and it directly sends a message to your team that the organisation has a results-oriented culture.

Being async also expands your hiring strategy because you are no longer limited by geographical restrictions. This means that you can hire top talent regardless of where they are and increase your access to diverse skill sets and perspectives, getting the best fit for your needs. Overall, what organisations will get is better resource management, reduced wastage, and higher efficiency, leading to an optimisation of productivity.

Async work can sometimes feel isolating. How can organisations foster team spirit across a distributed workforce?
Van der Voort:
Isolation when working async comes up as an issue without the right strategies in place to encourage team building and relationship development. Clear communication and expectations are the most important factors here because going without them can lead to conflict. And let’s not forget, working async means you have more flexibility in your life for more in-person relationships with family and friends.

“Working async does not mean there are no real-time meetings at all. Organisations must use these meetings effectively to build and develop strong relationships across their organisation.” – Job van der Voort, CEO and Co-Founder at Remote

Working async does not mean there are no real-time meetings at all. Organisations must use these meetings effectively to build and develop strong relationships across their organisation. Leaders should do real-time and regular check-ins with their teams to keep them aligned on their goals and it also gives them opportunities to celebrate team and individual achievements to build morale and a sense of belonging.

Many HR professionals might be hesitant to adopt async work due to perceived challenges in managing performance and communication. How is Remote addressing these concerns, and what advice do you have for HR leaders transitioning to an async model?
Van der Voort:
Those concerns are understandable but async work is not as hard as people think it is! The solutions are values that organisations need to have to operate well anyway – good communication and clear expectations.

At Remote, we emphasise clear and transparent communication across the team and encourage the use of documentation and written procedures to ensure everyone is on the same page and avoid confusion. This also ensures that people can find the information they need, therefore reducing the need for someone to immediately send off an urgent question. You also need the right tools to work async effectively. To achieve that, we leverage various tools like Slack, Notion, Google Drive, and Loom for project management, documentation, video conferencing, and document collaboration.

READ MORE: Building a thriving borderless workforce in a globalised world

When it comes to setting expectations, it means being explicit about what is expected from each team member. This includes clarity about the tasks to be completed, the scope and quality of work expected, and the deadlines. It also means that there are established norms like response times, documentation standards, and the use of specific tools. This allows people to manage their time well and fosters trust and accountability within the team. Recently, we launched an async masterclass where anyone can learn the fundamentals and gain certification in async work.

As a closing thought, could you share a personal story or anecdote that demonstrates the power of async work on individuals and teams?
Van der Voort:
Asynchronous work empowers everyone to work at their best times, giving them flexibility and life-work balance. I am included in this too and the one thing I value and have been able to do because of async and remote work is spending more time with my family. I get to have breakfast with my family every morning, drop my daughter at daycare and pick her up after, and then put both my children to bed in the evening. In between those times, I am working or in meetings. This balance is something I am committed to at Remote and I expect my team members to have personal non-negotiables in their lives too. This gives my team the ability to work at their peak levels of energy and creativity, boosting our productivity overall.

Async work liberates us. It lets us operate at our best, unhindered by time. It’s about trust, autonomy, and the power of well-written communication.