Could asynchronous working replace meetings?

One minute briefing: Hoxby's Alex Hirst has run a fully remote organisation for years.

by Orianna Rosa Royle
Last Updated: 22 Oct 2020

When Boris Johnson announced that all non-essential workplaces were to close in March, managers nationwide scrambled to adjust to leading virtually - with home distractions varying from cats behaving badly to children running in on Zoom calls.

But for Hoxby's Alex Hirst, it was business as usual. That's because five years ago he and joint CEO Lizzie Penny took a stand against the presenteeism they'd seen in prior workplaces to found their global agency as a fully remote business. 

As leaders consider hybrid working arrangements after COVID-19, Hirst recommends they take the opportunity to challenge some of the leadership norms they've inherited, rather than just porting them over to the new reality. First up, the humble business meeting. 

“For leaders, the big challenge around remote leadership is unlearning a lot of our ways of thinking about work, whether that's the fact that we have to be present at a certain time, wear a certain thing or speak a certain way. 

“We call it decorpification. For it to work really well you have to get your head around the fact that it's very unlike how things used to be done. That adjustment depends on how much they are a product of the corporate system. I say this in the nicest possible way, because we've all been there. 

“Rather than thinking we need to be together on calls at specific times or working set hours, we work towards the output together and work towards the same deadlines but at our own time. 

“Asynchronous working relies heavily on written communication platforms like Slack, recording videos for each other, sharing messages. It enables people to collaborate when they are in their best frame of mind and best able to work. 

“We could spend weeks trying to get people together at a certain time for a call, the objective of which could be solved through asynchronous working in a matter of days.

"We find it a more productive way of working. We've always worked this way and it's become very much ingrained in our way of doing things.

"But we think it's been especially valuable in the context of the world of work as we've come to know over the last six months.”

Read Management Today's full special report on hybrid working here

Image credit: Georgie Clarke


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