More and more colleagues are working at different times: is this workable?
Prof. Dr. Elke Van Hoof sees the key to a new way of working in asynchronous communication
Brussels, June 9, 2021 – Starting today we can go back to the office one day a week and on July 1, 2021 the obligation to work from home will disappear, although it will still be recommended. Working from home will therefore remain part of daily work life for a long time to come. More and more colleagues are working from home at different times. They start or end the working day a little earlier or later, so that they can pick up the children from school or have time to play sports. This reduces the hours of real-time communication between colleagues. The question that arises is whether this is workable. Prof. Dr. Elke Van Hoof conducted research into the workability of working from home and sees the advantage of an asynchronous way of working in which employees work at different times.
Asynchronous communication can change the workday forever
Working asynchronously is not new, you may have already worked with clients or colleagues in a different time zone or you clean your inbox in the evening when no one else is online. Working from home is not automatically asynchronous. When bosses expect you to be online from 9 to 5, you work in sync. But when working from home, we often work at our own pace, choose our own hours, and answer emails and messages when it suits us best. In other words, we work asynchronously. Asynchronous communication can change our working day forever: we work different hours than our colleagues, which means less real-time communication.
“You can’t suddenly start working asynchronously,” says Elke Van Hoof, professor at the VUB. “It is an evolution that an employer has to go through in collaboration with its employees. No shortage of necessary tools. They simultaneously enable live remote collaboration and efficient asynchronous work. The next step is that employees will not only work from home, but will also work more flexibly in terms of working method and time allocation.”
Trust and clear communication are key
For the employer, working asynchronously means that clear agreements must be made. The employer communicates clearly and calmly about his vision and expectations of the employees. He communicates when employees need to be reachable and accessible and shows his confidence in the employees. Trust is central as the ‘glue’ that holds all aspects of working from home together. That trust is important, because companies with more control often receive too many phone calls, resulting in the well-known zoom headache. In addition, you have to take into account the unique needs of home workers: colleagues are responsible for childcare, cannot work during normal office hours and will have to show some flexibility. In general, the employees should feel supported: show commitment and be empathetic and positive.
“Research shows that thirty percent of employees would change employers if they were no longer allowed to work from home after the corona crisis. Working asynchronously, with colleagues at the office and colleagues at home, is therefore becoming more important. Once the company has achieved a far-reaching form of asynchronous working, there are several advantages,” says Prof. Dr. Elke Van Hoof “You need less coordination and the managers will do less micromanagement: they no longer monitor the work itself, but results, behavior and attitudes. Central to the employer are the results and the time frame within which they achieve that result. ”
How do you work asynchronously as an employee?
For the employee, working from home has both advantages and disadvantages: where the employee experiences more freedom and feels more isolated. Employees are also expected to learn how to work with tools such as Slack, Notion and Slite. In addition, it is becoming increasingly important that the employee knows what his job is: know what your added value is and what you do. To prevent work and private life from becoming too involved in homework, structure must be introduced into the work schedule. This can be done via physical segmentation by setting up a specific workplace or by separating yourself, ritual segmentation by, for example, always cleaning up the laptop or time segmentation by clearly demarcating work time and private time.