The awful coronavirus pandemic has improved our ability to work remotely, become more efficient and – to the surprise of many – even be more productive, due to no longer wasting time on commuting, face-to-face meetings and non-work-related banter with coworkers.
And yet there’s a price to be paid for productivity as well. The excessive number of virtual meetings, never-ending texts and working around the clock with zero work-home separation – all are a quick recipe for employee burnout. The proper balance has got to be found between effectiveness and staying power.
Such insights about the new reality have led some large companies to think about the best way to work efficiently without burning out. In fact, lately I’ve been hearing more and more global companies making a shift towards asynchronous communication. That means that instead of conducting long meetings, employees are asked to limit the number of internal meetings and try to keep them short. Also, rather than sending WhatsApp or Slack messages, employees are asked to send detailed emails and add data in collaborative tools.
Such changes allow the company to be more efficient and the workers to feel less burnt out. Asynchronous communication also makes it possible to put more emphasis on personal thought and individual pace, exert better control over the company agenda and reduce tension. Twist, for example, is a team-communication app (similar to Slack) that works asynchronously by default. Team members on Twist can prioritize focused productive work without fear of missing out on something important. With Slack-type apps, on the other hand, if workers in different locations and time zones seek more asynchronous communication and avoiding the pressure to respond immediately, they actually have to pause their notifications. (Read more about Twist.)
The option of conducting more asynchronous business communication raises questions, such as:
- Is this business style suitable for every culture? For every company?
- Does it suit Israeli global companies?
- What emphases need to be considered to manage this type of work?
For the past decade I have been researching Israeli culture and advising organizations in Israel and around the world on how to develop cultural agility and reduce cultural gaps. Based on extensive interviews with hundreds of businesspeople worldwide, I found that the main characteristics of the Israeli business culture are:
These characteristics are what turned Israel into the “startup nation” – thanks to direct, informal dialogue and associative, “out of the box” thinking that stretches limits and enables taking promising actions despite certain risks and without overcalculating the details and the long run.
I assure you that this description paints the exact opposite picture of what it takes to succeed in running a company asynchronously. Asynchronous communication necessitates careful planning, great attention to detail and strict professionalism in reporting to and updating others.
And so an Israeli company wishing to make the transition and place a higher emphasis on asynchronous work is going to have to teach its employees work methods more in line with those of other cultures. Namely:
- Include as much information as possible when sending a message.
- Communicate clearly, fully and relevantly to reduce back-and-forth email correspondence.
- Be clear about what you are asking from the other person.
- Plan ahead to give other team members the time they need.
- Be precise about when the deadline is.
- Share all relevant information before any meeting.
- Share all conclusions, discussions and action items after any meeting.
True, in some cultures such as Japan, the U.S. and Germany, these recommendations sound like an integral part of basic business professionalism for any employee at any level of a global company. But in Israel great attention is paid to the spoken word, trust, handshakes, being practical and fast to action, so the mindset is obviously completely different. That is why it must be changed, along with the approach to communication.
This kind of sea change might delay the way things are done for a while, but if workers manage to internalize these kinds of work methods as well as start sharing personal and group meetings (that should take place less frequently), Israelis can achieve better productivity, less employee exhaustion and long-lasting international business success.
Amir Salihefendic, founder and CEO of Doist – the makers of Todoist and Twist, holds that remote work is the future, but adds that “asynchronous communication” is an even more important factor in team productivity, whether your team is remote or not.”
What could be more fitting than Israel, the startup nation, learning to excel at asynchronous communication, to lead this wave of the future?