The future of work is...asynchronous? It’s not a word that rolls easily off the tongue, or the keyboard, which is why you may not have heard of it before.
But behind the word – which is officially defined as ‘not existing or occurring at the same time’ – is a simple idea. It might even be something that you are practicing yourself. I am, as are others in the BTV team. In fact, I’m doing it right now.
In work terms, it means keeping different hours to your colleagues, and it heralds the end of the traditional nine to five workday. Such ‘non-liner work’ is even one of Wunderman Thompson’s Future 100 trends for 2023.
Like many recent business and lifestyle changes, this one was accelerated by the Covid pandemic, lockdown and remote working, and facilitated by advances in tech, by the use of apps such as Teams or Zoom.
In the case of BTV, we’ve been working asynchronously ever since we launched. We’re a global team, so it makes sense to work according to the time zones we’re in when we’re not in the office. We have colleagues working remotely in Costa Rica, Bangladesh and South Africa, as well as within the UK.
Some of us travel for business, necessitating carrying out aspects of our jobs on aeroplanes and trains, in airport lounges and hotel rooms, at all hours of the day and night. And we work daily with founders, start-ups, CEOs, lawyers, designers, creators, financiers and our BAT associates in different times zones across the globe.
Even when we’re in the UK, we may have different schedules and preferences. Personally, I like working on a Sunday. Apart from a morning yoga class, I have few other commitments, which means I can sit down for a few hours of blissfully uninterrupted work in the afternoon. Other colleagues might fit in work around childcare, hospital appointments or their own circadian rhythms (why not fill those wee small hours of sleeplessness with a bit of report-writing or email drafting, if you’re feeling alert and industrious).
Of course, there are potential drawbacks. It’s important to ensure that working flexibly doesn’t put pressure on colleagues. Few people will want to get up at 4am in LA to dial into a noon meeting in London. But with considerate scheduling, that noon call could easily be shifted to 4pm to suit everyone.
At BTV, we all also have some version of the same statement on our email signatures, explaining that we value and respect flexible work arrangements, and ask respondents to only respond when they are working.
For example, my own email signature states:
I sometimes work flexibly and may send emails outside normal working hours. Please do not feel obliged to respond out of your own normal working hours.
So if you receive an email from me at 3am on a Saturday morning, don’t be alarmed (or assume that I expect an immediate reply) – I’m simply asynchronousing!