The Async A-Team by tl;dv - Featuring Tyler Sellhorn, Katie Scheuer, Chase Warrington, Darcy Boles & Darren Murph

Meet the Async A-Team || Shaping the Way We Work

42 minutes read

We’re all living the dream.

No longer does one’s career come at the cost of personal freedom or flexibility. Work is now much more than money in the bank and food on the table. In fact, this is the first time in our 190,000 years of human history that our way of working is now beginning to work for us.

But how did we get to this incredibly lucky position?

Not too long ago, location and time-independent work meant pausing your career to hustle overseas whilst travelling, working in cafes with sub-par internet and late-night meetings and mandatory daily syncs. Sometimes it even meant not being taken seriously by our office-bound peers.

But not anymore.

So, let’s talk about this amazing evolution to the way we work – it isn’t a happy coincidence. This transformation is result of a community of remote and async advocates, pushing for the legitimization of time and location-independent work. An ambition that today, hundreds of millions of people are benefiting from. We wanted to to hear from the people you think have shaped the way we are working today.

In this article

Your Async A-team!

I couldn’t think of anyone better to kick of the first Async A-Team nomination, than our own async-first culture advocate – Carlo Thissen. He has studiously followed and took inspiration from the gurus of our remote world.

Those working for location-independant companies know that remote advocates are really – happiness advocates. They are the gears – keeping the remote machine functioning harmoniously across continents. They are the glue – binding team’s friendships across different timezones.

So let’s kick it off with Carlo’s nominee – Tyler Sellhorn!

Tyler Sellhorn

The Async A-Team by tl;dv - Featuring Tyler Sellhorn, Katie Scheuer, Chase Warrington, Darcy Boles & Darren Murph

As one of the friendliest members of the remote community. Thus, he’s the perfect inaugural Async A-Team nominee. Tyler Sellhorn is the Head of Customer Experience at Yac. However, Tyler didn’t begin his career as a “location-independent” advocate. Tyler actually has over 10-years of experience in secondary math education under his belt. An unlikely beginning for a remote advocate, given the education sector’s long history with location-based work.

However, after over a decade of educating young minds, Tyler pivoted sharply to a fully-remote role in B2B SaaS in 2019, working for Hubstaff. Not only was this an industry change, but also a career change as Tyler went from educator to Customer Success Manager and then shortly to Director of Customer Experience. Since then, Tyler’s enthusiasm for remote and async-first work is clearly evident. Tyler describes this transition into the remote and customer success world as:

“I was a technology-oriented teacher. Now, I am a teaching-oriented technologist 👨‍🏫”

In Tyler’s short time in the remote and async landscape, he’s talked up a storm – interviewing the best and brightest in async on his Remote Show podcast, amassed a tidy remote-centric following on LinkedIn and Twitter, and taken up the remote gauntlet at Yac.

Tyler was nominated by Carlo to be our first member of the Async A-Team. Here’s a small taste of why! 👇

So, it’s about time we got to our Q&A with Tyler. We’ve also hyperlinked his answers recorded with Yac – you’ll quickly understand why he’s a podcaster!

Qanda with Tyler Sellhorn

Question: Tell us about your pivot to remote working… You dived deep into remote whilst also undergoing a massive career pivot. What was it like to be in the midst of a major career and working lifestyle transition? Any speed bumps?

Answer:

For me remote work came first.

I knew that I was finishing an Education Leadership Masters, thinking that I was going to be a technology coordinator or an assistant principal at the school district I was working in – because, I was always a technology-oriented teacher. I was really looking forward to the potential for helping teachers get the most out of the technology that the district purchased for them. But those doors of opportunity were not available to me.

Additionally, as our family is rooted where we are and we are living near my spouse’s parents, thus, I really wanted to have the opportunity to work remotely, but those doors of opportunity were not available to me. So I just stopped asking them for permission. I started looking for remote work because of a suggestion that actually came from one of my spouse’s clients.

They suggested – “Hey, well, why don’t you just start looking for jobs remotely?”

I started studying for a Salesforce Administration Certification, as that seemed like a good idea. Thus I realized that if I used to be a technology-oriented teacher, maybe I could be a teaching-oriented technologist. I could teach people how to use their software – this then resulted in my career in customer success.

During my remote job search, there were numerous customer-facing and education roles that were available. I just started applying to those types of jobs and was lucky enough to get a job in customer success in B2B SaaS. That has been an outstanding career change for me.

Thus, diving deep into remote was essential for me, as we weren’t going to move for work, given that we’re raising our family. That was the top priority.

Now, I’d always been an Internet person and made friends on the Internet. But now, this passion of mine is really central to my current role, and I’ve really gone deep on this.

I think it’s really cool to have the opportunity to make connections and build relationships and networks and connect people – and help people. Also, inside of the remote advocacy space, there is the opportunity to make friends with my kind of people. We were about and believed in the same things. This accelerated my remote career and things really haven’t stopped.

Question: You recently took up the role of Head of CX at YAC (congrats!). You’re also taking an active role in remote advocacy. What does your new role entail? Do you think “Head of Async” will enter our company charts?

Answer:

I’m the head of Customer Experience at Yac. A long-term career goal for me is to be the internal advocate for remote workers in an organization, be it a fully-remote or hybrid organization.

Also, I aim to be the external advocate for the version of your remote work that is happening at that organization.

When I think about the head of remote, as a role, I think of it in the same way that Darren Murph described it – as an advocate both internally and externally for the remote workers of an organization.

There are two sides to it, there’s the operational side – auditing tools creating workflows. Then also there is candidate marketing – expressing what it is we do here that is related to remote work.

Head of remote is a long-term career goal right now. At Yac we believe in our version of remote work – that not only do we want to enable location independence, but we also want to enable time independence.

Question: You heralded a fully remote and globally distributed customer success team with employees from Australia to America. How did you successfully manage this? How did you handle the time difference?

Answer:

I was the Director of Customer Experience, that is where I oversaw the support team and the customer success team at Hubstaff.

Our team was from Washington to Melbourne, Australia. The way we managed this was with two philosophies:

#1 Our KPs were centered around output. We didn’t focus on time spent on the job.

#2 – And the most important KPI was customer satisfaction – which leads to revenue. These are the two important KPIs to pay attention to in a remote environment.

Is time tracked? Yes, time is tracked in terms of how we were paid.

But how do we measure work productivity and output? We measure the things that matter! And that’s the key ingredient there.

How did I handle the time difference? Well, living in the United States (an Eastern time zone), I could do a later evening or an early morning that overlapped with the team in the Asia-Pacific time zones. We probably aligned at the end of my waking hours – there was a good amount of time to connect on either side of my day.

This was also the perfect time for a one-on-one. But the big thing is just trusting that they are doing their job and that their KPIs are demonstrating their work output.

To summarize, how do I handle the time difference? By building a lot more of your work and your supervision in an asynchronous way.

Question: How did your career in math and education prepare you for an asynchronous life?

Answer:

I would say in general, traditional education here in the United States is as co-located and as synchronous as it could possibly get.

For example, bells on the hour, every hour, telling you to go to a mandatory meeting with a bunch of people you didn’t choose – every day! Thus the American education system is not set up to be asynchronous.

One of the things that I really tried to center inside of my classroom is to say – “Okay, I don’t care about when you learn something, I care that you do learn something!”

With some students, the light bulb comes on about two-thirds of the way through the semester. I never focused on “Did you do the thing at the time that you were expected to do that?”

Additionally, mathematics is very conceptual and there are a lot of skills to learn and it is abstract. Thus, giving the students the time to learn at their own pace was key.

When educating we’re trying to create something from nothing. Thus, I would definitely say that this is a 21st-century skill – being able to think abstractly and to be reflective and considered.

Obviously, these qualities were valuable before, but they’re even more so today and especially so in the modern remote and async workplace.

Question: You have interviewed many guests on The Remote Show podcast series. Who surprised you the most and what was the most insightful piece of information you ever received?

Answer:

The person that surprised me the most, was Chris Herd – Founder and CEO of Firstbase HQ.

At Firstbase they do provisioning for home offices, for remote teams. He is very much an opinionated Twitter personality and he definitely put on the fireside chat persona for our conversation on the Remote Show podcast. So that was surprising to me – just that he was not nearly a strident on our podcast chat as he is on Twitter.

I’ve been asking this question to all my podcast guests – about their thoughts on pre and post-pandemic remote and async life.

I’ve asked this question to everyone, to compare notes and ideas. I liked the answer from Nicole Caba – Founder, and CEO at Avvinue. I also respect what she and her company is doing to help people who are looking to move abroad – and remove any friction in that process. She distilled remote into a simple statement –

“Before, remote work was a luxury, for the lucky. During the pandemic, remote work was the requirement of the responsible. Now remote work is going to become a lifestyle”.

I think that’s the goal that we are hoping to achieve as co-laborers in the asynchronous movement.

The asynchronous work movement is to say that we don’t want to just deliver location-independent work, but we also want to deliver time-independent work.

We don’t all have to be working at the same time, We don’t all have to be collaborating at the same time.

It’s possible for us to have good ideas at any time. How do we make sure that we capture that and make it shareable and something that can persist past the meeting? And be able to deliver on the promise of what remote working always has been? To do this we need to ensure that we are able to work from anywhere, anytime.

Katie Scheuer

The Async A-Team by tl;dv - Featuring Tyler Sellhorn, Katie Scheuer, Chase Warrington, Darcy Boles & Darren Murph

Katie experienced remote and async work since 2019, first as a career coach, and now in supporting organizations to become effective and sustainable remote and hybrid companies. She does this in her role as the Head of Learning Experience at Workplaceless.

Katie is in the perfect position to help guide others through their journey to remote, hybrid, and async effectiveness having experienced the early beginnings of remote work before the global pandemic. While she worked as a remote educator and facilitator, Katie traveled through South East Asia, lived in Portugal for six months, and road tripped across North America.

Now Katie is sharing her vision of remote and async culture with companies ranging from GitLab to Toyota. This vision is extended to hybrid and fully remote companies as she advocates for async communication and equity in the workplace.

Katie was nominated by Tyler Sellhorn for taking up the location and time-independent working torch:

Well, that’s our synopsis. Here’s the cliffnotes from Katie, herself!

Qanda with Katie Scheuer

Question: You’ve spent 10+ years coaching and supporting professionals to achieve their career goals. What surprising lessons did your “students” teach you and how did your time as a career coach prepare you for asynchronous-first and remote life?

Answer:

I learned a ton about how to build trust and influence others from different cultures. Students would arrive in my office from all over the world — China, India, Turkey, Thailand — sometimes literally carrying their suitcases. My focus was to support someone from a completely different context, and identify their needs and how to be successful in their professional pursuits.

As a remote work trainer, I support global remote and hybrid teams, so I use these skills every day when connecting with clients in Asia, Europe, South America and Africa. Supporting international students prepared me to help professionals in recognizing how cultural perspectives influence identity and career decisions.

Question: Katie, your LinkedIn bio reads: “After 10 years as a career coach, I quit my job to travel through Asia and Europe. I’m currently digital nomading / road tripping in the US and Canada. – We love this! We’re now seeing a new wave of professionals who can still progress in their careers without having to sacrifice their families or even location independence. How did you manage to achieve this?

Answer:

After saving my entire salary for a year, with the support of my partner, we quit our jobs! I spent the first half of the summer in northern and central Vietnam, and worked remotely teaching a career course and designing learning content for a small elearning company. Hanoi and northern Vietnam are simply incredible. I adored the people, motorbiking and the food (bun cha anyone?) This new lifestyle gave me the freedom to travel throughout Vietnam, Taiwan, Thailand, Japan, and Indonesia for three months, and develop new professional skills along the way.

My flexible, nomadic lifestyle led me to seek fully remote companies who embraced location independence, which I found at Workplaceless on the Learning Experience team. My first day was the day I moved to Porto, Portugal for a 6 month stint. Portugal is my happy place – the people are incredibly welcoming and kind, and the cities and coastlines are so beautiful. Since then, we’ve taken an epic road trip across the US, visiting 11 national parks.

Question: Workless offers an intriguing “Remote Work Effectiveness Assessment” that helps to understand your team’s strengths and gaps. Would love a brief intro on this. What’s the overall health of the industry? Are most teams relatively “healthy” remote teams?

Answer:

Our Remote Work Effectiveness Assessment is a powerful tool we offer to teams regardless of whether or not they are a Workplaceless client.. Through a series of stakeholder interviews, our team uncovers what’s working and where there are gaps in mindset, infrastructure and capability on remote and hybrid teams. Based on our years of experience and benchmarking across teams with similar goals, we help identify where teams should prioritize their time and energy to ensure their remote-first work is effective.

We often see friction and disconnects between perceptions and realities. Most of the teams we work with are struggling with burnout and overwork, and too much time spent in sync meetings. Fully embracing a Placeless Mindset across all executive and leadership levels is a key first step to alleviating pain points.

Question: How much weight does asynchronous communication impact the overall productivity of remote teams? Can teams be fully productive and effective without asynchronous communication?

Answer:

It’s all about balance. We don’t recommend either an all-async or all-sync approach to any of our clients. But rather having an understanding of when to strategically use both. You can reference our Placeless Taxonomy for an idea of how we prioritize.

However, we do recommend teams remove the hesitancy towards async practices. We see embracing async-first behaviors as one of the best paths to helping with boundaries, alleviating burnout, and promoting autonomy for all team members. Teams can save time and energy by shifting routine meetings to blended experiences, by assigning pre-work and post-work.

This, plus habits around consistent documentation are critical. We love using our project management tool ClickUp to establish a Single Source of Truth for every department and project. I’ve noticed that most teams need support with implementing new async-first habits like establishing norms around documentation, and establishing team agreements like a Communication Charter.

Question: On your LinkedIn bio, you write that you’re “helping teams develop remote-first and async-first habits and cultures”. What is this learning curve like and are there are any patterns? Have you observed a rough average time that people require to attain these skills?

Answer:

The skills timeline is heavily dependent on internal and external resistance. Knowing you need to acquire async-first or remote-first skills, is quite different than actually being willing to change your behavior and practices.

That’s why our team believes in tiny actions that lead to huge impact. If teams want to implement new async-first habits, they can interact with the Placeless Coach less than 10 minutes a month and develop a new skill.

For leaders that want a comprehensive toolkit, our newly updated Leadplaceless course is a 3 hour learning experience that offers leaders a chance to practice eight hybrid and remote team practices and processes, including blended meetings, communication charters, decision-making processes, and connection rituals.

Question: How does asynchronous communication and collaboration relate to “equity in the workplace”?

Answer:

Async communication and collaboration makes hybrid teams more equitable, because information is more accessible. When information is shared transparently through documentation like a Single Source of Truth, or in a recording like a Loom video, and shared on public channels, individuals regardless of physical location are able to get the information they need. It’s important to reduce distance bias, and for managers to offer opportunities for connection and relationship-building on async-first teams. Because there is a large focus on productivity and efficiency, teams should balance that by adding in time for connection—to ensure individuals, especially remote workers, are not isolated. Social capital is still necessary in distributed environments, so managers should take extra steps to support their team members (especially new professionals, or folks who may be under-represented) and ensure they are included in decision-making and offered professional development opportunities.

Chase Warrington

The Async A-Team by tl;dv - Featuring Tyler Sellhorn, Katie Scheuer, Chase Warrington, Darcy Boles & Darren Murph

Chase Warrington is the Head of Remote at Doist – one of the biggest names in the async world. Chase joins the growing number of positions, dedicated to fostering remote and async practices in the workplace. Chase described himself as a “globally-minded professional with 12 years of remote work experience leading distributed teams from locations across the US, Europe, Asia, and South America.”

Chase is a very visible member of the async-first community and often generously shares his brand of remote and async-work. His advice, tips, and secrets can be read in the Doist blog, as he talks about his philosophy of “paying yourself” before beginning your day, throughout numerous online articles and even on his own podcast series – About Abroad.

Chase often candidly shares the nitty-gritty realities of remote living – from visas to traveling with his large husky and his expat life in Spain.

Chase is a passionate advocate of work to live – as he puts it: “I have always felt that the confines of the office were limiting in a myriad of ways, and to be given the freedom to choose how, where, and when you work, should be within everyone’s reach.”

Chase was nominated by Katie Scheuer​ for being such a passionate advocate of the async ecosystem.

Enough about our version of events, let’s hear it from our Async advocate himself, Mr Chase Warrington!

Qanda with Chase Warrington

Question: Congratulations on landing (via promotion) your new role as head of remote! How’s the new role going and what does it entail?

Answer:

Thank you, it’s such an honor and to be honest, a dream job come true! I am really enjoying it so far. The Head of Remote role varies from organization to organization, and at Doist we wanted to put our own spin on the responsibilities to make sure it was serving our needs best. I’ll be focusing about half of my time on leveling up our internal operations (as it relates to remote work), and the other half on remote work advocacy in public.

Within the operations aspect, a central focus at the moment is on reorganizing how we incorporate “the human element” into our work day and year. For example, we want to start offering more options for teammates to connect socially, and bring back co-located events in 2022. A key to making remote work, work, is ensuring we have ample space dedicated to these areas, and it will be my job to see to it that we’re doing so at a world-class level.

Question: After being on the road for one-year, you took up the remote role at Doist. What was it like transitioning to an asynchronous-first environment?

Answer:

While I was in college, I was really eager to take on internships to try and figure out what I wanted to do with my life. My first internship was in the insurance industry, and it was actually remote! I worked from home and traveled a good bit to visit the company’s customers, and immediately knew I was not meant to sit in the office like most of my counterparts. From that point on, I pretty much only pursued opportunities that involved a remote element.

But even then, the scope of what I perceived to be remote was limited. I expected to have geographical limitations and to need to be present online during certain hours. I certainly did not think international remote work was possible, even if I desired it, and flex-time and asynchronous communication were not words in the dictionary in 2008!

Today more and more teams are going remote-first, adopting asynchronous communication as the primary way in which they will collaborate, and allowing people more flexibility with regards to where and when they work. I am someone that has benefited from this shift greatly, and I am excited to encourage other companies to adopt a similar mindset.

Question: You described starting your day with some “non-negotiables” – such as a cup of coffee or reading an article. Do you think there are any “non-negotiables” in async-first and remote teams?

Answer:

Distributed teams, whether they are fully remote or hybrid, need to adopt remote work principles if they are to ensure that everyone across the organization is getting the same stellar experience. Asynchronous communication needs to be at the core of the communication stack, and transparency, trust and autonomy need to be intentionally woven into the company’s best practices. Documentation and accessibility to information is also extremely important and just not negotiable.

Question: You note that “trust” is the backbone of any successful and productive async-first team – not surveillance. How do you build trust in your team, and what things should budding leaders avoid?

Answer:

Distributed teams, whether they are fully remote or hybrid, need to adopt remote work principles if they are to ensure that everyone across the organization is getting the same stellar experience. Asynchronous communication needs to be at the core of the communication stack, and transparency, trust and autonomy need to be intentionally woven into the company’s best practices.

Documentation and accessibility to information is also extremely important and just not negotiable.

Question: We can see that travelling is really important to you. Where do you plan on going next? Leave no detail spared!

Answer:

Living abroad was always a dream for me, I just didn’t really think it was possible. I got a taste of life in other countries through my travels, study abroads, internships abroad, etc… but I wanted to fully immerse in another culture, learn the language and live like a local. I tried the digital nomad life for a couple of years, and while I was enjoying that personally, I wasn’t thriving professionally. I am a creature of habit in a way, which doesn’t mesh well with the digital nomad life. I opted for living abroad, currently in Spain, and traveling a few months per year. It’s the perfect balance for me, allowing me to have a routine, a dedicated desk at a coworking space, a group of friends, a gym, a place to call home – but also the flexibility to travel and experience other cultures and places.

Remote-first work facilitates this, and I’m hopeful more people will have the opportunity to live this way as digital nomad visas become more abundant. Right now, I am evaluating multiple visa options, as well as the possibility of converting to a long term resident in Spain. The cool thing is, all of these seemed unobtainable less than 10 years ago, and now there are plenty of options!

Second, distance is a real thing, especially during the pandemic. We normally meet one or two times per year in a co-located place, and many of us have not seen each other in over two years. In normal circumstances that cadence of meeting up every six months is sufficient, but the pandemic has thrown a monkey wrench in our plans. We are all really looking forward to some time together in person soon.

Finally, it can be argued that asynchronous communication is slower than synchronous communication. I believe this is only true when you aren’t optimized for async, and when you focus on a single project or two and the timeline it takes to complete it. Asynchronous communication done well, should provide higher quality results in a similar time frame, but it takes a high degree of intentionality to achieve this.

Having said all that, the trade-offs that come with the alternatives to these challenges are not worth sacrificing in my opinion!

Question: We love that Doist encourages you to enjoy the spoils of remote work – a crucial to effectively managing remote teams. This is one of the best parts of remote work, we’re wondering, are there any downsides you’d like to share with us? Perhaps a funny story or remote faux-pas?

Answer:

A teammate recently described one of the downsides in a perfect way, as it relates to meetings and missing that “aha” moment that can come during a team brainstorming session. These are achievable in a virtual meeting as well, but I’d be lying if I said I preferred a Zoom meeting to an in-person meeting. The fact is, we tend to lean on asynchronous collaboration at Doist, and the output is fantastic from that process. It’s true that at times it comes in bits and pieces, and missing that moment where it just clicks and the energy developed around that can be a slight downside.

Second, distance is a real thing, especially during the pandemic. We normally meet one or two times per year in a co-located place, and many of us have not seen each other in over two years. In normal circumstances that cadence of meeting up every six months is sufficient, but the pandemic has thrown a monkey wrench in our plans. We are all really looking forward to some time together in person soon.

Finally, it can be argued that asynchronous communication is slower than synchronous communication. I believe this is only true when you aren’t optimized for async, and when you focus on a single project or two and the timeline it takes to complete it. Asynchronous communication done well, should provide higher quality results in a similar time frame, but it takes a high degree of intentionality to achieve this.

Having said all that, the trade-offs that come with the alternatives to these challenges are not worth sacrificing in my opinion!

Darcy Boles

The Async A-Team by tl;dv - Featuring Tyler Sellhorn, Katie Scheuer, Chase Warrington, Darcy Boles & Darren Murph

Darcy’s brand of remote feels warm and fuzzy. But not the kind of warm and fuzzy that is adorned for clout or PR. Rather, the kind that feels infectious and makes you feel excited to start the day!

You can catch Darcy building these positive async-foundations at TaxJar I A Stripe Company, as the Director of Culture and Innovation. Since her time at TaxJar, (circa 2018), she’s helped to build a culture that was awarded over 15 workplace awards. These company accolades range from being a workplace leader in work:life balance, happiness, and professional development.

So how does Darcy create such a hotbed of productivity and harmony in the async workplace? I can only assume it is the human-first approach which Darcy is so passionate about. In her LinkedIn bio, she talks about her eudaimonic well-being principles and striving to build and maintain a culture of shared values. Her mantra? “Work doesn’t have to suck!”

Darcy believes that work, in particular, async and remote work should support people to live the way they want to live. Oh yea, did I mention her previous side-hustle called “Pups and Us” – a trail bar made for humans and dogs? This is just one of the ways that Darcy embraces remote living – we’ll delve into more in the daily doses of happiness in our Q&A.

It’s time for a dose of that positivity, from none other than Darcy herself!

Qanda with Darcy Boles

Question: Hey Darcy, we can see that you’ve been advocating for happy and productive async and remote team environments since 2018. What does a typical day look like for a professional who is pioneering an effective async and remote team culture?

Answer:

Hi! Thanks for having me 🙂

Well, it’s all about the value of permission. It actually took me almost a year to give myself the permission to design my day around my energy (and team sync needs of course), vs. just falling back into an old pattern of 9-5 at my desk behind a computer.

Now that I’ve found my footing and learned more about my energy and environments that help me to thrive, I tend to play with that format. While my home base is in San Diego and I spend the majority of my time there, my day starts with meditation and surfing – if the waves are good! If I’m “slowmading” (basically staying in a location other than home for over two weeks working), I like to spend my mornings exploring the outdoors or local cafes.

I then generally dive into emails and pings around 10 am my local time (depending on what’s on my plate) and block my calendar around synchronous meetings for deep work so I can concentrate and give my best to my team. All in all, everyone’s days differ heavily depending on workload, but I think the core of how my typical day is set up is ensuring I’ve put my own oxygen mask on first and when I log off for the day, I’ve answered yes to the question “Did I give everything I had with the capacity I have today to my work?”.

I want to ensure that I’ve left anything that could be open-ended wrapped up to hand off appropriately to a teammate who may be working at different times than me. I’ve also set up a public auto-question that asks “what do you want to share with the team today” and encouraged myself and leadership to post non-work things in. This is to provide the cultural permission that it is OK and in fact, it is encouraged to enjoy your workday. It is also okay to support your work outcomes in whichever way they need (to feel supported). Permission is only given if it’s modeled, and that’s key to a healthy async culture.

Question: “I believe that work doesn’t have to suck.” – we love this mantra on your LinkedIn bio! What are your top tips for making async-first team culture a joy to be a part of?

Answer:

Well, thanks! I love it too and it is my deepest why.

I am consistently bamboozled why so many people still feel the need to chain themselves or their employees to an office when we have the technology, creativity, and resources to make work and life a pretty awesome and harmonious experience.

Make spaces where people can be themselves!

I love creating virtual spaces titled with things (such as arts + crafts, sports caretakers, pets, and so forth) that have auto-questions to request photos, updates, conversation prompts. This serves as an incredibly powerful way to create connection and trust whenever, and however, it works for individuals. I watch some of these async posts develop into deep, synchronous connections and it’s really special to see.

Normalize different types of lifestyles

Almost every remote worker has a unique reason why they work remotely. Perhaps it’s travel, perhaps it’s taking care of a sick loved one, or simply being closer to family. For me personally, I never fit into the “office box.” I love the practice of designing my life around my work vs my work around my life. Don’t get me wrong, I work a lot, but I also no longer feel like I need to be chained to a city or waste commute time going anywhere I don’t want to be.

I’m a highly sensitive person (HSP) so my environment is super important in how it influences my creativity and work output. Choosing to work from an Airbnb in Mexico City for a month, from our camper van at the beach, or from my office at our local coworking spot has helped me be happier, more productive, and frankly, just a better human being who fully shows up for myself, my team and my community. Imagine what that type of autonomy can do for your employees and business results!

“The Art of Wooing”

In an office, you can take a coworker out for coffee, lunch, or perhaps leave a surprise pick-me-up gift on their desk if something has them feeling down. In an async and remote environment, I’ve found the art of wooing (my term for gifting), is one of the most beautiful ways to show appreciation and create a sense of belonging. When you begin to onboard employees, try having them fill out a favorites list (things like fave treats when they are feeling down, favorite food, destination, etc). You can pull from this list, and use one of the many online gifting services to surprise and delight your teammates! You’ll begin to see how incredible a small act of kindness reverberates throughout the organization and creates a feeling of being seen.

WORDS MAKE WORLDS

My mentor told me this last year and it’s so true, especially in a remote ecosystem

Using inclusive language and intentionality in messaging is key in an async-first team culture. I absolutely love it when I can tell a message was crafted to reach an audience of global employees, capturing everything that the messenger intended to convey and instills actual feeling into my body when I receive (or write) it.

Question: We’d love to know more about your philosophy on creating an efficient and inclusive remote workplace for everybody as well as your number one biggest tip to achieve this.

———-

Answer:

I think all remote businesses should learn to do less, better while focusing on inclusivity and belonging at the core of the business model.

Human beings are so incredibly unique and have very different life experiences. In a fully remote environment – there is potentially zero shared daily experience outside your virtual walls. Thus, architecting a culture around shared values and hiring for it (as well as skillset) is essential to the success of a remote workplace. While some things may be common knowledge to a group of people who are used to working in an office, in let’s say, San Francisco, someone on the same team who is hired remotely may live in a log cabin in a rural area and may have never traveled or experienced the world outside their hometown before.

Being able to teach behaviors and common language and expectations of the workplace may seem like overkill, or like you’re “going back to basics” but a lot of people actually need education on what behaviors and actions are welcomed in the remote environment and it’s up to the employer to create, codify teach these all the way from hire to retire.

Question: We’d love to chat about your experiences working at Airbnb. You’ve listed your location as “Global” – what was it like working for one of Silicon Valley’s biggest startups before remote work became established? Were there any glimpses of an async culture being developed during your time there?

Answer:

Working for Airbnb was wild, and was also one of the most interesting and invigorating experiences of my career. I mean, I was in Cuba vetting an Airbnb Experience the day Fidel Castro died – someone has to write a workflow of what to do for the host and guest experience when things go awry, right? What a ride!

Although remote work wasn’t established as a social norm at the time, Airbnb is a global company with offices all around the world, operating in multiple time zones. While Airbnb wasn’t an async-first culture, there were absolutely glimpses of async communications and developments as our global employee and customer base grew.

Question: We can see that having a positive attitude and enthusiasm for life has played a big role in shaping your career and in your current role. Would you say maintaining and spreading this throughout the company is fundamental for async to thrive?

Answer:

Absolutely. As I said before, words truly make worlds. Ensuring that passion, positivity, and enthusiasm breaths through written communication is huge.

I also think it’s important to note that not every day is a good one. For async to thrive, I think looking through a positive lens is essential, coupled with freedom within a company’s framework allowing people to experience life at its fullest and most real form will help async cultures grow sustainably.

Darren Murph

The Async A-Team by tl;dv - Featuring Tyler Sellhorn, Katie Scheuer, Chase Warrington, Darcy Boles & Darren Murph

Then there’s Darren – who needs NO introduction. But we’re going to try anyway!

Darren is an avid writer, a Guinness World Record holder (for blogging), and an epic 26-page Remote-playbook author.

To try and summarize his career and influence on the async-world is like trying to perform a Queen’s best hits medley in an ad break – it’s just not going to fit! But let’s talk about some of his best hits. Currently, he’s the Head of Remote at GitLab – one of the absolute leaders in the async-world. His aforementioned remote playbook is probably the most cited piece of educational async and remote content in the entire industry.

Before educating people on the riches of remote living through his words, Darren honed his writing skills via a 25+ year career in writing, communications, and media consultancy, and creation. His clients and employers include Samsung, OgilvyOne, and Engadget.

His work and interviews can be seen across The Wall Street Journal, WIRED, TechCrunch, The Telegraph, Crunchbase, CNBC, Business Insider, Forbes, CNN, Engadget, and Oprah.com to name a few. It is no wonder CNBC named Darren the “Oracle of Remote Work”.

When I was evaluating taking the Head of Remote role, I wanted to talk to someone who had done the job and get their opinions on whether I was a good fit for the position, and how they would envision it working at a company like Doist. I reached out to the person everyone in this industry knows as one of the great minds in remote, Darren Murph. He was kind enough to offer his time and candid feedback, as well as continued support as I moved into the position.

I’ve been reading the GitLab handbook and looking to Darren for inspiration and leadership for several years, and now that I am in a role that is modeled after his, I am doing so at an even higher level. He’s a great source of knowledge and is inspired about the future of work for all the right reasons.

I’ve personally asked Darren a lot of questions already, but I’d still love to learn more from him about how he envisions remote work evolving in the next 5-10 years. Everything has been expedited due to the pandemic, and many organizations are heading toward a hybrid model, at least in the near term. What does he expect will happen to those teams, and which ones will succeed, and which will fail? And what does success and failure look like for these teams?

Remote and async are synonyms for isolation and disconnection. However, Chase’s quote illustrates that this industry is probably one of the most lively and connected commuities.

Qanda with Darren Murph

Question: Let’s start the chat with some positive vibes because that’s really one of the core pillars of true remote work – “Remote work makes me a better dad”. We’d love to know your thoughts on this. Why this matters and why suddenly so many companies are recognizing the importance of family and personal time.

Answer:

Repurposing commute time enables people to spend more moments with family, friends, and community while still achieving great results in their careers. The a-ha moment is that one doesn’t need to be sacrificed for the other if we lean into intentionally designed remote work.

Question: GitLab is often cited as one of the async-first champions in the remote working industry. For those that may not be fully acquainted, how does GitLab do “async”? How does this differ (if at all) from other organizations’ practices?

Answer:

In true GitLab fashion, we’ve documented this so that others can learn asynchronously. Asynchronous workflows are more easily adopted when you foster a culture of progress over perfection. Move a project forward as best you can, given the resources available, and if you reach a point where you’re blocked, attempt to ship what you have now through a two-way door.

Question: As the “Oracle of remote work”, we’re super stoked to have you be a part of this article. What bold and dramatic changes do you think we’ll see over the next few decades with regards to the future of remote work or rather the “future of living”?

Answer:

When people realize that they can move anywhere with a stable internet connection and continue to work, they’re able to reconsider the interplay between work and life. They can chase superior air quality and schools, instead of a condo within walking distance of a subway station. They can move to a smaller community where civil contributions are more impactful and tangible and, in some cases, where the cost of living is lower. They can move back home, wherever home happens to be. They can relocate to be caregivers. They can build their careers around their lives, not vice versa.

Question: GitLab’s 38-page guide – which you penned – on remote working has helped over 100,000 people navigate the pandemic. At the start, or even middle of your career, did you imagine that you’d be pioneering remote and a leader in async-first communication? Secondly, how does it feel to know that you’re inspiring and guiding countless organizations globally to be more productive and effective through your asynchronous and remote guides?

Answer:

It’s an honor. I’m grateful for the platform to share and the opportunity to foster community around greater inclusion and flexibility in the global workplace. It brings me great joy to see other organizations sharing their journeys in public — many at REMOTE by GitLab earlier this year — enabling us all to build a better future together.

Question: Throughout your illustrious career, you’ve been awarded the Guinness World Record in publishing and your work has been seen across countless publications. Now you’re using your writing skills to champion the Async cause at GitLab. As a writer, what are your thoughts on Async-first communication for professionals not skilled in written communication?

Answer:

Great writing and storytelling skills will become highly valued in a more distributed working world. Existing organizations may consider dedicated upskilling and learning tracks to equip their workforce. I also envision machine learning playing a key role in bridging the verbal and written spheres.

Question: A common concern with remote work is that creative collaboration is more difficult being done remotely, or even asynchronously. What’s your perspective on this with your long-lasting creative career in publishing?

Answer:

Synchronous and asynchronous are two tools in the collaboration toolbox. Both must be used with care to create maximum results. Intentionally planned synchronous sessions can catalyze deep, focused work. We’re in the earliest stages of tooling, too. The global shift to remote will create a new world of collaboration tools that are purpose-built for distributed teams.

You heard it here first! The oracle of remote work predicts that machine learning will play a big role in communication for remote and async-first culture. Or as Darren puts it machine learning will bridge the gap between the “verbal and written spheres”.

The next nominee of the Async A-Team?

The Async A-Team by tl;dv - Featuring Tyler Sellhorn, Katie Scheuer, Chase Warrington, Darcy Boles & Darren Murph

Keep your eyes peeled, because we have more Async A-Team recommendations coming your way…

How will we shape the future of remote?

You’ve probably seen the typical Twitter post glorifying remote and async-first work. If your company has whole-heartedly embraced this change, you know that these are not empty words. Rather, these are the unified cries of a community relishing in the fact that – we finally did it!

We made legitimate async-first and remote work happen!

2020 didn’t bring remote work – we all did.

Now the only question left is, where will we take it next?