As a remote team who doesn’t see each other in an office everyday, it’s important for us at Workplaceless to stay connected with one another, beyond just the work. While we integrate this throughout our daily routines through apps like Donut and remote team building exercises, we also aim to meet once a month in a live all-hands team meeting. It’s a meeting we all look forward to every month. However, with much needed vacations, staycations, and team relocations, a synchronous meeting wasn’t going to work for July, so we decided to run an async meeting.
Here’s what we did and an evaluation of what we would or wouldn’t do again from both the perspective of the meeting organizer, Megan Eddinger, and two team attendees, Katie Scheuer, and Jacqueline Zeller.
For the most part we lead with remote-first asynchronous collaboration, and limit meetings as part of our daily work. When we do elect to hold synchronous meetings, we always have an objective, agenda, and likely prework to optimize our time together. As the recent article from The Atlantic highlights, “silly office interactions . . . can be ‘carrier waves’ for productive office work,” and the objective for our once monthly hour-long all-hands meeting is to foster these personal connections and to provide all team members the chance to address questions to the executive team about business plans. The challenge for July was if we could meet this same objective without seeing one another. Megan Eddinger prepared a week long async meeting that flowed like this:
- Premeeting: Megan assigned tasks in ClickUp, our project management system, and created a specific meeting roadmap with assigned sections to each team member in MURAL. The leadership team reviewed the agenda and submitted Loom videos with business updates from each respective department.
- Meeting Monday Check-In: Agenda distributed to the entire team. Participants were asked to share their own “Rose, Thorn, Bud” update in MURAL for all to access, and to watch and respond to business update videos from the leadership team.
- Meeting Midweek Check-In: Team members were asked to review and respond to the inputs on “Rose, Thorn, Bud” from colleagues, and to share a new skill via video or description in sections with the team.
- Meeting Friday Final Check-In: Team members were asked to review and respond to skillshare sections in MURAL and participate in closeout activities, including an “Invisible Dance Party” and #OneTinyAction team members will integrate from what they learned this week.
While the feedback from our first asynchronous team meeting was overwhelmingly positive, we wanted to dive deeper by taking a Start. Stop. Continue retrospective of the meeting.
Start – what would we add for our next async meeting?
Just like when we meet synchronously, our agenda was packed with opportunities to share and exchange information and thoughts. I knew this would be a lot of information to take in at one time so I created tasks in ClickUp, our project management system, at three different intervals so everyone could participate in small chunks of time throughout their week. However as submissions began rolling in, I realized that there were some discrepancies in how participants were accessing and intaking the information. Moving forward I would recommend the organizer provide more detailed instructions such as: length of video, file type, resources used, etc.
One of my favorite aspects of our team’s standard synchronous all-hands meetings are the engaging interactions with the team. For this asynchronous meeting, we had chances to share a new skill—which I loved—but it would have been even better if the team was asked to demonstrate the skill on video (either as a Zoom recording or via Loom). Video always adds a personal touch, so I would have appreciated seeing everyone’s lovely faces. And especially for skill sharing, it would have been fun to see our colleague Beth’s crocheting in action, or not just a recording of Bryan’s song, but to see him play his guitar!
I loved the experimentation for this first async team meeting, but I did miss the “chit chat,” sharing laughs, and getting instantaneous feedback via visual cues. Some videos felt as though they were sent into an abstract void, and you didn’t know how people received the information or responded. I’d be open to extending the async meeting to beyond a one week agenda and having smaller, one-to-one, 10-minute live chats. It is now a week later, and team members are adding comments on the MURAL. Which is fun to see, but also I feel like I missed something!
Stop – what would we remove from our next async meeting?
With an asynchronous meeting it’s easy to jump ahead and complete the activities in advance. However, folks that add their responses earlier on might miss out on some of the great comments, ideas and videos shared. This happened to me! I logged back in just now to prepare for this blog post and saw all sorts of fun comments, ideas and information I missed. One thing I would strongly recommend for the future is stop allowing new information after the close of the meeting. Holding everyone accountable to not only add information, but read the contributions, according to the established timeline is important. We could get creative to incentivize this – add a secret code within the responses that will enter you to win a coffee? Save a hilarious video for the end?
I would turn off MURAL notifications, for two reasons, 1. not everyone receives these notifications so that created an inequitable experience for everyone, and 2. I found them to be distracting. Instead of looking at comments in the MURAL during the pre-determined check-in times, I found myself distracted by the email notifications that a new comment had been posted. I even felt as though the meeting took more of my time than a traditional hour long meeting, as I was constantly adding content myself and checking in on new content shared. Not sure if this was purely the result of continuous notifications or the nature of more content in total to digest. In contrast to my thought above, if we kept a week-long asynchronous format, I would eliminate one of the sections from the agenda; although, it would be hard to choose which activity would get the boot!
Continue – what would we keep for our next async meeting?
Even though our July meeting looked a little different than normal, I wanted to provide opportunities to establish trust and relationship building throughout our time together like we do when we meet synchronously. So, I kept a familiar structure to the agenda with: a team check-in, department updates, skillshare, and even a dance party to close out our time together. I personally enjoyed both the business updates as well as the personal conversations in the comments that we may have missed in a synchronous session. There were also several laugh out loud moments for me reading through the comments. Being able to share personal experiences and laugh with my teammates makes me feel more connected to the team.
This meeting was so much more lighthearted than our typical meetings! We always have fun, but it makes me wonder if the asynchronous nature allowed for a bit more creativity. Or perhaps because we weren’t on camera, we felt more liberated? In the asynchronous meeting, I shared a recommendation to listen to Esther Perel’s podcast, a Belgian psychologist. I don’t think I would have shared this in a synchronous session. It would have felt too personal, since I’d be seeing my team’s reactions.
I also felt more comfortable sharing a longer update about our Learning Experience team. Because I was recording it for everyone to watch at their own pace, I felt free to go into detail for 3 minutes, screen share and go over some materials. Again, I would have felt like I was taking too much of the team’s time in a synchronous setting. I loved that I felt like I had more space and airtime during the asynchronous meeting. I think this format will be valuable for larger teams, and for us as our team grows.
In summary, our first Workplaceless async meeting was a success and a chance for us to learn and improve.
Overall Verdict: Would Async Repeat!
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