Asynchronous communication isn’t just a strategy to reduce meetings. It’s a strategy to create more inclusive environments within your organization.
Not everyone enjoys meetings. Actually, in fact, there are many people that really dislike meetings.
Talking to a group of people drains their energy. Video calls and endless zoom links are exhausting for everyone. But especially those of us that identify as introverts.
Did you know that introverts make up 30% to 50% of the workforce? And for introverts, the new almost-daily occurrence of video calls gives me an overwhelming sense of dread.
Why are video calls and meetings overwhelming for introverts especially?
- Being on a video call requires more focus than in a face-to-face chat. Working remotely, we have to work harder to process non-verbal cues like body language, voice tone, and all non-verbal cues. Being required to have that level of focus with many different groups of people, several times throughout the day = complete exhaustion.
- Being on camera, we’re aware that we’re always being watched. It’s similar to feeling like we’re always on stage. We have to ‘perform’, especially in a group meeting setting wreaking havoc on our stress responders. Having to ‘be’ something that doesn’t come naturally to us takes up time, effort and energy.
- Meetings aren’t naturally set up for people that don’t speak out of turn and are generally quieter in charing their thoughts and opinions. All it takes is having a couple of attendees that tend to ‘hog the agenda’ and it leaves no space for quieter individuals to share their two cents. If they do want to share, again, it takes an incredible amount of energy to try get ‘their word in’.
So, how can we create more inclusive environments for introverts and extroverts?
Encourage managers to understand their own preferences so that they can easily identify their potential blind-spots
One study found that 96% of managers are extroverts, and 65% of senior leaders believe being an introvert is a liability.
In order to truly embrace inclusive environments, we need to educate our front-line managers on the differences and strengths of both extroverts, introverts and ambiverts. Only once we have that education in place will leaders be effectively able to identify their own blind spots.
For example, you may have extroverted managers that are looking at an introverted team member’s choice to limit time at Happy Hour as disengagement in their work. Just because an extroverted manager gets a ton of energy from socializing with the team, doesn’t necessarily mean that all of their team members feel the same.
Pop the question
We have to pop the question to each of our team members to truly understand how they prefer to communicate. Questions that help them and us identify what environments suit them best:
- In order to feel at your very best, what do you need your typical day to include?
- What gives you energy in your work versus what takes your energy?
- What way do you prefer to communicate with me and the rest of the team? What feels most natural to you and least stressful?
Honour employee differences and preferences
If I have to jump on a video call for a daily standup each morning, I need to get ready, do my hair and makeup AND have enough coffee so that my voice doesn’t sound like a frog.
It’s not that I’m not a morning person, in fact, I very much am. It’s because I work best in the morning. For example, as I write this it’s 8 am on a Monday morning- I’ve had two cups of coffee and I haven’t needed to get ready and because I don’t have calls for the rest of the day, I can get super deep on some strategic work and direct all of my energy there.
If your introverted team members have to think about preparing themselves emotionally for a meeting, they probably won’t be able to get deep into the innovative or creative work that matters to them- and to the business.
Leverage asynchronous communication
It goes without saying, when we understand our team’s preferences, we can better create an inclusive environment and that too goes for how we communicate.
Automate written check-ins. Look for ways to use asynchronous communication specifically for information sharing.
If at the very least, provide video-free meeting days.
Introduce meeting free afternoons and days
Productivity rises when we’re not interrupted but our stress levels decrease. Introducing meeting-free afternoons at the very least is a way for us to create inclusive environments. It gives us time to recoup and revive our energy levels.
I’d suggest creating this mid-week as it gives everyone something to look forward to.
Diversity of the time we work
When we truly start to embrace this way of working, we can create more options and flexibility with the times our team has available to work.
For example, many of my clients created core hours- a window of hours that everyone has the opportunity to begin work. If you have core hours between 7-11 am, that means your team can decide when they want to start work between those core hours. If they start at 11, they work later into the evening. If they are in need of extra sleep or a longer workout, they can choose to start their day a little earlier. And because everyone is online between 11-3 pm (regardless of when they start) this is when they have dedicated meetings. Meaning everyone still has time for deep work without interruption.
Some of my other clients have created communication preference profiles, so you can clearly see anyone in your organization, how they like to communicate and what times and days are generally best for them when booking meetings.
Celebrating diversity and going with the natural flow of how the workplace is created instead of trying to fit a square peg into a round hole.
So, if you’re ready to introduce more diversity, what’s your first step? Comment below and let me know.