First, let’s celebrate it. Hybrid work is an important development. It’s not a new concept, but tremendous innovation has made hybrid work much more effective this past year. Although I’m only sorta a digital nomad, I certainly appreciate the ability to work anywhere. I’ve been writing about this since enterprise comms discovered VoIP. I recall pioneering pieces about Microsoft LCS and Mitel’s Teleworker phones back in the days when “work is not a place” was innovative.
The pandemic caused remote and distributed work to become mainstream. People who were previously opposed to WFH or any type of distributed work were forced to embrace it, and the toothpaste isn’t going back into the office. Attitude and behaviors are permanently changed, and that’s generally good. Organizations are updating their policies, designing their offices, and purchasing their technology with hybrid work in mind.
The UCC industry made the pandemic better. Careers, relationships, businesses, even entire sectors survived (even thrived) because of modern UCC technologies. The industry has every right to beat its chest over this triumph.
So what’s my beef? Hybrid is only half the story. Not only is work not a place, it’s not a time. The industry is not giving this second point its proper place [sic].
For example, this month, I attended a one-hour, prime-time analyst briefing. By prime time, I’m referring to the coveted 8 AM PT slot that can accommodate a live audience across NA and Europe. I was triple booked for this particular meeting. The presenters spoke for exactly one hour. There was no Q&A or interaction whatsoever, and adding insult to injury, hybrid work was one of the themes.
While it was a good use of my time, it was not a good use of that specific time. I would have preferred to consume that meeting later. I’m referring to async meetings. In many ways, async meetings are preferable to real-time meetings. I also have a strong preference for async events, which are much simpler to implement than hybrid events.
Async is at the user’s control. With a meeting recording, the participant controls play and pause, and in some cases even the playback speed. When the various parameters allow it, one-hour meetings can be consumed in about 40 minutes. The main disadvantage is the inability to interact with presenters — which wasn’t even an option in the example above.
Async meetings are a critical piece of the distributed team formula. We know async is a big benefit associated with team chat. With async, working with colleagues across multiple time zones can mean a longer but critically more flexible day and it’s a good trade. The traditional eight-hour day is obsolete. There wasn’t a choice, pre-pandemic: Attend the meeting or miss it. Now, for the first time in modern history, it’s just as easy to attend later. Interactive discussions sessions can be booked separately. It’s a big part of the way work is changing.
IMO, the industry is so focused on hybrid work that it’s missing this async component. I’m no scientist, but Albert Einstein may have been onto this. He theorized that space and time, rather than separate and unrelated phenomena, are actually interwoven into a single space-time continuum. Eureka! He was describing work post-pandemic.