Should meetings be asynchronous?

Published on 
4 min, 623 words

Categories: work

Every couple of weeks we have a meeting called "FriYay". Based on a rota, each department has the opportunity to own one of these and present what they are celebrating.

Sometimes it becomes more of an update on what a department has been up to however it serves the purpose of keeping those not directly involved with them up to date with what they have been doing. It is a chance for a department to share their successes with others - not bragging, just enjoy sharing.

For me, one of the other main reasons for it is a chance for everyone to see everyone else. It is not always about what is presented but it is the few minutes of social banter at the beginning or the few people who stay on at the end to chat when it is over. It is seeing the faces of colleagues who are part of the same company but you have no other work reason to catch up with.

In these times where we are working remotely it is important to sometimes have that face to face interaction with others.

A couple of my colleagues have proposed an alternative approach where a tool like Loom is used to pre-record the presentation. This would replace the FriYay call and people can watch it at a time that suits them.

There are a number of advantages to this as it means people can watch the update at the best time for them - for example, they don't have to interrupt their flow to attend the meeting. It also means they can potentially watch it speeded up so it takes less time.

Now, I am not a meeting fan - I try to avoid them if my attendance is not fully required - however I am not completely sold on this fully asynchronous approach. For some meetings it may make sense but for others, the interaction of people is sometimes as important as the message. Admittedly, if your role involves you being on calls or meetings all day then you are getting a lot of interaction however not everyone has that sort of role.

It was suggested at one point to move our team stand-ups to this approach where the engineers could record their progress at any point in the day and post their updates. I pushed back on this as we don't have a lot of meetings/calls and for me the interaction of those involved is a massive part of the reason for the stand up.

As part of the stand up, we introduced a weekly question on Monday which gives each team member the chance to share their views or opinions on something. One of the team will pick the question and share it. These have included questions about life, about those involved, about opinions - it is a chance for people to share a little bit from outside work - a chance sometimes to be a little bit vulnerable.

I certainly would not propose every meeting be done asynchronously, mainly for the reasons I have given above but there may be some types of meetings where it makes sense.

One proposal is to also use this approach for another meeting which is mostly a leadership update. It routinely consists of each person presenting about their department and they run one after another. This could be an example where this could be done completely asynchronously and the leaders could meet up just to discuss the important stuff and make decisions. I know at least two people involved in the current approach who are keen to make this happen.

It will be interesting to see how this develops. Maybe I will change my mind ...