One of the greatest challenges of remote work for some is that you can no longer just walk up to someone’s desk and chat them up. There are many instances where quick questions can be resolved with a quick conversation, plus you can share your thoughts about “the game” last night or other pleasantries in person. There is no need to write an email or wait for an answer.
This is a perfect situation for the extroverted, and they have been suffering during the pandemic (in industries that went remote). I work for a data/SAAS (software as a service) company and we have decided to be office-optional for the long term. My department is made up of a great many introverts and many of us have realized a good number of benefits to working from home.
One of my favorite benefits related to working from home is being able to be more flexible with my time. If I have a work-related epiphany, I’ll clock in (yes, hourly, ugh), log in, and do my thing, no matter if it’s 5pm or 1am (the latter is more common). We also have a global reach with a team of remote contractors in the Philippines that it is fun to connect with when I’m up late.
I also hear regularly about people being called into work on off hours or being expected to respond to emails when they arrive. This could not be further from what SHOULD be. First, I would ask whether there is a real spoken expectation or whether that expectation is assumed. I assume nothing, as a general rule. If management ever expected me to respond to emails in hours I did not wish to be available, I would leave. Yes, that is a privilege, but also, you have a right to your boundaries, and if you’re not setting them, someone else is.
So, I send emails (if that is the appropriate medium) to whomever when I need to, and I expect they will read and respond when THEY need to, no matter what. If you happen to receive an email when you are working in the middle of the night, fine, answer it. I’m not gonna fight with you on that, but don’t be talked into doing work when you don’t want to be, or when you aren’t getting paid.
Also, an easy way to make sure you don’t get accosted with those pesky work emails (same for Slack messages, etc) when you don’t want to be is to keep your personal devices for personal use only. You should not be required to use your PERSONAL device for work. At the very least, you should be compensated for any time you are expected to do work with or from your personal devices. So easy breezy, disconnect! Do not access work info from your personal device. You will be amazed at how your work life will improve.
But I really want to stress the beauty of asynchrony. If you send a message in whatever format precisely when it enters your mind and you have formulated your thoughts, you are in THE BEST headspace to communicate what you need to say. Even if your staff is attending to emails around the clock (you should NOT be encouraging this, leaders), you will not get their best, most well-considered, thought-out answer without waiting for it! Asynchrony is a gift.
Not only that, but just in case you had some crazy epiphany and shared it in the middle of the night, you could be surprised and enlightened by your own words in the future. Asynchrony provides you with the ability to separate yourself from your own words so that time can give you a new perspective. Asynchrony is a gift.
So I recommend you start accepting the gift of asynchrony in your life. In my experience, you will not be disappointed. Communication may take longer, time-wise, but the message will be clearer over time and your relationships will improve because you are showing respect for others and their time. The fact of the matter will always be that senders of messages have no insight into the good time for the receiver. As the receiver-turning-sender, take your time and respond when you have an considered response, not necessarily when you receive the message. You can teach the gift of asynchrony to others through your actions. Let’s spread the wealth!