Opportunistic lawn mowing

Photo credits Daniel Watson.

Weather patterns can be frustrating. At times, they seem to be mocking us. The sun can shine all through the week, only to be replaced by endless rain during the weekend.

Now, I love cozying up on a rainy day with a book and a cup of hot coffee, but bad weather during the weekend is inconvenient for many reasons, one of which is missing out on the only time available to mow your lawn. Get a few of those bad weekends in a row, and your backyard will look like a jungle.

One perk of working remotely is that you can make the most of a lucky spell of sunshine during an otherwise rainy week to get the lawn mowed while you have the chance.

Opportunistic lawn mowing is only one example of how remote work allows people to integrate the “work” and “not-work” parts of their life in a strategic, effective, personalized way. Everyone profits from this arrangement. By letting employees promptly attend to personal matters, companies ensure no unnecessary cognitive load is put on people’s brains by unfinished business at home. Focusing on work is easier when your house is in order.

However, working from home is not enough to establish a mutually beneficial professional-personal life arrangement. Opportunistic lawn mowing can happen only in a company that is both async-first and result-oriented.

Async-first companies default to asynchronous, process-driven communication. They are built around a strong writing culture and minimize employee interruptions. In a well-oiled async-first company, people can tackle tasks from start to finish without notifications breaking up their focus. Synchronous interactions – meetings, huddles, and in-person gatherings – are deployed with intention only when high-bandwidth and real-time interaction is required.

Someone working in an async-first setup can take advantage of a lucky spell of good weather to mow the lawn or take over school pickup when their partner gets a flat tire because they pull work from their inbox instead of having work pushed onto their plate by haphazard notifications.

The second ingredient to unlock remote work’s maximum potential is for an organization to become result-oriented. That is, use the quality of people’s work as their primary performance metric, not the productivity theater of which and how many hours they sit at their desk.

Remember these two prerequisites when considering whether to join a remote organization. Canceling the office lease and giving everyone a home office budget is not enough. To be effective, remote organizations must adopt an async-first workflow and a result-oriented mindset.