· 4 mins · Productive Meetings

How remote-first meetings improve communication and productivity

With the rise of remote work, managers need to approach meetings with a remote-first mindset in order to be inclusive, productive and keep the lines of communication open for everyone on the team.

Avatar of Justin Mitchell Justin Mitchell

A study by Upwork found that 63% of companies surveyed have remote workers, yet 57% have no remote work policies in place. With remote work on the rise, it’s important for organizations to enable their teams to succeed, regardless of whether they’re onsite, remote or a mix of the two. 

In the past couple decades, countless solutions have been created to enable teams to be just as, if not more effective when it comes to their overall communication and productivity. The advent of constantly connected digital devices has created an environment where face-to-face meetings don’t need to be the default. Location and time-shifted meetings are now possible, and growing in popularity.

So, it’s important that managers not only have the right tech stack in place, but also the right mindset when it comes to how they manage their teams and meetings. A great place to start is by conducting meetings with a remote-first approach.

What is a remote-first meeting?

Remote-first meetings are managed and run with the mindset that everyone included in the meeting is remote. The main goal is to level the playing field in meetings for all workers. This comes down to a couple of things like using the proper tools/software and equipment so that everyone tuning into the meeting is equally included, whether they are in the office or remote.

The rise of remote-first meetings

A remote workforce continues to become more attractive to companies and their employees. In fact, according to AngelList, in August 2019, 29% of all startup job postings were seeking remote workers. From the employee perspective, FYI surveyed 486 people about remote work and found that: 

  • 91% of remote workers said that working remotely is a good fit for them
  • 96% of remote workers would recommend working remotely to a friend 

As more people make the switch to remote, it becomes increasingly more important for organizations to implement policies and processes that support these workers. That starts with meetings. Managers should, yet often don’t change the way they schedule team meetings. Rather, they continue with face-to-face meetings, requiring remote workers to call or Skype in.

That’s a fine practice when your off-site employees are in the same time zone. But what happens when they’re on the other side of the planet, or when they’re time-shifted enough that calling into meetings becomes problematic?

In the standard model, these workers become second-class citizens that are often treated as a weight on the system that must be dealt with begrudgingly. Their input becomes less valuable simply because they couldn’t be present for a meeting when it happened. This isn’t a good way to manage valuable human resources.

Remote-first meetings flip a manager’s normal assumptions and dictate that remote work, not local office work, be considered the default position. This puts the emphasis on the full inclusion of the most difficult members of the team, creating a unified group of equals.

Why remote-first meetings work for everyone

Everyone is on equal ground: Imagine if everyone in your company took meetings at their desk using a webcam and some sort of group chat app. It suddenly wouldn’t matter if you were sitting at a desk in the company’s main headquarters or in your home office.

Remote employees aren’t forgotten: Everyone participating in the meeting would be on equal footing. You’d no longer have a situation where one or two team members have to try and figure out what’s going on in a live meeting through a speakerphone.

All voices are heard, making collaboration efforts stronger: Now, imagine if you could time-shift these meetings as well, so that team members in London could weigh in on a conversation that started in California; rather than playing catchup, they’re treated as an equal member in the group. This is where asynchronous meetings come in.

What are asynchronous meetings

Asynchronous communication is what happens when, for example, you send an email. You’re communicating without the receiver being ready for the message.

When we think of meetings we think of people sitting in the same room (virtual or not) at the same time. Conversations are happening and people are immediately responding to one another. This is an example of a synchronous meeting. On the other hand, asynchronous meetings happen regardless of whether or not someone is in the room. You don’t need all parties to be “ready” to receive a message. 

Why asynchronous meetings are important

Asynchronous meetings require staff members to document everything they’re doing so that the information is available for other staff members when they come online. This breaks a staff’s reliance on instant answers and bothersome interruptions and instead creates a workforce of self-reliant employees that think deeply about their communications to make sure no details are missed.
As talent and resources become ever more dispersed, remote, asynchronous meetings will become an important feature in an increasingly large number of industries. It’s best to start introducing the practice to employees now.


Justin Mitchell – CEO of Yac, a collaboration tool that allows asynchronous team meetings using an always-on interface. Team members collaborate via voice messages that are instantly available and persistent for a delayed response.

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