Why Working in a Remote, Asynchronous Culture Can Benefit Professional Development
Among all the conversations about the future of work and how the sudden shift to remote culture has affected employees, there’s been a shadow narrative suggesting that working remotely may stunt professional development. It makes sense on the surface: If you’re just sitting at home by yourself all day, how can you learn from other people on your team? If you’re not working at the same time as your colleagues, will they even recognize what you contribute? Without regular facetime, will you be forgotten when it’s time for a promotion?
These concerns may be valid at a company that shifted to remote work without adapting its norms to support it. But we’ve found that, at a company with an intentional remote and asynchronous culture, employees actually have opportunities to accelerate their professional development that they likely never would have at a traditional, in-person organization.
At Levels, we’ve been remote from the start, and we’ve always fostered autonomous and asynchronous work, smart internal communication, and heavy documentation to support our employees in getting their best work done. Together, we think these aspects of our culture actually unlock more opportunities for professional development for our team, rather than leaving them feeling stunted.
Here are just a few ways the right kind of remote culture can accelerate your professional development, and how we’ve seen that play out at Levels.
1. You Get Heightened Visibility Into the Work Everyone Is Doing
In many traditional, in-person organizations, it can be surprisingly hard to learn more about what other people in your company are doing day to day. Departments generally stay pretty siloed and decisions get made in closed-door meetings with no easy way of sharing those conversations with anyone who wasn’t in the room. If you want to learn more about someone’s role or expertise, you have to actively seek it out with coffee chats or other excuses to pick their brain.
A remote, asynchronous culture, on the other hand, necessitates more open lines of communication. Because teammates may not be working in the same place or at the same time, conversations need to be had in a way that allows folks to catch up later, such as via internal memos, group chats, or recorded videos. At Levels, we work almost entirely without meetings, meaning all of our collaboration happens either in conversations on Threads (which we use in place of internal email or chat), via memos in Notion, or in recorded Looms.
We’ve also taken things a step further, making our communications transparent and discoverable. We don’t believe information should be siloed by team or group, and think anyone at the company should be able to find context that may be relevant to them or just learn more about what others are up to.
Nearly all of our memos across the company are available for browsing in an internal directory. Synchronous conversations are recorded by default, with the expectation that they can be shared and often are. That includes conversations among leadership making decisions about the strategic direction of the company. Our CEO even shares recordings of his fundraising calls.
This visibility provides a priceless opportunity for learning through osmosis. If you’re early in your career and still figuring out what you want to do, this could help you really understand different roles that may be a fit. If you’re excited to climb the ladder in your current industry, you’ll get incredible visibility into what people at the next stage are doing, and how they think about work. Even folks who envision taking a non-traditional path can benefit from a remote, async culture — if anyone from our team has entrepreneurial dreams, for instance, they’ll walk away from their time here with incredible insights into what it takes to run a company that they’d never get at a more siloed organization.
2. You’ll Get More Personal Responsibility
When you’re working remotely and asynchronously, your performance has to be judged on your output rather than your hours in the office. While that doesn’t mean everything on your plate will be exciting, it generally means you’ll be working on more high-impact tasks and less busywork designed to fill an eight-hour day in the office.
This is true at any level of the company, from executive to intern. Our operations specialist Braden McCarthy joined Levels as his first job out of college and was shocked at how quickly he was responsible for meaningful work. Within a year, he was leading a high-profile project, coordinating member book clubs with our renowned advisors.
Team members are also expected to continuously improve and iterate on our practices, from improving our onboarding process to suggesting new experiments to giving feedback. For example, operations specialist Mercy Clemente developed a five-step process for interacting with members via support to ensure our company values are evident in every interaction.
On top of that, there’s no room for micromanagement in a successful asynchronous culture. Smart remote companies give their employees the most important work and trust that they’ll get it done. While you can certainly find support if and when you need it, you’re more free to lead projects how you want to. And when you succeed, you’ll know just how much of that achievement is your own.
So whether you’re looking for impressive resume points or just want to feel incredibly proud of the work you’re doing, a remote company could give you a great opportunity to do that.
3. You’ll Get to Build Your Own Productivity Habits
Obviously, a big plus of working for a remote, asynchronous company is the ability to do your work when, where, and how you want to. Besides the obvious perk of being great for supporting your work-life balance, this setup has an added benefit for personal development: It’s a hotbed for figuring out the habits that make you most productive.
Instead of being forced to sit at a desk from nine to five, you can figure out which hours of the day you’re most productive. Instead of sitting in meetings all day, you can figure out your own preferences for team communication. You get to learn how to use documentation in place of ad hoc knowledge transfer. You can figure out what communication formats you prefer for sharing feedback and ideas. With the norms of office work set aside, you’re free to find what works best for you.
Successful async companies put a lot of sustained effort into finding and amplifying productive work habits so that every team member gets exposure to these best practices and new ways of working. At Levels, this happens through our in-depth onboarding program, regular productivity videos, and “growth themes” during our only weekly team meeting. But we’re never prescriptive about work habits, instead letting our employees do what they need to in order to do their best work, and share those with the rest of the team.
For example, CEO Sam Corcos shared with marketing growth generalist Jackie Tsontakis his tips for setting up her Mac workspace and using keyboard shortcuts to be more productive. That call was recorded and now anyone can access it. Support specialist Matt Flanagan shared his tips for using Text Expander. Head of product Scott Klein shared the way he uses Notion tables.
This knowledge will serve you for the rest of your career, helping you get more done than the average person — without working yourself into the ground.
4. You’ll Have More Flexibility to Achieve Your Personal Goals
It’s worth mentioning that the benefits of this kind of culture aren’t all about professional development, either. Remote, async cultures create more opportunities for you to work towards your personal goals, too.
For one, you’re saving a lot of the “waste” time that comes with conventional, in-office work: commuting, ad hoc hallway chats, unnecessary meetings, etc. By cutting all of that out, many employees of remote, asynchronous teams find themselves with extra time to reinvest into things they care about. Flexible schedules also mean you can spend time on these side interests when it’s best for you. Find you never have the energy to work out after work? It’s no problem to do it at lunch instead. Dying to take an art class that only meets in the mornings? No one will blink if you’re not available one morning a week. Aiming to spend more quality time with your kids? You can arrange your schedule so you get to spend afternoons together.
Our head of global operations, Josh Mohrer, was able to reach some pretty major fitness milestones thanks to the extra time he now has in his days. Software engineer Hao Li used our unlimited vacation policy (which is common in remote, async organizations) to realize a bucket list item of driving across the whole country of Canada.
Whatever it is you care about, remote, asynchronous companies give you the ability to put more time towards it — and your teammates will be thrilled to watch you thrive.
Working for a remote, asynchronous company isn’t for everyone — and not every remote company has built a culture that truly supports that style of work. But don’t discount it just because you’re worried about your professional growth. With the right company, it can really do wonders for your career.
Think our company sounds like the right place for you to grow? Check out open roles at Levels.