Writing skills for remote asynchronous work and how you can master them

As we’ve moved to remote work, calling and virtual meetings have exploded (see chart below). Much is being done to simulate the advantages of in person meetings to get things done which is useful. But what if that gets abused? Wasted hours in meetings (virtual or physical) has become a trope for good reason. And remote work means that even more now, we can work asynchronously to accommodate private schedules. That’s where writing comes in.

This was at the beginning of COVID-19, imagine the numbers now. Source.

Writing encapsulates so many advantages that make sense. I’m not saying don’t ever hold a meeting again, just think before holding or attending one when writing may be better.

Strategic thinking

Good writing that gets the right result forces you to think. For that matter, any content creation does but it often starts with writing, e.g. a good video will have a good script no matter how simple. Your brain is forced to slow down and consider what you are saying and trying to achieve much more than with any other practice. Even brainstorming is fine for certain purposes and can work well in meetings but you often need to get clarity in your head before you open up to a broader group. The same applies to the purpose and agenda for a meeting if you need to hold one ;)

A record and reference

Once its written down you have it on record. You can refer back to it. It can help you with actions as well as to be a reference point. You can advance or revise your thinking based on this reference point. Discussion is also more rational and logical written down that when you are discussing things in a meeting, especially when things get heated. Seeing things written down may prevent you from hitting send before its too late – not so easy when talking. Next time somebody asks to hold a meeting to discuss or resolve something, ask if a conversation in any good workplace collaboration tool will do. Follow-up action can also be taken and the answer is visible to others, persistent and searchable.

Microsft Teams: have a conversation, conclude with an action

The asynchronous advantage

The asynchronous advantage can also not be over exaggerated. Not only do people working remotely no longer have or need the immediacy of in person access, the business world is more global and also supports the practice. I love how Brex have incorporated it into their work practices for remote work. Check out their principle number 2: Async decisions by default.

How to master your business writing skills

1. Read

Not just any reading, good reading. Try some of the greats, Hemingway, Dickens, Dostoevsky. Other than the entertainment and benefit you will get from the escape, you will learn how to improve your writing. And yes you can bring some flourish and emotion into your business writing – why not inject some of it into what would most often be sterile and uninspiring. So learning from these literary greats is just fine.

2. Write

Practice through other means than just your business communications. Blogging is one great example. Wherever you do it, use it at the very least to help concentrate your thinking. At best you share your thinking and its of value to someone else and best of all, you get better at writing. How do you tell if its good? You get feedback in comments or likes, or from the viewer numbers you should be tracking.

3. Think like a salesman

Always be closing is an adage that comes from the sales world that I love. It doesn’t mean, with writing, that you should always be trying to sell something. It just means you should always be clear about what you are trying to achieve with your message and it should be evident in the conclusion of your piece. I learned this from a well known Silicon Valley sales consultant from whom I received training. I wrote about that in this piece: How to communicate and get what you need from decision makers

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