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News » Reporter shares lessons from working asynchronously across 13-hour time difference

Reporter shares lessons from working asynchronously across 13-hour time difference

NEW YORK, UNITED STATES — Michelle Peng, a reporter at Charter, recently spent two weeks working asynchronously from China, 13 hours ahead of her team’s Eastern Time Zone. 

Asynchronous work, which is also practiced by human resources (HR) platform Remote and Australian-American software giant Atlassian, is the practice of working on a team that does not require all members to be online simultaneously.

Despite the significant time difference, Peng maintained her regular workload, learning valuable lessons about effective asynchronous collaboration.

She followed Charter‘s standard practices for time off, circulating her schedule, contact information, and handoff plans company-wide. 

“Widely circulating my plans in advance gave my colleagues a chance to prepare for the change and send over any last-minute requests that required synchronous communication,” she explained in a Charter article.

To manage expectations, Peng’s team agreed on shared definitions of urgency, replacing vague terms with concrete timelines. 

“It forced our team to be more intentional with our asks, with clear deadlines and expectations, plenty of advance notice, and flexibility in timing and communication,” she noted. 

The asynchronous schedule allowed Peng uninterrupted focus time during her workday. 

“Because I was more productive, I found it easier to log off in time for the big events that brought me to China,” she said, referring to family celebrations. 

This experience inspired her to adopt tactics like batch-responding to notifications to regain focus time.

Peng credited Charter’s culture of “flexibility, collaboration, and trust” for the success of her asynchronous work experience. 

While systems ease asynchronous transitions, Peng stressed that “those systems only work if they’re built on a strong cultural foundation that includes a long-term commitment to building a rest ethic, modeling from leadership, and a collective commitment to respecting each others’ commitments outside of work.”

Aside from flexibility across different time zones, asynchronous work also enables companies to access a wider talent pool and potentially increase productivity.

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