In recent years, many companies have adopted remote or hybrid work to deal with the new reality post-COVID-19. Remote and hybrid work allow flexible work arrangements where employees can maximize their time to take care of work and home responsibilities without letting either suffer. However, they have their limitations.
For example, some remote working companies monitor employees and track their work time, requiring them to be online and available at set hours of the day. This defeats the many benefits of working remotely and increases employees’ feelings of stress, anxiety, and frustration.
Asynchronous remote work solves this problem by allowing employees to set their schedules and deliver results based on the organization’s goals and timelines without demanding that they are online for a fixed period every day. In this article, we examine asynchronous work and its advantages. We'll discuss everything you need to know about the dynamic work arrangement and how to foster a solid asynchronous work culture in your organization.
What is asynchronous work?
Asynchronous work is work you can do at a convenient time within a predefined period. It is not dependent on real-time communication and collaboration. It instead hinges on clear goals and standards and team commitment.
Working asynchronously helps you work efficiently, especially when working remotely. You optimally organize and prioritize your tasks to meet your teams' and organization's needs. In asynchronous companies, employees are not expected to respond to messages, emails, or summons immediately. Instead, they can respond at a convenient and reasonable time. Asynchronous employees plan and organize their days to accommodate personal responsibilities and preferences while still prioritizing work responsibilities.
Let's say you typically begin work at 7 am, knock off your big tasks by noon, and take a two-hour break to run errands before returning to finish up the smaller work tasks for the day. Asynchronous employees can choose to work this way as long as they get their work done well and on time. This is unlike synchronous work, where employees are expected to be available and in touch with their colleagues throughout the workday.
What is the difference between asynchronous and synchronous work?
The most crucial difference between asynchronous and synchronous work is the amount of time employees are expected to be online, responsive, and available at work.
Asynchronous work separates work from communication. Employees know their company and team goals and what they have to do in their roles, e.g., tasks to prioritize, deadlines to meet, and who to hand tasks over to.
In contrast, synchronous work depends on real-time communication. Team members may stop working and wait for answers when a colleague is unavailable to provide their input and are directed by hierarchical managers on tasks to prioritize, when to complete them, and other changing work details.
Other significant differences between asynchronous and synchronous work include:
1. Goals and results against time and activity
Asynchronous work managers focus on setting clear goals and expectations. Once a goal is communicated, it's up to the team members to deliver results by the deadline, whether they choose to work in a 24-hour stretch or 30-minute sessions throughout the day. In comparison, synchronous work managers often focus on controlling and measuring employees' time at work and productivity/daily activity.
2. Defined workflows against back-and-forth collaboration
Asynchronous work teams rely on defined workflows and processes to make progress. On the other hand, synchronous work relies on team meetings, one-on-one conversations, and back-and-forth communication to keep work moving forward.
3. Autonomous schedules against fixed work hours
Asynchronous work allows employees to set their own work hours and does not require them to be online and responsive at the same time every day. In contrast, synchronous work demands that employees show up to work at a specific time and stay until that time is over, regardless of what's to be done. Clocking in and out are crucial tenets of synchronous work.
4. Documentation against repetitive communication
Asynchronous work advocates for documentation and transparency over repetitive communication and silos. It promotes a more structured flow of communication, utilizing a single source of truth to reduce ambiguity and confusion regarding any work affairs. This puts team members on the same page and helps move work forward without hitches or hurdles. On the other hand, synchronous work depends on in-person or one-on-one meetings, emails, and instant messaging — communication channels that can limit accessible, documented, and free flow of information across the organization.
5. Employee trust against control
Asynchronous work allows more freedom and trusts employees' ability to deliver high-quality deliverables. In contrast, synchronous workplaces are more hierarchical and rigid. It is customary for employees to wait to ask for permission before getting anything done in a synchronous workplace.
6. Remote work against in-office
Asynchronous work is more commonly pursued by remote working companies than in-office environments. Synchronous work is typically for in-office environments but is also adapted in many remote or hybrid companies.
Why does asynchronous work benefit remote teams?
Asynchronous work is best for remote teams for many reasons. Some of these are:
1. It provides more flexibility
Asynchronous work provides more flexibility for employees by allowing them room to structure their daily schedules and select the most optimal productive hours to work. Asynchronous teams are not required to respond to messages in real time. They can choose to reply when convenient, as long as it's within a reasonable period. This period may be set by the organization (say, 24 hours) but employees have control over how the workday is spent and can organize their schedules to take care of personal responsibilities as well.
2. It increases efficiency and productivity
Asynchronous work increases team efficiency and productivity by encouraging members to work at their peak productive hours, without collaboration bottlenecks or workplace interruptions, often leading to teams finishing their projects quicker and with less hassle. Asynchronous work also unlocks employees' ownership of tasks. Team members take responsibility for their assignments and take the initiative to ensure successful delivery.
3. It allows different personalities to thrive
Asynchronous remote work allows many different types of personalities to thrive compared to synchronous work. Individuals who are introverted and prefer to lose themselves in a flow state while working have better opportunities to do so in an asynchronous work environment. Confident, extroverted, and hyperactive team members may miss their in-office water-cooler conversations but they can easily schedule coffee shop meetups or virtual meetings with team members and colleagues to get the social stimulation they need.
4. It promotes inclusivity
Another benefit of asynchronous work is inclusivity. Asynchronous companies can recruit employees and collaborators without geographical boundaries or other limitations. It doesn't matter if some team members are going to sleep while others are getting to work or if one has more care-taking responsibilities than the next. Work happens around the clock and around the world in asynchronous teams by including and recruiting employees who could never have been a part of the team without asynchronous work.
5. It supports mental health
Asynchronous work supports mental health by reducing the stress of keeping up with expectations to be online, available, and responsive during set hours every day. When an organization adopts asynchronous work, team members can schedule their work to foster greater productivity without sacrificing their well-being. Employees can set time boundaries to create a better work/life balance without the constant worry of judgment from employees who work longer hours.
6. It allows for international collaboration
Asynchronous work widens the pool for recruitment and collaboration as employers do not have to limit themselves to a specific location or time zone. This paves the way to recruit the best possible talent and create a diverse workplace.
How to instill a culture of asynchronous work in your team
Instilling a culture of asynchronous work in your team requires being clear about goals and expectations. Follow the tips below to build a strong culture of asynchronous work in your organization.
1. Encourage transparency
From the start of a project to its completion, ensure that discussions are documented and organized properly with timestamps, involved team members, and every other crucial detail. This information should be collected in a single source of truth to be accessible to involved team members when needed. Doing this enables asynchronous work. Team members do not have to wait until a manager relays information. They know where to look for what they need to keep their tasks moving forward.
Create unified communication and organizational structures that encourage transparency across the teams in your organization. Ensure that everyone understands why doing things the right way is important. Once a question has been asked more than once, document the answers clearly and thoroughly, so anyone who has the question again can easily find the answers.
A collaborative workspace like Wrike helps ensure transparency between teams and collaborators. You can tag and communicate with team members using @mentions and follow specific projects to stay informed on progress. Wrike makes asynchronous work feasible by providing a secure collaborative platform that encourages transparency for both in-office and remote teams.
2. Promote asynchronous communication
Asynchronous communication provides a strong foundation for asynchronous work. By empowering employees to use asynchronous communication tools, they get better at working asynchronously and respecting each other's time. They also get better at communicating what they need to carry out their duties and begin project tasks.
Use asynchronous communication channels to share and update project-related conversations and encourage employees to follow your communication rules to streamline things for everyone. Encourage them to take important information out of email and instant messaging apps and load them into your collaborative workspace. This way, you reduce occurrences of communication silos or missing and repeating information. In every company, employees come and go. By implementing transparent, documented, and asynchronous communication, your organization retains crucial knowledge throughout these cycles.
3. Set clear deadlines
Clear deadlines are crucial for successful asynchronous collaboration. When team members know when a project is due, they can plan and schedule their workload to be more efficient. Confirm team members' availability before assigning tasks with an upcoming deadline. Also, encourage them to confirm when they have accepted new work assignments. This way, you reduce instances of schedule conflicts and missed deadlines, as you know that once team members have confirmed acceptance of a task, they become responsible for delivering it.
Work with your team to set the deadlines and assign them in your project management tool so everyone involved can see the entire project progress and how their work contributes to it. When people know that other parts of a project and team are waiting for their completed tasks, they are more driven to complete them so as not to keep others waiting. Project management software like Wrike sends automated reminders and project updates to keep all team members in the know whether working asynchronously or not.
4. Create clear guidelines for working
Establish clear guidelines for all teams, employees, and external collaborators working for your organization. Details like how to hand over a task to a teammate or manager, what communication channels to use to ensure you get a response, how long you can wait to expect a reply before sending a follow-up, when to escalate an issue, and how to handle risks are critical and should be easily accessible to team members or collaborators.
Having a defined process for handling operational work and project-related tasks helps to set asynchronous teams on a path to success. Set up a functional and easy-to-use asynchronous collaboration tool like Wrike to streamline these guidelines and processes and invite team members to track and manage internal operations and ongoing work.
Managers leading their teams towards an asynchronous work arrangement should model the new collaboration and communication guidelines to encourage team members to follow them. It is only by getting all employees to follow the guidelines that an organization can become fully asynchronous.
5. Avoid unnecessary meetings
Cutting off unnecessary meetings is one of the most important ways to establish asynchronous work at an organization. You should only call for meetings when it's crucial and invite specific team members to make the best use of everyone's time.
Evaluate the need and purpose of upcoming or recurring meetings. You may find that some of them can be replaced with a presentation or report and sent to the involved team members. These employees can leave their feedback, comments, and edits right in the document or in your team’s collaborative workspace or project management tool.
6. Introduce the right tools
Choosing the right technology stack is crucial to enabling asynchronous work. From your communication to project management and collaboration needs, ensure you choose tools that are made for asynchronous work. For example, using an all-purpose instant messaging app like WhatsApp may deter your efforts to work asynchronously. Instead, it is better to use a project-related communication tool so team members can share updates about what they're working on and easily retrieve information when they need it without distractions.
It's advisable to find the best collaborative workspace software for asynchronous teams, where communication, project management, automation, and other vital features are rolled into one. Wrike provides intuitive and customizable software that serves these purposes. Remind employees to use the selected asynchronous collaboration tools and to share any issues they may have using them, so the team can solve them quickly and foster an efficient environment of asynchronous work.
How to manage your own asynchronous work time
Task management is crucial to managing your asynchronous work time. It's important to create a daily schedule to ensure you develop a habit of getting work done each day.
Use time blocking to organize and schedule your time on your weekly calendar. This way, you know exactly what to do and can estimate how much time you have left for any unscheduled or impromptu responsibilities. Time blocking also makes it easy for you to schedule extended, uninterrupted sessions where you tackle deep work like writing, strategizing, problem-solving, or planning a new project.
Consider your upcoming deadlines when you create each week's schedule. If there are many meetings, you may decide to batch them into specific days so that others are dedicated to deep work only. Break the biggest tasks into smaller bits and schedule time to review and refine your work before handing it to a manager or your team members.
Communicate your plans with your team members and manager if you’re going to be away for an extended time so that necessary steps are taken, and a team member can be assigned to cover for you. If your team uses project management software like Wrike, you can share your updates even when away, so your team members know the progress of your projects without having to ask questions.
Why use Wrike as your asynchronous collaboration tool?
Asynchronous work attracts many benefits. Key among them are increased flexibility, efficiency, and better well-being and mental health. This style of working gives employees autonomy over their personal schedules while still keeping up with the organization's goals and timelines.
Wrike provides the best project management and collaborative software to enable teams to work asynchronously without falling apart or dropping the ball on ongoing projects. With Wrike, it is easy for teams to communicate, collaborate, track projects, and share relevant updates with teammates when working asynchronously.
Are you ready to establish or enhance asynchronous work in your organization? Get started with a free two-week trial of Wrike to build your asynchronous processes and get your teams to work with more efficiency, even when working remotely.