In recent years, businesses around the world have adapted to more flexible, remote working after the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. While many have embraced these new types of working styles going forward, many still haven’t considered the benefits of asynchronous work, which usually comes hand in hand with remote working styles. If you have a company that’s based remotely, your team might be suited to asynchronous work and all the benefits it has to offer.

Asynchronous work allows workers to work at their own pace, with fewer interruptions and longer periods of time where work mode becomes the main focus, allowing greater flexibility and more productivity. This is in contrast to synchronous work, which typically involves activities such as brainstorming sessions or meetings, and works best when a team is office-based.

Companies don’t have to be 100% asynchronous to get the benefits of this working style, but implementing it to some degree can be highly beneficial for workers. In this article, we’ll get into the finer details of how asynchronous working can benefit a company and its staff.

What does asynchronous work mean?

Asynchronous working gives workers the flexibility and room to work on their projects without the time constraints of having to respond immediately to emails and messages in real-time. This gives workers the ability to manage their own time and workload more effectively, which can help them to achieve independence because they can work from anywhere they like, and fit work in around their own schedules.

Communication in asynchronous working involves using tools like online and cloud-based message boards, messaging apps and project management tools that enable people to communicate with each other from any location, without the need for them to be face-to-face. Such tools also remove the need and pressure to respond immediately, which can boost productivity.

Asynchronous working enables workers to work on their tasks in their own way and at times that best suit them. It recognises that remote teams may not be in the same time zone or region, and personal schedules may be different, enabling workers to have a better work-life balance, and helping to avoid work-from-home fatigue. Workers take full responsibility for their working schedules and deadlines, and because communication is written-based, every decision is carefully documented, so that records of discussions and choices are clearly displayed for all to see, boosting transparency and accountability.

Asynchronous working is typically associated with remote working because it reduces the need for a team to be always ‘on’ and communicating face-to-face. It embraces collaboration and understanding between workers, despite physical distance.

Asynchronous communication

Asynchronous communication is a form of communication that doesn’t involve real-time interaction. Team members can communicate with each other and have conversations using messaging apps and software that doesn’t involve or require an immediate response. This offers more flexibility with communication, and gives team members the opportunity to respond when it’s convenient for them. It’s also a great method of communication for remote teams, especially those working in different time zones.

This contrasts to synchronous communication, which happens in real time and involves immediate responses. Emails are one of the most common forms of asynchronous communication because when you write or respond to an email, you can do this in your own time.

Tools and apps for asynchronous communication

There are a number of useful tools and software programs you can use to make asynchronous work easier to manage within your team.

Messaging apps

Microsoft Teams, WhatsApp or Slack can be used in asynchronous communication. Messages can be sent via these platforms to groups of people or individuals, and people can reply when they are able to. Users can also send direct messages, respond to questions, post updates and more. Because these types of apps send messages to groups of people, everyone in that group is notified of updates.

Project management tools

Asana and Basecamp are other ways of communicating asynchronously about projects and tasks. Files can be shared, comments can be made, and a centralised space is offered where users can discuss tasks.

These kinds of communication tools allow workers to create thoughtful and well-prepared responses in their own time, without the pressure to take immediate action, and without constant distractions. These along with time-tracking tools can ensure that people stay on track and can discuss tasks without everyone having to be working at the same time.

Asynchronous communication can however have drawbacks, such as slower reply times and the occasional risk of miscommunication or misinterpretation due to a lack of real-time context and clarity. Teams need to have firm guidelines in place to ensure all communicators have the right expectations.

What are the benefits of working asynchronously?

As a worker, there are many benefits to working asynchronously, including:

1. More control over working schedules

Many people enjoy working asynchronously because it gives them more control and the ability to schedule work around their lives. Individuals can work when they are most productive – from any location – and at any time that suits them. This prevents burnout and accommodates teams that may be working across different countries and time zones.

2. Improved productivity

Asynchronous work involves long periods of time working alone, with little interruption. This enables workers to give projects more time, focus and concentration, without distractions from other staff members. This can lead to a boost in productivity while generally producing a greater quality of work.

3. Transparency and documentation

Asynchronous work involves a lot of written communication, which means that there is always a written record of actions, processes, discussions and decisions made by a team and its members. This ensures that information is there for future reference, and that accountability is promoted by the open sharing of information.

4. Thoughtful responses

Rather than quickly responding in the heat of the moment, asynchronous workers can take time to reflect and create meaningful responses to questions and messages. This can result in fewer errors and more effective communication.

5. A more inclusive workforce

Having an asynchronous workforce can accommodate disabled workers and people who need to work specific working hours because of reasonable adjustment requirements, working preferences, etc. Teams can communicate regardless of where they are based or their circumstances.

It also enables teams to communicate on a level they are comfortable with, which helps people with introversion, or who prefer a less hands-on communication method.

6. A reduced need for meetings

Asynchronous work relies less on meetings and more on focus and work time, which reduces the amount of time staff spend in unnecessary meetings, leaving more time for projects that matter.

How to incorporate asynchronous work with your team

To start working asynchronously in your team, you need to understand how your team wants to work in terms of their style and working hours preferences. You’ll also need to decide which tasks can be performed asynchronously, as not all of them can be in a remote-first environment. 

  • You’ll first need to set guidelines with expectations for response times and communication channels.
  • State times in the day when workers will need to be available should they need to connect with one another in real-time.
  • Once everyone in the team knows what is expected of them, you can choose appropriate communication tools and apps for working asynchronously. This may include project management software, task trackers, messaging apps and more.
  • Encourage your team to document every action and decision they take, so that all interactions are transparent and records can be traced. Try to foster a culture of accountability, in which everyone takes responsibility for their own work and decisions.

Who is asynchronous work best suited to?

An asynchronous working style can benefit many different workers and companies. It’s well suited to remote-first teams, because team members can collaborate effectively across different time zones and geographical locations, keeping them connected, despite great distances.

This can greatly benefit large global organisations that employ people from various countries and cultures. People who need more flexibility in their working patterns due to commitments like education and training, childcare or caring responsibilities, or because of a health condition, can also benefit from asynchronous working.

Introverted people and those who like more focus time in their work may also benefit from asynchronous working because it gives them the space they need to do their job well, ensuring they can communicate thoughtfully in writing when it feels comfortable for them to do so, which may be easier for them than real-time communication.

Tools and resources you might need

To support asynchronous working in your organisation, you’ll need the following resources in place:

  • Good broadband connectivity for all workers (to ensure everyone stays connected)
  • Scheduling and time management apps for things like meetings and catch-ups when needed
  • Project management tools to track the status of collaborative projects
  • Shared document platforms
  • Screen sharing, video call and recording tools and webcams for virtual meetings
  • File sharing and storage (usually cloud-based so it can be accessed from anywhere)
  • Messaging tools to enable teams to communicate effectively

The types of tools chosen by your organisation will vary, depending on the types of projects you are working on, security needs, and the specific requirements of your team.

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