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What is an Asynchronous Way of Working?

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Remote work is often cited as the ‘future of work’ and many organisations, both big and small, are now moving mostly, if not completely, online. Despite thousands of companies working remotely, only a fraction of them are doing it optimally. Often, employees are being made to feel tied to their screens awaiting the next message, or overwhelmed by back-to-back online meetings. It seems that ‘remote work’ has become synonymous with ‘always being online’ for many.

To solve this problem, more and more companies are opting for an asynchronous working style which empowers employees to work flexibly, while ensuring the whole team works together harmoniously without always needing to be online at the same time. Asynchronous work, also known as ‘async work,’ goes hand-in-hand with effective, productive remote work. Find out more about the benefits of async work and how to start implementing it into your business.

Asynchronous working image.

What does asynchronous working mean?

Asynchronous working refers to the concept of working together as a team, while not requiring all members to be online at once. While async work is often talked about in the context of remote teams, it can also be integrated into office environments too. In a nutshell, async means less meetings, more employee autonomy, and lots of documentation.

Synchronous work, on the other hand, is work that links progress directly to communication. Projects and tasks can’t progress unless a form of communication has happened – often a meeting, a message or an email. The problem is that the project will get delayed if the meeting gets pushed back, the message goes to someone not working that day, or the email doesn’t get a quick reply. Anyone who’s worked with a team knows that these things happen all the time, which means that project delays do too. 

Asynchronous working relies instead on creating processes and documentation to ensure that all team members can work autonomously without relying on frequent communication from others. Employees don’t need to be online at the same time to attend meetings or quickly respond to messages. Each individual is given the space to work on their tasks and projects are consistently making progress.

What are the benefits of asynchronous working?

  1. It allows remote work to be fully embraced

One of the biggest benefits of working async is that it allows businesses to fully embrace remote working. Async ensures that communication is effective and streamlined, while allowing employees to work completely flexible hours – even across different time zones. This allows businesses to ensure great teamwork no matter where their employees are in the world, while keeping everything on track. 

Synchronous businesses are more likely to avoid embracing some of the benefits of remote work, like being able to hire globally, because it simply won’t work. Here’s an example:

A fully remote UK company wants to hire a new Marketing Manager. They narrow down the interviews to 2 candidates, one based in London and one in California. The candidate from California has better experience and did a lot better in their interview. However, the company holds a daily team meeting at 9am GMT in which the team decides their next actions. Because this would be 2am in California, the company decides to hire the candidate from London instead. 

If the company in this example decided to work async, they would be able to hire the better candidate without making them work late hours. The Californian could complete their work in their own time zone with no issues or requirement to be online at unreasonable times. The company would benefit from hiring the more suitable candidate and the quality of work would benefit too.

Additionally, async work can also remove the downsides some find with remote work. A lot of employees find that working online means they’re glued to their emails, bombarded with online meetings and working longer hours. Async work removes all the communication noise and notifications, takes away the need for back-to-back meetings and ensures that employees can better manage their work schedules.

  1. It gives employees autonomy and flexibility

The fact that async working removes the need for everyone to be online simultaneously gives each employee true flexibility when it comes to their work hours. Childcare commitments, hobbies, appointments and holidays are no longer blockers to projects, and employees can more easily fit their work and life schedules around each other. 

Async also allows employees to be more autonomous which can help them feel more trusted, empowered and confident in their work. Async work helps prevent businesses from falling into the trap of micromanagement, and instead gives each team member the control and freedom in their own work.

  1. It is better for employee wellbeing and mental health

The autonomy and flexibility that async work provides also helps making working much healthier for employees. Less pressure to stay glued to the screen allows individuals to take more regular breaks when they need to, spend time with loved ones, exercise or unwind – all small things that can dramatically improve mental health.

Moreover, employees will feel much more valued and happy in their roles when they are given autonomy and trust – the two things at the heart of async work. 

  1. It boosts productivity and encourages deep work

An async way of working is a great way to ensure optimum employee productivity too. Without constant messages, calls and other work-day interruptions, employees can get into ‘deep work.’ 

Deep work is the work you do when you are completely engaged and focused on one particular task. You’re free of distractions and aren’t multitasking or jumping from task to task. Deep work is proven to improve productivity and quality of work. As humans, we work best when we’ve only got one thing to think about. When you’re in the middle of something, every time a notification pops up and you pause to answer it, it’ll take you out of the headspace you were in and you’ll take a while to get back into the task. 

Async also promotes productivity by allowing employees to spend time working rather than sitting in meetings. Constant video meetings are an example of poor time management, which can have detrimental affects for your business.

  1. It helps to share knowledge 

Just because async work removes the need for most calls, meetings and even emails, doesn’t mean that there’s no communication between team members. Far from it. Instead the communication focuses on documentation. Each employee is responsible for accurately and thoroughly documenting everything they’re doing and what progress they’ve made. That way, when other employees jump into the project, they’re up to speed on what’s been done. 

Lots of documentation helps employees to share knowledge easily and efficiently. No team member needs to have been on a specific call to understand exactly what’s going on in a project as all the details that provide context and progress tracking are readily available.  

  1. Communication is less busy and more thoughtful

With proper async work, nothing is urgent. Employees don’t need to stay online after hours waiting for sign off on from a manger, team’s don’t have to all availble at the same time to launch a website change, and no one will be spammed with messages that need an instant response. Things feel less dramatic and nothing is real-time. 

This also has the effect of making any necessary communication less busy and much more thoughtful. Everyone will have to consider whether each communication really needs to happen, and when it does, it will need to be concise and to-the-point. 

  1. It empowers all personalities and work styles

No too people are the same. Some people are intorverts, some are morning-people, some are analytical. Each different personality trait can influence how people prefer to work, and get the best work done. If an employee is a night-owl, they’re more likely to get through complex tasks in the evening. 

Async work allows for all different ways of working by giving each individual more control over their work hours. Team members can work when its best for them, which will help them to be more productive, happy and will improve the quality of what they produce.

How to implement asynchronous working

Rethink how you measure productivity and trust employees

To embed the async working style into your team, you need to rethink how you measure productivity. Instead of viewing hours and hours of meetings, or employees online from 9-5 as productive work, focus on outcomes instead. If everything is properly documented, you’ll be able to see when tasks have been completed. If an employee has done the work required of them – you don’t need to check up on them to make sure they’re online at certain times.

This is why you also need to rethink your businesses’ approach to trust. Async can’t work if you don’t give your employees the freedom to control and manage their own work!

Communicate the async way

To work async, you need to communicate differently. Focus on good documentation for everything. Every project, task or change needs to be recorded in detail. It might sound time consuming at first, but you’ll soon realise that projects are completed much more efficiently. Additionally, all processes need to be written down too. That way, anyone can jump in and pick up work without having to be brought up to speed over a call.

You also need to make sure each team member respects each other’s deep work time. Get employees to block out time in their calendars that need to be interruption-free. 

No face-time for face-time’s sake

Async work always favours messages over calls. Ditch meetings that are just in the diary for the sake of it. If you document everything properly, everyone should already know what’s going, so you won’t need a video call to align. 

Collaborate using digital tools

Async work is made possible by the many digital tools at our fingertips. Check out some of the tools you can use below:

Slack is a great messaging tool that works as a digital ‘office space’ for thousands of businesses. The reason its so great for async work is that it has lots of handy features and integrations that make collaborative working easy. Team members can benefit from adding statuses to inform others if they can’t be disturbed, and files can be easily shared.

Quidlo Timesheets makes tracking your team members’ time super easy. Each user can track their hours accurately and share them with others directly in the app. Projects can be organised between teams, contractors or even different businesses, so its great for all kinds of project management.

When it comes to collaborative documents, Google Drive is the GOAT. Google Drive is a user-friendly tool that allows teams to work on the same spreadsheets, slideshows or word documents, all while it tracks the changes made as you go.

Set boundaries

Without set work hours, some async workers can fall into the trap of feeling like their work and home lives are too intertwined. This can happen when there’s no clear distinction between working and personal time; there’s no commute, no set start or finish times, no office to arrive to or leave.

To avoid this, make sure all team members set clear boundaries for themselves, and are disciplined about when they need to stop working.

Overall, asynchronous working can be the key to productive work, happy employees and a better way of remote working. Next time you’re planning a project, try implementing some async strategies, such as documenting things instead of scheduling calls. Give it a go, and join the many successful businesses already experiencing the benefits of asynchronous work today.

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