The traditional idea of employment is changing quickly as the globe grows more connected and technology develops. Asynchronous working, or async as it is informally known, has emerged as a result of the increase of remote and hybrid working, and with it, a new method of collaborating and working.
While async working is often associated with remote and hybrid working, it is important to understand that the three concepts are not interchangeable. Remote working refers to working outside of a traditional office environment, while Hybrid working refers to a mix of remote and in-person work.
Async working is the practice of performing work independently and communicating with coworkers, leaders, and teams without the necessity for a prompt in-person response, allowing for flexibility in the timing and location of work, regardless of whether the work is done remotely or in-person.
Yet, when utilised together, Asynch and Remote/Hybrid are mutually beneficial and experience-rich. Of course, this calls for some adjustment, especially in the area of leadership. In reality, everyone in leadership has felt the change rather profoundly.
To that point, effective leadership in an async working environment requires a shift in mindset. Leaders must have trust in their people to complete work and communicate effectively without the need for constant oversight. Oversight implies that they do not need to attend every meeting or encounter in order to effectively express meaning, transmit intent, and respond.
Yet, specific conditions must be met for this to be possible. Leaders must be able to provide clear guide-rails in the form of communication and guidance, setting expectations for why, how, and when work should be completed and how communication should take place.
It can’t be understated how important it is to offer training on asynchronous communication techniques. Async work must also be supported by the appropriate technology, including virtual boards and communication tools.
Async adoption is advantageous to both the individuals and the leaders. It allows for the completion of work and communication at a time that is convenient for the individuals without requiring an immediate response. This allows leaders to focus on important tasks without being distracted by continual context shifting. Leaders who embrace async working can also benefit from increased productivity and more efficient collaboration.
To provide some context, according to a survey run by the Harvard Business Review:
- 65% of senior managers said that meetings keep them from completing their own work.
- 71% said meetings are unproductive and inefficient.
- 64% said meetings come at the expense of deep thinking.
- 62% said meetings miss opportunities to bring the team closer together.
The same is true for team member collaboration. When communication is not reliant on an immediate response, interactions become more focused, shorter, less frenzied, and value-oriented. This can lead to better decision-making and more effective outcomes. Async working also allows team members to work at a pace that suits them, reducing stress and improving job satisfaction.
The ability to better balance work and personal life is one of async working's most underappreciated benefits. Remote and hybrid working can blur the lines between work and personal life, making it difficult for individuals to switch off and recharge. Async working allows individuals to work at a pace that suits them, reducing the risk of burnout and improving overall well-being.
A study done by workplaceinsight.net showed that:
- Over a third of people (35%) feel asynchronous working – which allows people on the same team to work at different times, in contrast to the traditional 9 to 5 – would result in more purposeful and less distracting communication.
- Three in five (61%) employees agree that asynchronous work would create a better work-life balance, the majority
Working async opens up new opportunities for collaboration with people in different time zones and locations, allowing businesses to tap into a more diverse pool of talent.
Additionally, async working when used with a remote approach provides not only an attractive package for talent, it can help to reduce the carbon footprint of companies and individuals by reducing the need for commuting and office space.
It can be difficult to incorporate async work into your organisation whilst building on all of those ideas that we have just written about. Here at Remote:af, we think that you should intentionally design your organisation to support and enable an asynchronous approach. I have taken those ideas and provided you with some steps that you could take to get started on the journey.
1. Set Clear Expectations and Guidelines
The first step in creating an async workplace is to set clear expectations and guidelines for communication, availability, and deadlines. It is essential to establish a common understanding of what is expected of team members, how they will communicate with each other, and how they will handle deadlines.
- Communication channels: which channels should be used for different types of communication (e.g., email, chat, video calls, etc.)
- Availability: when team members are expected or have agreed to be available and how they should indicate their availability
- Response times: how quickly team members should respond to messages
- Deadlines: how deadlines will be set and how they will be communicated to team members
2. Leverage Technology
One of the key enablers of an async workplace is technology. Without technology, it would be difficult to communicate and collaborate effectively across different locations and time zones.
Examples: ( note: we do not endorse any particular solution, it is important you choose what is appropriate for your environment)
- Communication tools: email, chat, video conferencing, and collaboration tools such as Slack, Zoom, Microsoft Teams, or Discord can enable team members to communicate and collaborate from different locations and time zones
- Workflow tools: tools such as Trello or Jira can help team members keep track of their work and deadlines
- Time zone tools: tools such as World Time Buddy or Google Calendar can help team members manage their schedules across different time zones
- Cloud storage: using cloud storage solutions such as Google Drive or Dropbox can allow team members to access and collaborate on documents from anywhere
3. Establish Trust
In an async workplace, leaders and team members may not be working at the same time or in the same physical location. This can lead to a lack of trust between them, which can impact communication and collaboration.
To establish trust, it is essential to create a culture of transparency and accountability. Team members should be encouraged to communicate openly and honestly, and to be accountable for their actions.
Another way to establish trust is to create opportunities for team members to get to know each other. This can be done through regular virtual team-building activities, such as virtual coffee breaks or virtual team lunches.
By establishing trust, team members will feel more comfortable working asynchronously and will be more likely to communicate and collaborate effectively.
4. Embrace Flexibility
An async workplace is all about flexibility. Team members should be encouraged to work when and where it suits them best, as long as they are meeting their deadlines and communicating effectively with their colleagues.
This means that organisations should embrace flexible working hours and locations. Leaders and Team members should be allowed to work from home, a coffee shop, or any other location that suits them, as long as they can still communicate and collaborate effectively with their colleagues.
5. Establish regular check-ins
While async work allows individuals to work independently, it's still important to stay connected. Regular check-ins can help ensure everyone is on track, and can help identify any potential issues before they become bigger problems. This could be a weekly team meeting or a quick check-in call.
6.Provide training and support
Implementing an async workplace is a big change for some individuals, and it's important to provide training and support to help them adapt. This could include training on new tools and platforms, guidance on how to manage their time effectively, or support in setting clear goals and objectives.
7. Continuously evaluate and adjust
The process of implementing an async workplace is ongoing, so it's critical to continually assess your strategy and make any adjustments. This can entail updating tools, changing communication protocols, or reevaluating your success metrics. At Remote:af, we spend our waking and occasionally sleeping hours considering how you may do just that in a deliberate and well-considered manner in order to get exceptional results. To gain ideas and inspiration for how to achieve this—which is obviously another conversation altogether—read this article from our insights section on advice for creating outstanding remote or hybrid teams.
As a final comment, we here at Remote:af believe that workers of the future will view nine to five office work as a curious relic of the industrial age, and hopefully this article will help you become part of that future.