In an Asynchronous Work environment, members of the same organization or team work on their own time rather than logging in and out collectively. Here, employees are not expected to stay online throughout a set time during the day and respond immediately. Instead, they choose their working hours and respond as and when it is convenient. Async work aims to increase employee productivity by introducing flexibility and freedom. Here, the employees can decide their respective work timings and create a good work-life balance.
Let’s break this down a bit more. The Oxford dictionary defines the word ‘synchronous’ as ‘existing or occurring at the same time.’ Traditionally, this is precisely how we have been working up until 2020. All employees were required to be in the office/stay online for a set period of time and wrap up their taste within that period.
As the remote work culture started rising in 2020, people working from home realized that managing errands and meeting deadlines at work together was becoming difficult. This was primarily happening because teams couldn’t get together and work simultaneously. Organizations and managers noticed this asynchrony within employees and decided to adapt to a new work model.
In this model, employees were given the opportunity to work around their calendars and figure out their own work hours. In this new async work culture, dependencies within employees and among teams would be minimized, and everyone would be responsible for their own tasks.
This model allowed employees to have enough time to focus on work, contribute to domestic requirements, and spend time with their families as and when they wanted. A better work-life balance always results in increased productivity and happier employees. According to a survey by FlexJobs, 48% of employees in a flexible work environment said their work-life balance was excellent, and 54% said they have good emotional support at work.
Now that you have a fair idea of what async work is all about, let’s see how it can be differentiated from the traditional synchronous work environment.
Difference between synchronous and asynchronous work
The major difference between synchronous and asynchronous work boils down to the number of hours employees are expected to be online and working together. In a synchronous work environment, all members of an organization or a team must be available during the same time period and work together. Here, the dependency among employees for completing tasks is very high. There are many instances where a particular project may be halted until another employee working on it responds.
On the other hand, in an async work environment, employees primarily work autonomously and align their tasks and responsibilities with the organization’s goals. Naturally, even in this setup, there are instances where team collaboration is required and meetings are held. However, the time spent in meetings in an asynchronous work model is much more productive since every meeting has a definite goal or a purpose.
Some other points that differentiate synchronous and asynchronous work are
- Productivity and results over time and activity:
In an async work model, an employee’s contribution to the company is defined by their level of productivity and the goals that they have achieved. The number of hours spent online here is irrelevant as long as the employees fulfill their responsibilities and get their work done.
- Streamlined work over back-and-forth communication:
Teams extensively streamline their workflows and processes in an asynchronous work environment to ensure that the targets are met. Here, transparent documentation of tasks and deliverables is one key thing that promotes smooth functioning within a team. On the other hand, a synchronous model relies on constant communication and dependency to meet company goals.
- Trust over control:
Employers and managers working in an async work environment trust their employees to take 100% ownership over their work. This is especially important in this type of setting since the employees are not necessarily working in front of their managers at all times.
While these were the major differences between synchronous and asynchronous work, async offers many benefits that may increase your inclination towards this workflow.
How asynchronous work can help you grow
You’ve read a lot about how remote work can help you grow your company and the many benefits it brings along. Asynchronous works best in a remote setting, and it is an addition that can catalyze multiple unknown benefits. Some of the benefits that async work brings along are
- Effective Communication: With employees working autonomously, the scope for unnecessary meetings reduces drastically. This leads to communication within teams being more precise and goal-oriented. Async work does not need constant meetings, 1:1s, and messages. Members of a team can choose to accept or reject an invitation to a meeting depending on the level of their involvement in that particular call. This results in less wastage of time and promotes clear and crisp communication.
- Reduced dependencies: When your employees take ownership of their tasks and work autonomously, they hardly ever rely on a third person to get their work done. This does two primary things, it makes every employee more responsible, and it saves a lot of time that would otherwise be wasted waiting for a response or approval.
- Higher productivity: An asynchronous work model allows your employees to dedicate a significant chunk of their time to brainstorming, experimenting, and working on their tasks. With fewer meetings to attend and fewer messages to answer constantly, employees can engage in deep thinking without any interruptions.
- Hire global talent: Since async work is best suited for organizations that work remotely, a distributed workforce is the most significant benefit that it brings along. Many companies that work remotely are often reluctant to hire globally just because of the mismatched time zones. With an async team, you can have your company running 24/7 all around the world.
- Better work-life balance: Choosing your own working hours gives one the freedom to effectively balance their personal and professional lives. Yes, annual leaves are a good way to promote a balance, but managing both on a daily basis is a different game altogether. 68% of employees say that an unbalanced professional life negatively impacts their morale and motivation at work. A balanced personal and professional life will reduce burnout, promote positivity, and will give you more productivity and efficiency.
It is a fact that something that brings you many benefits also comes at a cost. The same goes for asynchronous work; it requires unique management and decision-making skills to make it work well.
Key points to keep in mind while managing an asynchronous workflow
Organizations thinking about moving to an asynchronous work model must ensure that they have the right mindset, tools, and management skills to make an async model work. The major things one must keep in mind while managing an async team are
- Transparency: Your team must know who is working on what. This way, if someone needs help in one specific area, they can directly reach out to that individual instead of calling a team meeting. Apart from this, documentation transparency also helps managers track the deliverables and eliminates the need for constant check-ins and follow-ups.
- Smart project management: Instead of communicating tasks and projects via calls, meetings, or 1:1s, managers should use tools like ClickUp to allocate tasks within their teams. Using tools like these makes it easy for both parties to be updated via notifications, and it also results in efficient tracking of work. It also provides a platform to raise issues and point out errors, if any.
- Goal setting: This is one of the most crucial points that you must keep in mind while working asynchronously. Each individual must be aware of their responsibilities and must have clarity in what is expected of them and when it is expected. This allows your employees to manage their timelines effectively and take ownership of every task that comes their way.
- Information management: There are many roles that require a lot of internal information on a daily basis. For this, employees usually reach out to other teams and to ask for help. Having a centralized database where all required information is accessible to every employee is a good way to reduce dependency, speed things up, and avoid the constant back-and-forth.
- Social engagement: Although it may sound like it, asynchronous work is not all about sitting alone and working independently without any interactions. While it does promote effective communication and eliminates wasteful meetings, it does not aim to make your employees feel alone. Humans are social animals, and we need regular interactions with our teams to stay connected and updated with each other. For this, having bi-weekly or monthly calls where people can come together and interact is a good way to go. You can be creative with these calls by setting themes and hosting virtual events, competitions or games.
Enabling effective communication in an asynchronous workflow
Communication is one tricky part of working asynchronously. In fact, it is one of the most vital things when managing remote teams altogether. On one side of things, async work aims to negate wasteful communication and increase productivity, but on the other side, it sometimes becomes challenging for people to interact in this kind of setting. Here’s how you can ensure that asynchronous communication remains effective.
- Actionable messages: While reaching out to team members, be sure to define the objective of your message clearly. Instead of just sending a ‘Hi’ or a ‘Hey,’ write a crisp message on which the reader can take action.
- Be mindful of your pings: Before sending a message or an email, evaluate the level of priority and urgency this message carries. Most of the daily work can be managed well with good project management and by using the right tools. However, if the message is essential, remember that it must be actionable.
- Use threads and groups effectively: Say you are dealing with a hurdle on one of your tasks, and you need some help. The best way to ask for it is through groups or threads. The same message goes to everyone on your team at the same time, and whoever can help will respond. This reduces the time that you would otherwise take to reach out to various people individually and will give you faster solutions and suggestions for your problem.
- Keep your trackers updated: In an async work environment, trackers and tools are the only ways for your managers to check your progress. Make it a habit to regularly update your work’s status and ensure that every stakeholder is aligned with what you are doing.
- Keep your team updated: The best way to keep your team updated in an asynchronous model is by updating your status on Slack/Teams/Google Chat. If you are busy, let others know that your responses may be delayed as you are engaged elsewhere. A status like ‘Out of office’ or ‘AFK’ is an excellent way to give your team an idea of when they should expect a response.
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