Since 2020, asynchronous work has gained massive traction due to the increase in hybrid or remote business models. With team members scattered across various locations (and time zones), async works to streamline collaboration without scheduling conflicts or task disruptions.
Most teams prefer the flexible nature of async work, reports a survey from Buffer. But is this method effective or are there potential drawbacks? Here’s what you need to know about fostering async work in your organization.
What Is Asynchronous Work?
Async work is an operating structure in which employees respond to messages or collaborate on projects within a reasonable timeframe—usually 12–24 hours—instead of being constantly available for instantaneous communication. This is the opposite of a synchronous workflow, which occurs in real-time (think: meetings, phone calls or video conferences). Here are some examples of what async work communication entails:
- Sending an email or Slack chat without the expectation of an immediate response;
- Sharing a file via a cloud-based platform, like Dropbox or Google Workspace;
- Collaborating on a project management channel, like Asana, Trello, or Basecamp.
What Are the Benefits of Async Work?
Async work allows team members to answer a colleague or client when they can, rather than feeling pressured to be “on” at a moment’s notice. According to a Future Forum poll, employees benefit from asynchronous scheduling. Those who can flex their time are 64 percent more focused, resulting in 39 percent more productivity. At the same time, those with rigid time constraints are 2.5x more likely to search for a new job.
For this reason alone, it’s not hard to see why almost 95 percent of those survey respondents want more schedule flexibility—but the advantages don’t stop there. Research from Harvard Business Review found that 70 percent of all meetings (a common form of synchronous work) prevent team members from finishing their tasks. But when the volume of meetings decreases, employees can concentrate without distractions or interruptions, which leads to more efficient outcomes for the organization. Check out this quick rundown of HBR’s findings:
A 40 percent reduction in meetings led to:
- 71 percent more productivity
- 54 percent more job satisfaction
A 60 percent reduction in meetings led to:
- 57 percent lower work-related stress
- 55 percent more team cooperation
And finally, an 80 percent reduction in meetings led to:
- 74 percent less micromanagement
- 65 percent more effective communication
- 44 percent higher levels of trust
In other words, if teams feel empowered to manage their own time, they’ll rise to the occasion—and their output will reflect it. This creates a ripple effect for the business as a whole. Satisfied employees bring their full selves (and best efforts) to the workday. But when it comes to async work, is there a catch?
What Are the Pitfalls of Async Work?
Aside from its clear selling points, encouraging async work has a few potential shortcomings you should consider. These issues are often part of the culture and structure of many remote or hybrid teams who can’t rely on in-person interactions to strengthen cohesion. However, once you’re aware of the following pitfalls, you can problem-solve as a team to circumvent them:
- Sense of Disconnect: Over 70 percent of remote employees do not feel connected to their colleagues, reports the Society for Human Resource Management. Async work can exacerbate that isolation even more since it lacks the closeness of real-time human interaction.
- Misunderstandings: Emails or chat threads are convenient, but sometimes it’s hard to accurately communicate the right emotion, tone, and subtext in a written message. Non-verbal cues (like facial expressions or voice inflections) reinforce meaning, whereas just reading words can cause misinterpretations.
- Lack of Spontaneity: According to research in the Nature Journal, brainstorming sessions in a physical location generate the most creativity. The fluid bouts of inspiration and innovation from spontaneously bouncing new ideas off each other can’t be replicated in an async format.
- Delay in Responses: When you’re in a project time crunch, you need answers or input from your collaborators as soon as possible. This is one instance where synchronous communication is more efficient and convenient. Async work isn’t conducive to tasks that require swift and urgent action.
What Tools Can Optimize Async Work?
Async work is most effective when your team uses the same virtual tools. This keeps all internal communication organized in a central hub for quick, easy reference, creating a seamless, collaborative experience. So on that note, here are a few async work platforms to include in your tech stack:
- Communication: Slack (chat threads), Yac (voice memos), Spike (email consolidation)
- Project Management: Asana, Trello, Microsoft Teams, Basecamp, Tettra
- Document Sharing: Dropbox, Google Workspace, OneDrive, ShareFile
- Scheduling Platforms: Calendly, Doodle (coordinate meeting times in advance)
Co-Working Spaces and Async Collaboration
A co-working space is one of the best environments for thriving asynchronous workflows. You can choose whether to collaborate with others in-person or focus on a solo project and re-convene with your team later. A number of companies with a fully-remote workforce meet at Endeavor once/month or once/quarter to renew personal connections, enjoy a meal together, and make the most of in-person brainstorming for the weeks ahead. Utilizing Endeavor that way allows them to oscillate back and forth between synchronous and async work—now that’s natural flexibility! Want to learn more? Contact Endeavor Greenville to talk about our coworking, meeting rooms and flexible business team membership options.