Asynchronous work: Benefits and best practices
Especially with the rapid rise of working remotely, asynchronous work arrangements have been growing more and more popular. Compared to traditional arrangements, it provides a great way to accommodate everyone’s needs, promote inclusivity, and increase the companies’ productivity at the same time.
However, since it’s still a fairly new trend, you might be unsure about how exactly you can make it work for your business. Which is why in this post, we’re here to give you a detailed guide on its definition, benefits, and best practices. Let’s jump right in!
What is asynchronous work?
Asynchronous work, also referred to as “async work” or “nonlinear work”, is a big part of modern remote work culture. It essentially means that workers don’t need to be all logged in at the same hours each day, and can instead work whenever they are available/more comfortable.
When someone isn’t constantly disrupted for meetings, emails, or messages; they can instead focus on their task at hand without interruptions. This has a chance to maximize your output, increase productivity, and provide a chance to your employees to shape their working style in a way that serves them the best. One thing to note is, an asynchronous work model is productive as long as you can establish effective means of async communication.
Synchronous work vs. asynchronous work
For more clarification, here are the key differences between synchronous vs asynchronous work:
Benefits to working asynchronously
An asynchronous work schedule can be helpful in many ways –both for the businesses, and the employees. Here, we laid out some of the top nonlinear workday benefits so you can see for yourself:
Being able to create your own schedule through asynchronous work can be really empowering, and one of the biggest reasons for this is the increase in autonomy it provides.
In an autonomous workplace, leaders forgo micromanaging and instead allow employees to manage themselves for the most part. You allow them to take ownership of their work and steer the way according to their own decisions. Which is why leading with a culture of autonomy can help workers to explore their strong suits.
Along with bettering your work output in the long run, this will also instill them a sense of self-reliance and confidence that they would be usually unable to find in other work arrangements.
Better work-life balance
Getting to choose when, where, and how they work gives people a chance to create a better work-life balance for themselves. In this way, asynchronous work can help prevent the negative effects of burnout and improve the quality of business significantly.
Having a better balance between one’s job and personal life also means that everyone can spend more time on their personal endeavors. This means more quality time to socialize with loved ones, leisure, learn new skills, and spare time to dedicate to passion projects–like volunteering at a nonprofit, for example.
Increase in productivity
With an asynchronous work schedule, you have the chance to focus on when and how you’re most efficient and build your day around it. Since this changes from person to person, moving away from the traditional work setting can do wonders to boost your productivity overall. Especially if you’ve set up an all-inclusive home workspace, you’re all set!
An asynchronous work environment is more accommodating to some marginalized groups. When you don’t expect synchronicity and real-time communication, you’re actually expanding your hiring pool and allowing for a more diverse workspace.
One example of this is the inclusion of disabled employees. Traditional work settings can be challenging for them, both due to the commute and the strictness of the hours that can conflict with their medical care, for example.
A distributed team is at the core of asynchronous work culture. As the name suggests, it means that your team is distributed around different places, work settings, and time zones.
Building a distributed team is only fully possible with async work. This is because other types of work would require a lot of sacrifices that could reduce autonomy: Having to abide by another timezone’s work hours for availability, especially, can be extremely challenging for talents that reside far away.
Improved mental health
If you combine all the previous perks we counted, you’ll see how much they can positively affect your mental health as a whole. The benefits of autonomy and a better work-life balance alone can improve one’s mental health by a large margin.
Researchers at the University of California, Irvine found that it takes people about 23 minutes to refocus after being interrupted while doing a task. Besides the lost time and productivity, this also causes stress and leads to people hurrying to want to finish their job quicker. By eliminating constant interruptions with instant communications and meetings, async work can accommodate a more comfortable and less stressful work setting.
Examples of an asynchronous workday
Here are some examples of how an asynchronous workday can look like for different people:
- Someone who wants to stay active can integrate their fitness routine into their breaks to be healthy and productive at the same time
- Workers struggling with mental health issues can integrate therapy and meditation into their daily life
- A person who has social plans during the midday can make up for the lost time by breaking up their day, and working in the morning and the evening
- A night owl can lean more towards working later in the day
- A neurodivergent person (for example, someone with ADHD) can break up tasks into short sprints to handle executive dysfunction
- Someone who is also in school can build their schedule by taking their classes, assignments, etc. into account
- On the same vein, parents can arrange their work tasks according to their household chores and their child’s program
- A person who works from coworking spaces can arrange their hours so as to avoid rush-hour traffic during their commute
Tips for managing async collaboration & communication
Even though you’ve created an asynchronous workflow, your remote team is still a team. Just because your employees aren’t working at the same time doesn’t mean that they wouldn’t be communicating or collaborating at all.
Here are some asynchronous work strategies to manage your communications:
- Try out alternatives to meetings. Research suggests that about 35% – 50% of work time is lost on meetings, and this can easily be changed: Daily/weekly updates can be done in writing, show-and-tell elements can be solved through screen recordings, etc.
- Lean towards project management and message-based tools
- Have a shared calendar where everyone can see related people’s working hours and communicate/collaborate accordingly
- Break up long-term tasks into manageable steps to create a seamless workflow
- Determine core working hours where they’ll respond to previous communication (This is best expressed by established remote work advocate McKenna Sweazey in an interview: “Being explicit about expected response times can take away some of the frustrations of asynchronous communications”.)
- Encourage detailed documentation for all tasks, so that everyone can later review them, provide feedback, and/or build upon it effectively
- Use dedicated tools and channels to communicate on different subjects
Helpful tools for async working
The key aspect of managing async work is using the right tools that fit your remote team communication needs. Here are some software and tools that can maximize your communicative efficiency and keep your team connected:
- Twist: This is a message-based communication tool that was built with flexible and async teams in mind. It has the potential to cut away any unnecessary and bloated interactions with threads, different channels, and most importantly, no pressure for instant availability.
- Slack: This is one of the most popular team communication platforms with robust features, and also promotes accessibility through many unique settings.
- Google Docs: It will help you work on documents together–both synchronously and asynchronously. The “Suggestion” and “Comment” features are also really helpful for communication and feedback.
- Miro: For brainstorming and visual representations, Miro provides an online whiteboard tool that can improve your workflow and make meetings more effective.
- ClickUp: This is an inclusive tool to manage your teams, tasks, projects, whiteboard, and communications all in one place. Their built-in features and integrations can take your team collaborations to the next level.
- Loom: Using Loom, you can record videos of your screen and your face at the same time. It’s a helpful tool to provide personalized video messages, send tutorials, or replace it with frequent team meetings.
- Kosy is a virtual office tool where you can create your remote HQ. It’s a great way to spice up your synchronous communication time: Hold meetings, have catch-ups, or even organize game nights. This way, you can encourage team-building and help combat remote work isolation in your employees.
- Rock: Rock is a messaging tool with a built-in tasks feature, so that you can manage all the essentials from one place. Combined with the file-sharing and note-taking tools, it provides a great means for asynchronous team communication.
- Trello is also a very popular solution for asynchronous work arrangements. It’s a Kanban board-based project management tool that can help you sort and prioritize tasks effectively.
(Hint: Some of these recommended tools are Ruul’s partners, and provide unique discounts and opportunities for Ruulers like yourself.)
Companies embracing an asynchronous working model
A lot of companies have been hiring remotely for a long time, and some of them have also adopted a fully remote and asynchronous workflow. Some of the most notable examples that you might recognize are Trello, GitLab, Unsplash, and Airbnb.
An undeniable success story is GitLab, the organization behind GitHub. They have embraced an office-free, remote, and asynchronous workflow years ago; and this has done them wonders. They have reported high levels of employee satisfaction and productivity since making this change, and have been strongly advocating for remote work as a part of their company culture ever since.
Another example comes from Shopify, which has recently introduced a “calendar purge”, encouraging everyone to cut down on meetings and choose other means of team communication. They’ve done this to prevent unnecessarily frequented and poorly-managed meetings that do more harm than good. They will instead allow employees to focus on their actual tasks, and conduct meetings whenever it’s actually necessary and in smaller teams.
Asynchronous work is the future
Remote work and asynchronous work are more than just passing fads–they’re reshaping the working world day by day. Following the lead of many companies, switching to an asynchronous work culture can help better the lives of your employees, diversify your team, and improve your business in the long run.
If you’re going the route of fully remote and async work, why not choose an all-in-one tool to hire, pay, and manage your distributed workers seamlessly? Register with Ruul now to discover Ruul’s robust solutions built to improve your remote workforce management.
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