Asynchronous Work

What Is Asynchronous Work? Tips, Tools and Benefits

Asynchronous working is when remote and distributed team members work independently and aren’t expected to be online or complete their work simultaneously. Discover how async can work for your team.

Jemima Owen-Jones
Written by Jemima Owen-Jones
November 18, 2021
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Key Takeaways

  1. Asynchronous working is the most effective way for remote, hybrid, and dispersed teams to function since it protects everyone’s time and removes unnecessary distractions.
  2. Asynch relies on effective communication, good documentation and writing skills, and asynchronous technology.
  3. Both synchronous and asynchronous work styles have their place in a remote and hybrid work environment. However, async must be the default. 

Asynchronous work, or async for short, has been around for a while, but the pandemic and ensuing remote working made companies step on the gas. 

Companies began to adopt Slack, Loom video messaging, and Google Workspace, among many other async tools, to connect and collaborate with remote team members located in different places. Soon enough, these asynchronous work styles and communication methods became the norm. 

In this article, you’ll learn everything you need to know about asynchronous working and how it can help remote teams achieve maximum results.

Asynchronous vs. synchronous

Synchronous work is when multiple people work together simultaneously, while asynchronous work is when each individual team member works according to their own schedule and routine. 

In synchronous work, employees are expected to be online, available, and responsive during set hours. In contrast, async work allows individuals to respond and collaborate when it suits them without feeling pressured to be constantly responsive or online simultaneously.  

Both synchronous and asynchronous work styles have their place in a remote and hybrid work environment. Synchronous working allows team members to connect for important real-time meetings or activities with their coworkers throughout the workday. In contrast, asynchronous allows teams to work when they are most productive and minimizes distractions and unnecessary meetings that can disrupt workflow and take valuable time.  

What is asynchronous communication?

Asynchronous or async communication describes all modes of communication that do not require multiple workers to be available at the same time. In contrast, synchronous communication describes communication methods that take place in real-time, requiring workers to be present simultaneously. 
In traditional in-office work environments, synchronous communication is more typical since workers may choose to approach their team members to ask a question or hold a meeting to discuss a topic. However, in a remote working environment, team members may instead send a message, write an email, or film a video.

What is an asynchronous workflow? 

An asynchronous workflow describes the process of taking a piece of work from initiation through completion while minimizing blockers and bottlenecks using async communication and collaboration methods. 

An effective async workflow involves team members breaking the workload into smaller tasks and frequently updating and recording progress. This workflow relies on effective communication, good documentation and writing skills, and asynchronous technology.

What are the benefits of asynchronous work?

Asynchronous working enables remote employees and contractors to collaborate and complete tasks from different places, but many other benefits come with this work style. Here’s an overview of the most important benefits:

Workplace autonomy

Asynchronous communication gives teams significant independence and flexibility on an individual and team level. Async work relieves your dependency on others to get work done and gives you the freedom to complete your work or respond to a colleague when it’s convenient for you. 

Increased productivity

When team members have the freedom to determine their own time and work schedules, they can plan according to their needs without external influences. This approach enables teams to take a more focused approach to tasks, resulting in greater productivity and outcomes. Team members can devote enough time to uninterrupted deep work without the continual distractions from synchronous communication channels such as chats or video calls.

Enhanced accountability

Asynchronous working encourages team members to take ownership of their workload. As a result, workers are more likely to accept responsibility for their actions and are more engaged and committed to their work, which helps them to feel trusted and competent, leading to higher employee morale and satisfaction. 

Better decision making

When teams work asynchronously, team members aren’t always available to answer immediate questions forcing individuals to make decisions based on their best judgment without assistance. This approach encourages workers to step outside their comfort zone and build confidence which aids development and career growth. 

Empowered workforce

When a company entrusts its teams to work asynchronously, they feel empowered. An empowered workforce shares a sense of purpose and pride, leading to greater teamwork, creativity, and innovation.

Improved work-life balance 

Asynchronous work models provide workers with the freedom to determine their own schedules. For example, if you’re more productive in the evening, you may choose to work a later day. If you need to attend a doctor’s appointment, you can adjust your work schedule. If you decide to take a workcation in a different country, you can change your hours to suit the new time zone.

Clear communication

Synchronous communication, like instant messaging and phone and video calls, creates a sense of urgency or demand, leading to rushed and inaccurate responses and poor decisions. Working asynchronously gives workers time to process information at their own pace and form a carefully considered response without pressure to respond immediately. Communication tools such as Slack enable teams to edit and revise their messages to ensure they are clear and efficient.

Time zone equality

Asynchronous collaboration allows remote workers to operate across different time zones without work-hour discrepancies. For example, one worker lives in the UK, and the other in the US. In this scenario, neither worker needs to adjust their hours to fit around the others as they can communicate asynchronously to get the job done.

Greater transparency

When communicating asynchronously using tools such as Slack messages, Google Drive, and Microsoft Teams, workers create a trail of data that team members can easily trace, refer to, and save. For example, Slack has a helpful search function to revisit past discussions, mentions, and files. In addition, tools like Notion and Google docs allow you to make shared notes in real-time and view revisions, and comments, improving visibility. 

What are the limitations of async work?

The primary limitations of async working can be attributed to the failure to adopt the right mindset or implement async practices among remote and hybrid teams. The resulting challenges and solutions are as follows: 

  • Isolation: Some employees may feel alienated or lonely due to a lack of face-to-face meetings or in-person interactions. Check out our blog article, How to Avoid Feeling Lonely When Working From Home, to discover how remote teams can be more intentional with their social engagement.
  • Misinterpretation: No matter how concise, written communication can’t always express the emotion and tone required for individuals to understand the meaning of a message. Emojis, voice notes, and videos can help to convey a message more accurately.  
  • False expectations: Async communication can be difficult for work that demands urgent action. However, with foresight and planning, a job should rarely require such an immediate response.

Tools for async work

Video conferencing software

While video conferencing is a synchronous communication tool, the record function enables hosts to save important videos and share them with other members of the team to watch in their own time. The most popular video conferencing platforms include:
  • Google Meet
  • Skype
  • Zoom

Instant messaging

Instant messaging tools can double as both an async and async communication method depending on a company’s code of conduct. At Deel, we use instant messaging asynchronously, which means there is no pressure to reply immediately. Teams that require time-sensitive responses may want to set their own codes of conduct, such as a 24-hour reply window. The most popular instant messaging tools include:
  • Slack
  • Whatsapp
  • Microsoft Teams

Video messaging 

Team members can use video messaging software to record their camera, microphone, and desktop simultaneously to record tutorials, introductions, and presentations and then share them with team members. Popular video messaging software includes:
  • Loom
  • Vimeo
  • Soapbox

Web-based applications

Unlike desktop applications, which must run, store and save information locally on a computer owned by one individual, web-based applications use a network or internet connection to store company information that numerous people can access from multiple locations. These systems are great for async teams that need to access company information at any moment. Popular web-based apps include:
  • Google Workspace
  • Notion
  • Evernote   

Project management platforms

Project management platforms are great for planning, resource allocation, and scheduling, allowing async teams to collaborate effectively. The most popular project management software includes:
  • Jira
  • Asana
  • Trello
  • Basecamp
  • Monday

Tips and best practices 

Embrace technology: Technology plays an indispensable role when it comes to asynchronous working. Most modern businesses already use various tools to aid communication, project management, and team organization, and these will most likely suffice for asynchronous teams. Be sure to keep tools to a minimum and ensure everyone is well-versed on how to use them.
Build an asynchronous culture: Technology alone will not guarantee the effectiveness of asynchronous working. Company leaders must ensure that the work culture supports this approach. Internal protocols and guidelines help to outline the codes of conduct and ensure everyone is on the same page.
Use synchronous communication sparingly: You don’t need to turn your back on real-time communication altogether. Asynchronous teams can still capitalize on any overlap hours and bring teams together for Zoom meetings or instant messaging conversations as long as they are kept to a minimum with async as the default. 
Updating statuses on Slack is a great way for team members to display whether they are available, busy, out of the office, or taking lunch, in case a colleague wants to contact them spontaneously. 

Is asynchronous the future of work?

Asynchronous working will not replace synchronous working entirely; the two must coexist. However, asynchronous working is the most effective way for remote, hybrid, and dispersed teams to function most of the time since it protects everyone’s time and removes unnecessary distractions. 
You’ve probably already done asynchronous work in some capacity — making the leap to incorporate it more thoroughly will be easier than you think.

Build your best asynchronous team in 2023 with Deel

Overcoming the challenges of virtual team management while trying to grow and expand can be challenging. To help, we’ve curated a tonne of useful articles and resources to help you along the way. A few that spring to mind include the following:   
Deel can also help you engage workers worldwide without the hassle of opening an entity in a foreign country or handling legal and tax compliance. See how you can hire and pay remote employees or independent contractors around the world with Deel. 

Read enough? Book a demo to see how Deel works in action. 

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