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Asynchronous work: Meaning and best practices

6 min read

With the prevalence of remote and hybrid positions, asynchronous work is more commonplace than an exception to the rule. This is largely due to the benefits of asynchronous work for employers and employees alike. However, despite the advantages, there are also challenges that many employers face, particularly when it comes to managing async teams and making sure that everyone is on the same page.

In this article, we’ll take a look at some of the most common asynchronous work problems for companies. Then, we’ll look at best practices to overcome these hurdles. Asynchronous work doesn’t have to mean sacrificing efficiency and productivity along the way. With the right tactics and tools, you can simplify your processes and better connect your asynchronous team. 


Asynchronous work meaning: What is it?

Asynchronous work, or “async work”, occurs when companies allow their teams to work outside of traditional scheduled shift hours. Instead, employees set their own hours and work when most convenient for them. Commonly, asynchronous work policies are adopted by remote and hybrid teams.

Asynchronous vs synchronous work

Some of the most significant differences between asynchronous and synchronous work are the way that teams communicate and the tools that are used to align employees. For example, synchronous communication might take place through in-person meetings or video calls. Whereas async teams might primarily communicate through messaging platforms like Slack or an employee dashboard. 

Since async teams have varied working schedules, they can’t rely on others to immediately see messages and respond to queries. And while some might be content with the extra flexibility, having irregular hours can make it more difficult to organize and complete projects on time.

Benefits of working asynchronously

While some companies choose to forgo asynchronous work because of potential communication problems, it’s crucial to understand the entire picture before deciding what’s best for your team. Many companies find that the benefits of asynchronous work outweigh the disadvantages. Here, we’ll take a closer look at the main reasons why teams choose to go async. 

Larger talent pool

Since asynchronous teams don’t have to meet in person, companies can hire candidates, regardless of their geographical location. This means that companies are less likely to face talent shortages or staffing problems, and they can select more qualified candidates, as their talent pool will be much larger in size.

Additionally, contracting talent from around the world will promote a diverse working environment. This will lead to a diversity of thought and perspective, which makes for a more innovative team. Since flexible working hours are a top priority amongst employees, many will consider async work to be a highly attractive benefit. This makes you more likely to receive applications from top-performing and experienced applicants.

More satisfied team

Flexible work hours not only help companies attract top talent but also play a role in retaining your workforce for the long haul. In today’s job market, remote work and hybrid work are abundant. And employees with children or who are caring for relatives are likely to look for a position that allows them to take care of their life outside of work. 

Work-life balance and flexible working options are especially prioritized by younger workers. According to Deloitte’s 2023 survey, 75% of millennials and 77% of Gen Z employees would consider looking for a full-time job if their employer asked them to work on-site.

Aside from this, async teams with flexible work hours are also more likely to feel mentally healthy and satisfied. As a result, asynchronous work can help you to cultivate a positive work environment and high-performance culture. By giving employees control over their hours, you are also providing trust, personal autonomy, and responsibility. They will, in turn, want to keep their jobs and go the extra mile to do their very best.  

More direct communication

In workplaces with a traditional 9-5 schedule, employees see each other daily. While there are more opportunities to have face-to-face meetings, it’s also more probable that teams waste time with unnecessary distractions and interactions that are irrelevant to work. 

Since hours don’t always correspond for async teams, communication has to be extremely clear while working on projects. Meetings are usually infrequent and individual team members spend more time completing tasks by themselves. As a result, async companies tend to have less fluff communication and more of a pressing need to get to the point immediately. Contrary to popular belief, async work can make internal communications more efficient when executed properly.

Challenges that asynchronous teams face

No working model is perfect, and teams must weigh their options when deciding whether or not to implement asynchronous work. While there are ways to mitigate these problems, there’s no one-size-fits-all solution. Ultimately, you’ll have to find the system and model that works best for you and your team. To give you a better idea of the potential drawbacks of asynchronous work, here are some common issues to consider.

Slower response time

While working asynchronously often pressures teams to communicate more clearly and effectively, employees aren’t expected to immediately respond to messages. As a result, there’s more time spent waiting for replies, which can cause delays and setbacks.

To avoid this, try to overestimate the number of days required to complete projects in the initial planning phases. Account for asynchronous communication delays when drafting roadmaps and setting deadlines. That way, your team will have a realistic timeframe to complete tasks and won’t feel “under the gun” to get things done on time. 

Less unity and collaboration

Having time to meet colleagues face-to-face and talk about daily life helps to build stronger bonds and create a sense of cooperation and comfort in the workplace.  Unsurprisingly, this is something that async teams often struggle with. 

While individuals might have more solo time to concentrate on projects and be productive, they might feel disconnected from their coworkers. Under these circumstances, it can be difficult to develop meaningful work relationships and cultivate a strong company culture.

To counteract this issue, asynchronous teams should prioritize online team-building activities and find ways to encourage nonwork-related conversations. That’s not to say that companies need constant announcements and messages that distract from responsibilities. However, everyone should feel comfortable sharing with their colleagues. Human resource professionals in the company should do everything that they can to encourage feelings of belonging and trust in the workplace.

Potential time management problems

Aside from issues relating to communication and team connectedness, there are some technical and organizational problems that asynchronous workplaces face. There’s no doubt that having flexible hours is a huge benefit to many employees. However, irregular hours can be difficult for companies to manage and keep track of. As a result, employees could wind up overworking under the radar and suffer from remote worker burnout

The solution? Setting clear expectations and finding the right tools to automatically keep records of your team’s work hours. More on this later.

Asynchronous work best practices

Here are some tools and tips for remote and hybrid teams to ensure that asynchronous work initiatives are a success.

Draft an asynchronous work policy

If your company plans to make the shift to asynchronous work, the first thing to do is install an asynchronous or remote work policy. This policy should clearly detail employee expectations, how performance will be evaluated, and the tools and support that async workers will receive.

In your policy, address the following key points:

  • How you will monitor and track employee hours
  • Tools and remote work equipment that the company will provide
  • Stipends for internet, electricity, coworking space, and home office
  • Company-wide communication procedures and protocol
  • Performance evaluation criteria and frequency
  • One-on-one evaluations and meetings
  • How employees should communicate their hours of availability

Reduce meetings

With asynchronous work, it can be tough to check in and make sure that everyone is up to speed. In a traditional 9-5 work setting, meetings might be the instinctive response. However, despite the $37 billion that companies spend annually on meetings, 71% of senior managers find them to be unproductive. 

Rather than waste time trying to align your team’s schedules, ask for more written or recorded communication. This can include progress updates, loom video presentations, or screenshots of issues that employees come across.

Invest in asynchronous work tools

If your company is managing a remote team or a remote async team, you need to have the right system in place. The only way to correctly track employee hours and manage clock-in and clock-out is with tools that automate the entire process. Specifically, you’ll want to find tools that allow you to:

  • Implement remote employee time tracking
  • Manage individual and group projects
  • Set and record progress on goals
  • Keep track of employee performance
  • Generate progress reports and track KPIs
  • Store employee documents securely on an online database

When looking for the right remote work tools for your team, there are several options. You can take a more piecemeal approach and find individual tools that complete individual tasks for you. For example, have protected Google Drive documents to store employee files, manage employee hours on Excel spreadsheets, etc. However, this is not the most efficient or effective solution for your team.

Keeping your asynchronous team aligned

If you’re looking for a way to simplify your company’s asynchronous processes, the best option is to find a comprehensive solution.

All-in-one tools like Factorial are designed to work for all kinds of companies and working models. Whether your team is hybrid or is completely remote and asynchronous, Factorial’s user-friendly and intuitive platform can help you to manage talent, payroll, and time tracking all in the same place. Get started with your free trial of Factorial today.

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