1. Previously the domain of large multinationals and international organizations with distributed teams spread across countries and timezones, async working is now hitting the mainstream. Asynchronous work does not require all members of a team to be physically present in the same place or online at the same time.
2. COVID-19 pandemic measures shifted many businesses towards remote and distributed working. However, moving a traditional office-based synchronous working model online can simply replace traditional problems (e.g. too many meetings) with equivalent remote problems (e.g. too many Zoom meetings).
3. An asynchronous working model can provide a beneficial paradigm shift for your business while also addressing some of the key problems of remote working (e.g. expectation of instant response). Successful asynchronous working requires the right IT equipment and software as well as management practices which are both well-structured and emotionally intelligent.
4. A hybrid synchronous/asynchronous model might be the right answer for many businesses, with core hours set aside for essential meetings and collaborative engagement, and other work performed asynchronously.
While asynchronous work generally involves a great deal of remote engagement, it is much more than a simple variant of remote working. With asynchronous working, staff are not required to be present or online at the same time and instant response is not expected by default. More responsibility is devolved to staff, with managers needing to become more agile and emotionally intelligent in their engagement.
Moving to an asynchronous model can entail a significant shift in rules and norms for traditional companies and should not be undertaken without planning and preparation.
Our article looks at this major employee engagement trend of 2023, and tells you more about the benefits and challenges of asynchronous working, as well as the tech tools you need to make it a success.
What is the definition of ‘asynchronous work’?
Asynchronous, or ‘async’, work is a term used to describe a working style in which tasks, communication and processes are not time-bound in a linear way. Async work is very much focused on goals rather than activity, and on contribution rather than presence.
Async workers may complete tasks on an individual schedule. Async communication between colleagues and managers is not instant by default. Meanwhile, online platforms enable team members to independently access information resources and upload their own products without mediation or control by managers.
Asynchronous work exists in contrast to the traditional synchronous mode of working where teams and managers will be in the office or online during the same working hours, working to the same schedule and milestones, communicating in real-time and with project stages advancing in a linear way.
An asynchronous style of working can evolve naturally when teams are made up of colleagues operating across different countries and timezones. It has long been familiar to multinationals and international organizations with offices around the world. A hybrid asynchronous model is also possible, combining compulsory core hours for synchronous working activities, with asynchronous working permitted outside these times. This model is particularly useful for businesses that adopt a four day workweek.
Since the COVID-19 pandemic and lockdowns, asynchronous working has been increasingly adopted deliberately by a wider spectrum of businesses in order to maximize the value of their increasingly remote and distributed workforces, as well as in growing recognition of the value of uninterrupted and independently-led working. While the pandemic is no longer than main driving force behind hybrid models of working, its effects are felt today in many working models, including for working holidays where asynchronous work may be utilized.
Benefits of asynchronous work
Asynchronous work may carry significant benefits both for employers and employees. In general, the more distributed your global team is, the greater the potential benefits from async working. Benefits include:
Challenges of asynchronous work
The greatest challenges with asynchronous working may be linked to issues around human psychology or mental health. For successful implementation of async working, emotional intelligence in leaders and managers is just as important as the provision of the right IT kit and software. Challenges include:
What tools and resources are needed to enable asynchronous working?
Business leaders considering a move to an asynchronous mode of working should ensure that their company can provide the right structures and support to make this a success. Remember that asynchronous working is an organizational paradigm shift, rather than a simple on/off switch. You may want to include the following areas when considering your asynchronous business needs:
Embrace the asynchronous working model
Asynchronous work could be a great opportunity for some companies, potentially opening the door to new levels of staff engagement and productivity. Operating successfully across 180 countries, Horizons already has extensive experience in facilitating all kinds of remote working models, including asynchronous working. Get in touch today to discuss ideas and obtain a tailored quote for your business.
Frequently asked questions
An example might be staff from offices in Tokyo, London, Beijing and Berlin working together on a shared global business strategy Googledoc via comments and tracked amendments without scheduled meetings or instant discussions. It could also be a group of developers working individually on elements of a new software package and uploading outputs independently to a project management platform where a project manager oversees and communicates clear objectives, status and progress updates.
The fundamental difference is that synchronous work proceeds in a time-bound linear way, with all staff working the same hours and communicating in real-time about their projects and workstreams. Asynchronous work has a less linear flow and does not rely on constant communication.