When we think of asynchrony in the workplace, the first things that come to mind are disorder, lack of control, and poor communication, among others. But today more than ever, with the advance in technology, asynchronous collaboration is here to stay.
Asynchronous work is a type of work that allows you to collaborate in a group, with a common goal without distractions. In this article, we will tell you everything you need to know to analyse if this way of working is good for you and how to put it into practice.
- Asynchronous collaboration is when you work as a team without a shared schedule.
- Asynchronous collaboration has several advantages. Some of them are flexible hours, a work location of your choice, and less stress, among others.
- With the advancement of technology, working asynchronously as a team has become much easier and more accessible. There is software for any need, be it communication, document sharing or virtual whiteboards.
What you should know about asynchronous collaboration
Whether working remotely or hybrid, asynchronous collaboration is a crucial part of working. It’s about sharing ideas, skills and talents among team members to achieve a goal, but without the obligation to do so on a set schedule.
What is asynchronous collaboration?
When we talk about asynchronous collaboration, we refer to work that is done as a team with independent schedules. This means that team members perform their tasks and functions according to their own schedules. There is no need to be available at all times and at the same time (4).
Also, there is no loss of communication, since different tools or platforms can be used to be aware of what the rest of the team is doing. This makes this type of collaboration as effective as synchronous collaboration (5).
Collaboration or asynchronous work allows team members to have their space and time to focus on their work.
What is the difference between asynchronous and synchronous collaboration?
For a better understanding of the difference between asynchronous and synchronous collaboration, we share this comparison table.
|Asynchronous collaboration||Synchronous collaboration|
|There are not many meetings to work in a team||There are many face-to-face meetings in the team|
|Each team member works on his or her own schedule||There is the same work schedule|
|A person is not expected to be available according to the schedule||Availability according to schedule|
|Mostly virtual||Can be face-to-face, virtual or hybrid|
|You can’t see it live when the person is working, but you can see the results||Allows you to see live the work being done by each team member|
|Feedback may take a little longer to arrive||Feedback is immediate|
|Efforts must be made to form relationships with co-workers||Interpersonal relationships occur more easily|
Advantages and disadvantages of asynchronous collaboration
Although it seems that asynchronous collaboration is the ideal way to work in a team, it may not be ideal for you. Here are the advantages and disadvantages to help you decide if this way of working is for you.
- Not as many meetings (virtual or face-to-face)
- There is not as much fatigue
- You can work from anywhere in the world
- Reduced stress
- Own work schedule
- With the necessary feedback, it can be equally or more effective than collaborating synchronously
- Increases productivity
- Helps visibility of information when different groups are working on the same project
- By working in a physical space chosen by the individual, concentration is increased
- All exchanges are documented, allowing access to archives
- Communication is enhanced by having time to think about ideas and then communicate them to the team
- Solutions to problems are of higher quality because they can be thought about at leisure
- It can be difficult to make a cut of the work
- It is more difficult to form interpersonal relationships, you have to put in more effort
- Requires a lot of trust
- It can generate uncertainty, not knowing if our opinions and ideas will be taken into account
- Without the necessary tools, information may not be visible and transparent
When is it effective to implement asynchronous collaboration?
When deciding whether your team should work asynchronously, there are a few things to consider.
- International or decentralized teams: if your team members are located in different parts of the world and in different time zones.
- Reducing interruptions: a survey showed that 67% of employees felt that having synchronous meetings took up too much of their time during the week. This makes them less productive (1) and takes them out of their flow state, which is the time of greatest concentration when performing an activity (2).
- If you want to increase your reach: if you want more people to join your team and encourage collaborative work.
How do you incorporate asynchronous collaboration into your work?
This question has a simple answer. You don’t need to create new policies and regulations for this way of working. Choose a project you are about to start and through a shared document or an email, inform your team about the project. They need to have all the necessary information: ideas, objectives, and content. It has been shown that the formulation of expectations improves asynchronous collaboration (6).
It may be a little difficult at first, especially if it is a way of working that has never been used before. But as time progresses, each part of the team will begin to feel more comfortable with this method.
How can a team collaborate asynchronously?
It is important to understand that asynchronous collaboration is not very different from in-person collaboration. You just need good preparation and the intention to do it, to make it a successful form of teamwork. Here are some steps to guide you on the road to asynchronous collaboration.
Basically, this point refers to giving context to all team members. That is to say, to explain to them, in a document, the general and basic features that allow the design of a work plan. This is what will guide the project, since the team will know where it is trying to go. Therefore, knowing where you are and where you have to go, is the basics to start collaborating asynchronously.
Sharing the context
When collaborating face-to-face, it is very easy to catch up on what each team member is doing, and what part of the project they are working on. In asynchronous collaboration, you have to make the effort to document these things, so that they are accessible to the other team members and to new people who join.
Define roles and responsibilities
In the main document, where the basic notions and objectives will be shared, the roles and responsibilities of each team member must be clearly defined. The idea of clarifying roles is so that each person can organize his or her time based on what work he or she will be doing.
Configure the tools
Finally, what you need to do is to select the right tools for your project and notify the team about them. This will allow everyone to use the same tools. Ideally, you should use tools that everyone is familiar with at the beginning.
The advancement of technology allows tools to exist not only for communication, but can also play a role in the management and organization of a project, to support the team in their collaboration (7).
What tools to use for asynchronous collaboration?
Selecting the right tools is crucial when implementing asynchronous collaboration. It is important to have the necessary resources to keep the team on track and to be able to follow up with the team without the need for so many meetings. Nowadays, with the advance in technology, there are several tools to use in asynchronous online collaborations.
They are one of the tools used when organizing and carrying out projects. They are ideal for maintaining communication between team members and are easy to use. But they are not a very good option for sharing data among the whole team and keeping track of different details.
They are the ideal way for project managers to monitor how team members are progressing in their tasks. Private messages allow for discussion, quick comments, suggestions, answering questions, and sharing documents, among others. And they are also very easy to manage.
This form of collaboration is very versatile, as they have many possibilities on how to take advantage of them. You can brainstorm ideas, transmit complex information, train team members, and make technical documents or presentations together. All this without the need for a synchronous meeting.
The alternative to all the above-mentioned is voice messages. With this option, you can resolve doubts, ask questions, and share information without having to organize meetings.
Nowadays, there are many software for graphic collaboration. Virtual whiteboards offer flexibility and function as a document where all the team’s ideas are captured. They can help to clearly explain the information you want to convey.
What is the best asynchronous collaboration software?
Here are some recommendations of software to use in your asynchronous collaborations. Each of these has a specific purpose:
Project management tool
This is for when many people are working on a project at the same time. It is ideal for all the information to be centralized in one place and visible to all.
It performs the same function as a blank slate but in a virtual way. Different ideas can be visualized, added and moved.
Tools for asynchronous communication
It is ideal for keeping abreast of the weekly or monthly progress of the members of a project.
Should teams meet in person as well?
As mentioned earlier, one of the advantages of asynchronous communication is that it is not necessary to be in the same place at the same time to work as a team.
Also, we said that asynchronous work is not synonymous with remote work. This means, you can be doing collaboration asynchronously, but sharing the same workspace, i.e. going to the office.
In this survey (1), we see that 64% of the participants consider that 1-to-1 conversations with their co-workers have a greater impact on their work than meetings (16%) or working individually (20%). But, this does not mean that such conversations have to be in person.
What factors should you consider when deciding whether to hold an in-person meeting?
First and foremost, when deciding whether to hold a face-to-face meeting, is the purpose. It is necessary to analyze what is the message that you want to transmit. Once identified, it is necessary to think if that message is necessary to give in a face-to-face meeting or if it is possible to give it in another form. This will result in not interrupting the work process of your team unnecessarily.
Ideally, if you have a face-to-face meeting, it should be just a few minutes long.
The second thing to consider is the level of uncertainty. If there is some part of the project that is unclear to the team, or they don’t know which direction to move in, that’s where a face-to-face meeting is necessary. A few minutes in a video call or meeting can make a big difference to team spirit.
On the other hand, attention must be paid to the level of coordination, as sometimes it is necessary to adjust some details among the team participants. Daily synchronous meetings of short duration can help to avoid blocks and allow the project to move forward.
Lastly, key moments must be kept in mind. When starting or finishing a project, there are moments when a synchronous meeting is not a bad idea. This will generate not only the sharing of ideas, but also the team will connect and create a sense of shared purpose (3).
Is innovation possible when collaborating asynchronously?
One might think that face-to-face interaction is necessary to stimulate creativity and innovation at work. But we must keep in mind that these interactions are usually the result of the planning and creation of work teams.
Project leaders can create this same structure in the work groups and encourage them to start the flow of innovation and creativity among them. Here are some ideas to achieve this:
- Encourage interaction between different work teams and use software to share what each team is working on.
- Give teams time to work on ideas that are not so focused on the current project. This empowers and gives autonomy to the group members.
- Give feedback. A good time to have synchronous meetings is when it is time to talk to the teams and give feedback on what they have been working on. This way, there is clear communication and the team can be motivated.
Asynchronous collaboration is a work option that is being used more and more around the world. With this way of working you will be able to have teams formed by members where there are no geographical or time barriers. As a result, each team member will be able to do their work and communicate with their colleagues when it is most convenient for them.
This way of working can empower the team, increase productivity and foster innovation and creativity, producing excellent results and bringing the project to a successful conclusion. And you, would you like to implement it?
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