Career, Knowledge Sharing|

Asynchronous Work: Beyond the Remote Work Model

Remote work became the progressive work model in 2020, but it’s quickly becoming outdated thanks to a new and more productive work model. Asynchronous work is a more autonomous work model that allows remote workers a better workflow and fewer interruptions.

What is Asynchronous Work?

You may have asked yourself, “If I’m getting my work done and meeting deadlines, why does the time or location where I work matter?” It’s also the question that Kenzoa Fong asks when talking about asynchronous work. Fong, who has worked with global teams at Google, Android and Uber, helps explain this work model.

“Asynchronous, in short, is when work happens for different people on their own time,” says Fong. He compares asynchronous work to a relay race, where teammates complete tasks separately, not simultaneously. A key element of this work style is async communication, where there’s no expectation to respond to messages, emails, or Slack communication immediately.

Large tech companies like GitHub had fully remote teams long before the pandemic. Not only do their team members work from wherever they want, but they also work asynchronously (or “async”). Employees work and respond to communications on their own time, not during a set schedule, and some say this is the key to making remote work successful.

Beyond Remote Work

Distributed work, including hybrid models, is more commonplace today than before the pandemic. About 25% of office jobs in the U.S. became fully remote during the pandemic, citing increases in work-life balance and productivity levels. The assumption that work from home employees will slack off outside of the office has been disproved. Still, fully remote organizations that work during set hours or synchronously face new challenges.

The nature of synchronous remote work can:

  • Result in constant distractions from real-time messaging apps like Slack
  • Prioritize being connected in real-time over productivity
  • Cause unnecessary stress from constantly reacting and responding to requests and interruptions
  • Make it more difficult for workers to produce quality work

Benefits of Asynchronous Work

Despite the increase in flexible work schedules, the Great Resignation hasn’t shown signs of slowing down. According to the latest Job Openings and Labor Turnover report, 4.4 million workers quit their job in February 2022. One obvious benefit of asynchronous work is that it allows employers to recruit talent from anywhere in the world. This is great for organizations with flexible work styles but not so great for companies that require employees to work synchronously.

Additional benefits associated with asynchronous work include:

  • Fewer distractions and larger blocks of uninterrupted work time allow for more deep work.
  • Employees are happier and more productive when they have the autonomy to work on their own time instead of in real-time.
  • People have more time to respond to communications. This increases high-quality, thoughtful communications and reduces costly back-and-forths.

How to Transition to Asynchronous Work

If your organization is ready to move beyond remote work, here are a few tips for incorporating an asynchronous work model.

Reduce Time Waste

Instead of using instant messaging apps that can cause anxiety and waste time, adopt a tool that focuses on task and project management, such as Asana or Trello.

Reduce Frequent Meetings

Start by reducing and canceling excessive Zoom meetings. Reserve dedicated meeting times for monthly one-on-ones, tough conversations, and emergencies.

Be Clear

Over-communicate when requesting information and when responding to a request. Be definitive about any deadlines and add visuals like screenshots when you can.

Set a Timeline

Processes and expectations should be transparent and upfront. For instance, do employees need to respond to communications within 24 hours? 36 hours? 48 hours?

Teamwork

Focus on values like trust, ownership, and organization. Teammates need to know that they can rely on one another to do their parts.

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