What Role Will “Asynchronous Work” Play in the Future?

Remote working is here to stay as the primary mode of employment for most knowledge-based job profiles. The global experimentation with remote working has confirmed that a range of tasks can be executed successfully from diverse locations.

Undoubtedly, the journey of optimising remote work is still ongoing as there are several processes and techniques that need refinement and improvement. For instance, an increasing number of remote workers are finding it arduous to manage the sheer volume of video conferences they need to attend during the day.

While working with colleagues spread across various time zones, the complexity of video conferencing issues can further escalate. It is unusual that the start or end time of working hours overlaps with the hours of contacts in different time zones, leaving those hours consumed by calls.

Burnout is gradually becoming a common reason for employees to resign from work or stop working altogether. With limited opportunities for personal time, even mundane tasks can be demotivating for the employees.

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Asynchronous work is emerging as a favoured solution to address the problem. Simply put, asynchronous work refers to working on a project or task without the requirement of the attendance of other people or online at the same time.

Remote work has facilitated effortless communication amongst individuals owing to the convenience of video conferencing. Unlike conventional times, when it required weeks of planning or travel to meet colleagues, remote work enables the hassle-free scheduling of video calls, thereby ensuring that everyone remains accessible.

Suppose we plan to collaborate on a presentation. In that case, I suggest we commence with a 30-minute call to discuss the topic, post which I will create a storyboard while you gather the essential technical information. In the later call, we can review and consolidate our work, and if required, add further calls to complete the presentation.

There isn’t anything intrinsically incorrect with this approach, although it’s possible that we both have other projects that require our attention alongside this presentation. Furthermore, this approach restricts us to working within our fixed schedules. Let’s say we’re on opposite sides of the globe. In such a scenario, one of us is probably working through meals or social events, leading to delays when our cooperation is most crucial and causing irritation during our calls.

For collaboration beyond the office hours, I can send you a comprehensive email or Teams message that details my proposed storyboard. If needed, I can attach a draft copy. While I am unavailable, you are free to make any comments, provide technical information and ask relevant questions. We can repeat the cycle multiple times in the forthcoming days, and the final step would be a video call to review and enhance our work.

Challenges in Composing and Scheduling

If you stumble upon a technical expression such as “asynchronous functioning,” it might appear too elementary to have any practical application. Nevertheless, it is essential to acknowledge that several businesses already count on asynchronous communication through email and Instant Messaging.

Even though the idea is simple, it doesn’t always mean that it is simple to implement. The sheer quantity of emails does not necessarily indicate how efficiently they are employed or how contemplative they are, rather than adding to the distraction.

One of the primary aims of asynchronous working is to minimise the necessity for live communication and collaboration. Teams can be helpful by providing their colleagues with well-organised packages of outcomes, summaries and questions that can be readily understood and addressed.

At first glance, this may come across as surplus ‘administration.’ However, dedicating 15 minutes to prepare for a handover could save up to an hour during a meeting with some practice. Although it may not appear to be much, when applied to numerous projects, it can make a significant contribution in countering the ‘always-on’ culture that may arise due to the plethora of video conferencing options.

Experimenting with Asynchronous Collaboration Techniques

The advantages of asynchronous working can be attained with little initial time and effort investment, along with the typical difficulties that arise when implementing new working methodologies.

To ensure productive advancement on a task that would typically involve several meetings and calls over a span of a week or two, we should start by notifying all involved via email or chat that everyone only needs to be present for a review call at the end. The remaining work should be accomplished asynchronously, with the assistance of our team’s collaborative tools, to keep things progressing. To demonstrate the appropriate process, I will explicitly mention when I require the input of another team member on the project.

If your first attempt at asynchronous working is fruitful, you might want to think about expanding it to other teams and projects, intending to make it a fundamental aspect of your organization’s culture. Formal metrics and incentives might aid in promoting the transition, as with other changes. It could be beneficial to urge team managers to restrict the number of meetings that involve more than two individuals.

Commencing the shift by refraining from scheduling meetings during non-standard working hours and recommending to “work asynchronously” could be advantageous for everyone. Devoting additional effort to ensuring a seamless transition could also aid in the growth of communication and leadership skills, culminating in more productive teams.

It is recommended to offer formal incentives to leaders to decrease the duration of meetings and demonstrate how to implement asynchronous working. This would aid the company in maintaining productivity, enabling employees to have additional time to work rather than lengthy video calls, and improving morale.

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