As more teams decide to work remotely, they'll quickly run into a problem: what's the best way to communicate and collaborate? Teams should choose when and how based on preferences, time zones and roles. Also, according to a Slack survey, four out of five challenges remote teams face most is building strong working ties. And the best way to do it is through communication.
As we know, remote working is different from working on-site. Virtual meetings, video conferencing and brainstorming sessions can overwhelm employees. There are times when teams are expected to respond immediately, and they struggle to work out their priorities.
Fortunately, there is a way to overcome the challenges of time zones and delayed response, i.e., asynchronous collaboration or what we often call async. Companies should adopt asynchronous tools to achieve ideal collaboration between remote teams. This collaboration requires planning that is different in every company.
Let's dive deeper into asynchronous collaboration and its implementation!
What is Asynchronous Collaboration?
This kind of collaboration is often associated with team communication. But in practice, asynchronous can be implemented in collaboration.
Adopting Forbes, asynchronous communication is a type of communication that does not expect the recipient to respond to messages in real-time. Meanwhile, asynchronous collaboration is a discussion or exchange of ideas that does not occur in real-time. Different from face-to-face meetings, teams don't have to be on time. This collaboration happens at each team's convenience.
The asynchronous collaboration includes:
- Email conversations
- Updates, comments or progress updates from the project management system
- Screen recording and meeting recording
- Collaborative files like Google Docs and Canva
One of the pitfalls many teams face is using asynchronous channels in real-time, for example, using productive time to respond to non-urgent emails. The team should answer emails during non-focus hours, so it doesn't kill the productivity flow.
Sync vs Async
Synch communication is the most frequently used communication in business, especially in offices. Teams should communicate with colleagues all day long. They have to attend every meeting, no matter what they do.
Synchronous also means real-time collaboration, such as video calls, online chat messages and virtual meetings. Implementing in an office may be suitable and boost productivity, but if it happens in a virtual environment, it will hinder productivity. Helen Kupp says that working from 9 to 5 with always-on interaction is not the right work environment for many people. This resulted in burnout among women with children and other problems.
Pros and Cons
While asynchronous collaboration is essential, teams cannot work effectively with only an asynchronous basis.
1. Fewer interruptions
We've all been focused on a task, only to be interrupted by instant messages and calls. Suddenly, we are forced to change lanes to do different things. By the time we get back to the main task, we may be unfocused.
2. Relieve the pressure to respond immediately
The asynchronous collaboration will reduce the pressure to respond quickly on every phone, email and chat. You can respond to emails when you have free or off time. Also, it provides flexibility and convenience for responding to messages.
3. Workdays are more controlled
Almost everyone has experienced successive tiring meetings. By the time the day was over, it was a relief. After that, you realise that no work is done. Asynchronous collaboration allows you to control your day.
4. Communication with different time zones is easier.
Asynchronous collaboration cripples time zones. When the team has a meeting scheduled for 9:00 a.m., others are still on time off. Asynchronous collaboration makes it easier because the team can see through meetings records.
5. Better planning process
Your schedule is not only about meetings. You still need to complete your work. Asynchronous collaboration helps teams plan their day more effectively.
1. Lack of connection
On the other hand, asynchronous collaboration creates feelings of isolation and less connection. Spontaneous collaborations such as brainstorming create attachment and comfort. In contrast, email makes messages end cold and detached.
2. Limited exchange of ideas
Teams can exchange ideas spontaneously and generate creative ideas in real-time meetings. But when implementing asynchronous collaboration, the team loses that session.
3. Feelings of isolation
Buffer mentions that loneliness is a significant struggle for remote workers. Employees may feel alone and isolated without meetings, phone calls, and unexpected collaboration.
4. Responses that take time
One of the advantages and disadvantages of asynchronous collaboration tools is that they require detailed responses. For example, making a project progress report, you have to write detailed information.
How to Implement Asynchronous Collaboration
Teams should understand the pros and cons of asynchronous collaboration before implementing it. However, you can try the steps below:
1. Set clear expectations
Asynchronous collaboration doesn't mean throwing out deadlines and expectations. Teams need a deadline and project goals. For example, how long does the team respond to emails or chats? Is it 48 hours? Or 24 hours?
Moreover, companies must decide whether to adopt fully asynchronous collaboration or not. Or must the team have a few core hours to be available? Teams can exchange information about available time and focus mode.
2. Create a new method in meetings
When meetings are the only way to solve problems, the team must create new methods in meetings. For example, recording meetings so the whole team can stay up to date on the results. Or turn meetings into emails. Not to say you should throw away meetings, but change it in several ways.
3. Asynchronous project planning
One of the best things about asynchronous collaboration happens when planning projects. With asynchronous collaboration, the PM (Project Manager) gives the team time to reflect. In that session, the team will think about ideas and solutions to the problems before meetings. This allows the whole team to contribute.
4. Results are the end goal, not hours worked
When working remotely and using asynchronous collaboration, hours are not a priority. Results are the primary goal because they directly impact business. They are much better than counting endless rushes.
Over-communication is the key to asynchronous collaboration. There's no room for going back and forth at coworkers' desks. You also can't immediately make a speed dial to confirm something.
Excessive communication does not mean you have to send messages continuously, but:
- Get used to stating something clearly and precisely.
- Describe the context in detail and include an image in each message.
Asynchronous collaboration brings many benefits, such as flexibility and neutral time zones. This type of collaboration is suitable because it eliminates the need to go online simultaneously. Going from synchronous to asynchronous collaboration can be an absorbing challenge. However, implementing asynchronous collaboration makes teams' productivity rise.