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4 Ways Asynchronous Work Drives Employee Engagement

 

Asynchronous work is no longer just a buzzword. Since the pandemic, companies across nearly every industry have shifted to remote and hybrid work models that rely on asynchronous teams to collaborate across geographies and time zones. 

And while many employees are in favor of this arrangement, not all employers are on board.

In the past year, many big-name companies have announced their return-to-office and synchronous working arrangements—despite employee preferences. Yet at the same time, over half of all employees worldwide say they would leave their jobs because of this inflexibility.

Clearly, flexible remote work has its advantages for employees—but what is it about asynchronous collaboration specifically that benefits both workers and companies alike? 

What is Asynchronous Work?

Before going into further detail, it’s important to define what asynchronous work looks like in the workplace.

In an asynchronous workflow, employees perform their regular duties on their own time and are free to manage work or personal tasks without the expectation of responding to co-workers immediately. By comparison, synchronous work requires real-time communication, limiting autonomy and possibly requiring work outside normal hours for employees in different time zones.

And while asynchronous work and remote work share similar elements, it’s important to distinguish the two. While asynchronous collaboration is more common in remote or hybrid work, it can also take place in-office when teammates have to communicate across a large time zone gap.

Regardless of where an asynchronous employee works, the flexibility to choose when they work is crucial for maintaining a healthy work-life balance. In fact, employees cite flexible working hours as most beneficial to their mental health, as well as the No. 1 driver of increased productivity according to Gartner. 

Because asynchronous work is structured to give workforces flex time to prioritize tasks, employees are better positioned to identify which work and life obligations require their immediate attention. Over time, employees then develop their own unique habits for balancing personal wellness needs with work tasks without feeling guilt, stress, or pressure from their teams.

Does Asynchronous Work Make Sense in 2023?

As more data is released on the well-being benefits of asynchronous work, many employers are wondering if it makes sense to implement async collaboration in their organizations.

Some employers have reservations about asynchronous remote work for a variety of reasons, whether it’s home-life distractions or a culture fit. Those with a top-down management style may fear the lack of control ingrained in asynchronous work, while others might have concerns over productivity without a rigid structure for working hours or communication.

Despite these hesitations, many companies are starting to move away from synchronous collaboration and even full-time office hours, with 58% of employees having the option to work asynchronously from home at least once a week. 

Here are just a few reasons why this hybrid model of async work is becoming increasingly popular:

Expanding Global Hiring Opportunities

International hiring has become a hot commodity recently, with 44% of organizations prioritizing these initiatives. 

While hiring remote employees in different time zones and countries can add complexity to hybrid teams, both employers and employees can benefit from a diverse range of perspectives. 

Adopting asynchronous collaboration can help organizations expand their global talent pool while leveraging multiple time zones for round-the-clock productivity. At the same time, diversity helps strengthen company culture by bringing in unique viewpoints and creative minds from around the world.

Increasing Flexibility, Recruitment, and Retention

It’s no surprise that flexible work hours and locations can benefit employees’ mental and physical well-being—in fact, an overwhelming 93% of employees want more control over their schedules, and 76% want to work on a remote team. 

But flexibility can also be an advantage for employers. 

Job seekers want the ability to work when and where they want, and providing that opportunity can be an attractive draw for candidates in an increasingly competitive job market. Not only does this significantly boost recruitment efforts, but it can also improve retention rates, as over 80% of employees say they’d be more loyal to employers if they offered flexible work options.

Fostering a Culture of Trust and Empowering Workers

Aside from flexibility, improvements to company culture are one of the key drivers of retention for the average asynchronous worker. 

For example, in 2022, over 60% of employees said they quit their jobs due to a toxic company culture. In contrast, asynchronous collaboration requires employers to trust their employees’ decision-making and time-management skills by their very nature.

Giving each team member the space and autonomy to do their job on their own time demonstrates this trust to employees and shows them they are valued. 

Improving Productivity With Asynchronous Collaboration

Last but not least, productivity is an inevitable outcome of asynchronous work. 

When team members feel supported and empowered to work autonomously, they’re more inclined to enter a state of “deep work” in which they’re more engaged, hyper-focused, and more productive. And with a global hybrid team, organizations also benefit from expanded working hours for each time zone, continuously moving the needle on important work tasks.

While 67% of employees reportedly experience increased productivity working from home, it's not just asynchronous remote work that organizations can benefit from. Flexible schedules have also shown dramatic improvements in performance, with 77% of employees seeing increased productivity with more autonomy and freedom to prioritize their work days.

When Asynchronous Communication Isn't the Right Option

Of course, asynchronous working arrangements aren’t always the best option for every business—or employee. 

For some, it might just be a matter of finding the right balance between flexible working hours, remote work, and in-office time. On the other hand, some employers might choose to forgo async work altogether.

When deciding whether an asynchronous model will work, it’s crucial to consider a few potential downsides, such as:

  • Work-from-home distractions. One of the primary arguments against asynchronous remote work is that employees will be more easily distracted working from home. While this might be an unfair assumption for some, other employees may find it difficult to concentrate on work outside of the office. That’s why it’s important to discuss options with individual employees.
  • Communication confusion. Async communication can open the door for potential misunderstandings and delayed responses. Without set working hours or instant messaging, employees may be left in the dark when questions or concerns arise.
  • Scheduling difficulties. Managing workers across different time zones can also introduce scheduling difficulties. Even with flexible scheduling, it can be challenging to find time for a meeting within the working hours of all parties involved.
  • Employee isolation. Mental health is another huge factor when considering asynchronous collaboration. Some employees might thrive on independence and autonomy, but it’s also important to note that full-time remote work has also been found to increase feelings of social isolation by 67% in some cases.

While not all companies will experience these issues (and some are still issues with synchronous collaboration), acknowledging these drawbacks can help organizations plan around them in their own asynchronous work configurations.

Best Practices for Becoming a More Asynchronous Organization

For many organizations, the benefits of asynchronous collaboration outweigh the potential downsides. However, achieving this type of arrangement takes more than simply implementing the infrastructure and asynchronous communication tools necessary to function. 

It all starts with developing a distinct workplace culture that supports employee well-being while outlining policies with clear goals and expectations.

To help your organization succeed with an asynchronous workflow, here are a few best practices.

1. Establish Guidelines for Team Members

The first step is to set clear expectations and policies for asynchronous hybrid team collaboration. 

By detailing defined processes and operations—such as which communication channels to use, how to log working hours, and expected response times—organizations can ensure a streamlined asynchronous workflow and avoid confusion among employees.

2. Facilitate Real-Time Communication Whenever Possible

While asynchronous communication is all about relaxed response times, it’s important that employees understand when they need to respond. 

Even when workers are located in different time zones, their working hours often overlap, providing an opportunity for real-time communication—whether through email, chat, or meetings. With instant messaging and clear asynchronous/synchronous communication expectations, team members can discuss and collaborate on urgent projects to meet deadlines without sacrificing flexibility.

3. Set Clear and Achievable Deadlines

In addition to effective communication, clear deadlines are a crucial factor of success in asynchronous collaboration. 

When an employee knows a project is due soon, they can plan their schedule and workload to accommodate the deadline while maintaining a healthy work-life balance. 

4. Promote Transparency

Finally, transparency is paramount in asynchronous work environments. 

From start to finish, team members should record, document, and timestamp all relevant discussions, deadlines, and milestones. That way, stakeholders don’t have to wait for a reply to find the information they need—instead, they’ll know where to find it and how to proceed to keep operations running efficiently.

Asynchronous Work Helps Employees Reach Their Full Potential

Ultimately, the decision to go with an asynchronous or synchronous working model will depend on the needs of each organization and its employees.

At WellRight, we’ve built tailored wellness programs for companies with all types of working arrangements. Our one common takeaway—both employees and employers reap the benefits for years to come.

Reach out to us today and discover how WellRight can help you unlock the full potential of your workforce.

 

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