The Ins and Outs of Asynchronous Work: A Productivity Gamechanger

Photo by Miguel Ángel Hernández on Unsplash

Asynchronous (async) work is more than a buzzword—it's the future of work.

Picture a world without rigid schedules, time zone headaches, or stressful commutes. 

It’s a transformative shift in how we approach productivity and well-being. 

What you see is a path toward working and living life on your terms. This is why 67% of remote workers seek flexible work opportunities. 

In this article, we dive into the potential of asynchronous work, focusing not just on productivity but also on safeguarding your mental health in a way that redefines your professional life.

What is asynchronous work?

Asynchronous work lets you tackle tasks when you're most productive.

Imagine collaborating on a project with a team spread across different time zones. You receive a task in the evening. But you don’t have to jump in and work on it right then. Instead, you work on it first thing in the morning because those are your peak productive hours. Then, you pass it on to your coworker in a different time zone so they can keep working on it later in the day. 

This seamless flow of work, where team members contribute at their optimal times, is an example of asynchronous work in action. It's unlike the traditional synchronous work model, which demands real-time collaboration).

As a result, your work environment accommodates your unique rhythms and needs.

What are helpful asynchronous work tools?

Access to the right async tools is like having a well-organized toolbox. In this toolbox, you'll find apps and platforms that streamline your work. Just as having the right tools makes a DIY project more manageable, digital tools streamline your work.

With a solid email system, a robust messaging app, and a shared document platform, your team can collaborate despite working from different time zones or preferring different hours.

These tools let you complete your tasks on your terms without being bound by the clock or a specific location. Consider these tools typically used in teams’ asynchronous workflows:

  • Digital planners: A digital planning app—like Sunsama—helps you plan a calm and focused day at your own pace.
  • Instant messaging platforms: Apps like Slack and Google Chat help teams organize synchronous and asynchronous communication. 
  • Emails: An enduring yet powerful tool for sharing lengthier communication that is less urgent or more formal.
  • Project management systems: Tools like Trello and Asana keep remote teams on the same page even when working at their own pace.
  • Cloud-based document sharing: Platforms like Google Workspace help asynchronous teams collaborate on documents. With tools like Loom, you can narrate a screen recording to share visual information.

In essence, these tools are your work allies, helping you complete tasks efficiently, giving you more control over your work schedule, and letting you reap the benefits of the asynchronous work model.

Benefits of asynchronous work 

According to Buffer's 2023 State of Remote Work report, the advantages of asynchronous work are clear. This style of work encourages deep work, helps you manage stress, and reduces distractions for remote workers. With 70% of remote workers finding it easier to focus, 65% managing stress better, and 50% reporting fewer distractions, it's a game-changer.

Because you don’t share a space with your coworkers, there's no dodging coworkers who stop for water cooler chatter or Doug from accounting who nitpicks your reports. You'll gain greater confidence in face-to-face meetings with your boss, as you'll have the time to focus and craft your thoughts effectively. 

As Miro’s Asynchronous Work Report shows, you'll be one of the 67% of async workers who feel more confident talking to their boss thanks to async work. Or one of the 80% who say it relieves the strain of working with difficult coworkers and micromanagers.

Adopting the asynchronous format improves productivity through benefits like these:

  • Flexibility: Align your tasks to peak productivity hours.
  • Reduced micromanagement: Async work favors autonomous work.
  • Quality teamwork: By adapting to diverse schedules, everyone can contribute.
  • Improved inclusivity: According to Harvard Business Review, women and individuals from marginalized communities have fewer chances to speak and face harsher criticism during in-person meetings. So, async work creates a safer environment for them to share their ideas and opinions.

Miro also reported that 70% of men believe they do their best brainstorming in meetings, but this number drops to 58% for women. This shows that synchronous work isn't as inclusive for brainstorming. On the flip side, asynchronous work offers a fair chance for everyone to contribute while collaborating.

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Elements of async work unraveled

Those aren’t the only benefits of working async. 61% of the knowledge workers surveyed in Miro’s study say working async reduces burnout. Despite all the benefits, async might not be for everyone, and it’s not always suitable for all forms of work. 

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Who should work async?

First, let’s start with roles unsuitable for working asynchronously. Workplaceless is a leading provider of remote work training for companies. According to its founder and CEO Tammy Bjelland, "Roles that rely heavily on cultivating and maintaining relationships are the most challenging to transition to async-first, since developing meaningful connections asynchronously is more challenging than developing them through synchronous interactions." 

But if you’re not in a people-facing role and you fall into one of the following categories, async work might be your dream workflow:

  • Introverts: Folks who prefer solitary work
  • Night owls: Those who thrive during non-traditional work hours
  • Distributed teams: Those working across multiple time zones
  • Individuals with diverse learning styles: Workers with varying learning preferences

The beauty of asynchronous work lies in its inclusivity. It's accessible to everyone—regardless of their preferences or locations—which creates a more diverse and productive workspace.

When should work be done async?

Let's talk about when to use asynchronous work. It's all about finding the right situations:

  • Status updates: Share progress without live check-ins to keep everyone informed.
  • Contextual information: To reduce distractions, send relevant information that doesn’t need instant action so the recipient can view it when convenient.
  • Feedback: When you need immediate responses from different folks, asynchronous chats or Loom recordings work well.

One of the ultimate goals of async work is to protect uninterrupted deep work. Keep reading to learn what to watch out for so that your dream work schedule doesn’t become a work nightmare.

What to be cautious of when working asynchronously

While asynchronous work offers numerous advantages, keep these common pitfalls in mind:

  • Skipping meetings: Some meetings build team connections and a strong company culture. Skipping them can make you feel disconnected. So, it's ideal to mix async work with some real-time meetings.
  • Ignoring differences: Since people experience meetings differently, adjust how you communicate so everyone feels comfortable.
  • Miscommunicating: Without chances to immediately clarify, misunderstandings occur. To prevent confusion, be extra clear and detailed in your messages.
  • Expecting people to work on your schedule: Instead, be mindful of time differences and establish clear guidelines for response times to avoid project delays. 

While async lets you do your own thing, it’s also a group effort. "Get your team on the same page,” Tammy says. “Align on the language you use to communicate about how you work, expectations, and your goals." 

Once your team is in sync with async, it’s helpful to plan how you can be productive while taking care of your own needs.  

Photo by Dylan Ferreira on Unsplash

3 Best practices for working asynchronously

To be intentional with your asynchronous work, you need to plan and have a clear strategy. Let's look at some tips to make your asynchronous work experience even better:

Tip #1: Master the async tools 

Get comfortable with the tech tools you'll need for asynchronous work:

  • Learn your team’s collaboration, document sharing, and async communication apps.
  • Know which apps to use for quick responses and which to use for delayed responses.
  • Schedule emails and messages for when they'll have the most impact.
  • Keep meticulous records of your work, decisions, and how things get done.
  • Share important info where everyone can find it.

These steps will help keep your team on the same page and make it easier to reference previously shared information.

Tip #2: Manage your time sustainably

If you’re in async work for the long haul, you’ll likely want to plan your days so that your workday doesn’t creep into your personal time. That’s a sure recipe for burnout. Instead, use time management tactics like these to set boundaries:
Know your most productive hours and use them for high-priority tasks.

  • Save less demanding work for when your energy and focus lag.
  • Try time management tricks, like the Pomodoro method, to stay focused.
  • Use apps to track how you spend your time and explore ways to do better.
  • Take breaks—like walks, stretching, naps, meditation, hobbies—to recharge and avoid burning out.
  • Screen incoming phone calls from your friends and family (Hear that, Aunt Lucy?) because you’re not necessarily available just because you work from home.
  • Set boundaries between work and your personal life for a healthy balance.

By muting the neverending pings from your notifications, you’ll find deeper focus when you’re working and enjoy the balance when you’re off the clock. 

Tip #3: Communicate with intention: 

Communicating asynchronously might feel intimidating, but here's the deal–it's all about flexibility and finding space to work in a way that suits you. Think of it like sending a message to a friend and getting a response when they're free.

  • When in doubt—overcommunicate. Most folks want more context instead of too little.
  • For complex talks, go real-time with communication tools like video calls on Zoom.
  • Consider sharing your daily plan so your team knows when you’re unavailable. 
  • Consider setting short time frames with your team to communicate in bursts.
  • Pose questions via Slack or Google Docs before calling for a meeting.
  • Talk to your team and leaders to set communication guidelines.
  • Keep your messages clear, short, and kind.

You also don't have to be cooped up in your home office all day, and you certainly don't need to isolate yourself. Avoid loneliness by reaching out to others. "Async-first does not mean async-only,” Tammy said. “Make time for developing meaningful connections with your team members, other coworkers across your organization, and people in your broader network."

By weaving these strategies into your daily work routine, you'll give your productivity a friendly nudge and move closer to a work-life balance that works for you.

Craft your async work success story with Sunsama

As async gains ground, flexible work is awarding people the freedom they crave. Now, you can craft the productive workday that suits you best. 

Your aim? To boost productivity while maintaining a healthy work-life balance by learning to use asynchronous tools effectively, communicating with your team, and finding sustainable ways to manage your own time.

Tammy says. "Test things out! Don’t be afraid to take tiny actions individually and try bold experiments as a team."  It's all about fine-tuning, reflecting, and adapting until it's a perfect fit, like Tabitha A.’s LinkedIn post below:

 While navigating your async journey, try a digital daily calendar that can help make your work-life harmony a reality. Sunsama's planning platform makes it easy to manage your schedule and block out time so you can work when you’re the most productive. 

Here's how Sunsama helps you through your day:

  • Focus mode: Mutes Slack and email notifications, and you can set a timer for your deep work sessions using the convenient Focus Bar.
  • Daily shutdown: Reflect on your day and prepare for tomorrow.
  • Integrate everything: Pull tasks from project management tools like Trello and Asana, gather emails from Gmail and Outlook, and sync meetings from your calendar for a unified view of your tasks.
  • Drag-and-drop: Drag tasks from your project and task management tools to organize your to-do list.
  • Cross-platform task management: Browse your tasks from various platforms like Asana, ClickUp, Notion, Jira, GitHub, Todoist, and Trello within Sunsama, and select the ones you want to tackle for the day. Sunsama also updates your tasks in your other tools when you import or complete them.
  • Auto-scheduling: Streamline your day with automated calendar entries for tasks.

Ready for Sunsama to help you have a chill yet productive day? Plan a calm and focused day with Sunsama.

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