Why working asynchronously is key to remote collaboration that drives growth

by Liam Martin
Asynchronous Management

Companies know they need an adaptable, diverse and energized workforce — and that flexibility is key to retaining, and competing for, top talent. While remote job listings globally have more than doubled, employers are still catching up to employees’ expectations. 

For instance, many US workplaces only allow employees to work remotely some of the time, even though, when offered—almost everyone jumps at the opportunity.

Some organizations have consciously chosen a ‘hybrid’ model in the wake of COVID-19, but many more are at a crossroads — torn on the decision of whether to go fully remote or go back to the office. 

For companies confused about how to embrace remote long-term without impacting performance, the missing link is a clear operating model: what’s the best way to organize people, processes and infrastructure to operate efficiently in a remote environment? 

Asynchronous management is the answer. However, few companies understand the full extent of asynchronous management or how to do it well, primarily because it requires a major shift in how you think about what it means to ‘work together’.

Asynchronous underpins a mindset shift from work-from-home to remote 

Many organizations are stuck in the mindset of wanting to do things how they’ve always done them — only virtually. If your team all works the same business hours, and simply substitutes five hours of back-to-back in-person meetings with five hours of back-to-back Zoom calls — you’re working from home, rather than fully realizing the benefits of remote work. 

It’s a missed opportunity. 

Making the shift to remote work, managed asynchronously, allows a business to scale exponentially faster, with a flatter and more resilient structure, access to larger talent pools, and a more transparent and sustainable culture.

What is asynchronous management in business? Working asynchronously means that work doesn’t happen at the same time. Companies that embraced remote work early — decades ago — were motivated by being able to hire talent anywhere around the globe. 

A distributed team located in various timezones meant that working completely in synch wasn’t possible. These pioneers were forced to reimagine how to run a company, in ways that reduced a reliance on immediacy yet delivered great outcomes.

Less urgency and greater autonomy creates an adaptable culture

Asynchronous management relies on ensuring information, communication and collaboration are documented and funneled through systems (e.g., productivity, project management, video/messaging, and team collaboration software) that provide access to everyone, at any time.

Introducing systems and approaches unbound by physical space and synchronous workflows means:

  • Team members are less dependent on others to complete tasks or provide updates in real-time. 
  • Goals, outputs, and decision-making processes become more transparent and inclusive: the platforms you use tend to replace activities that might have previously required meetings and/or managerial oversight. For instance, tracking behavior using Time Doctor allows you to “see” work patterns and output without direct supervision.
  • Not only does an employees’ location become irrelevant, they also gain real control over when they give their time and attention to different information and tasks. 
  • Individual autonomy allows each team member to focus on, and maximize, their own personal productivity and prioritize their wellbeing when needed. 

Employees love the freedom of working asynchronously, but it’s a massive cultural change for organizations. One that’s not necessarily addressed by hasty remote work arrangements put in place during the pandemic.

Applying asynchronous management of your day-to-day operations is about more than the systems you choose: it requires training your team, adjusting your management styles and fundamentally re-thinking what good collaboration looks like.

Asynchronous management makes ‘working together’ more purposeful

Current models of how to help your team to collaborate and contribute are wrong. They’re wrong because they’re slow, disruptive and prone to bias. 

Imagine for a moment, an employee who’s working on a high-value proposal that could net your company significant revenue. It’s 3.55pm and the employee is deep into the work, in a perfect flow state. Suddenly, at 4pm, they’re forced to yank themselves away in order to join a meeting for 90 minutes. 

Like many meetings (that should have been an email): people come unprepared, there’s a lot of issues and no clear decision-making mechanism, and one or two voices dominate while the others barely speak. What’s more, the most charismatic and assertive individuals have an oversized impact on the ideas that get traction. 

Meetings have their place but they rarely result in fast decisions, the best option being chosen, or even meaningful progress having been made. And now, your interrupted employee will waste time trying to refocus on the proposal, when their time would have been better spent staying on-task. 

Rather than a single, in-the-moment discussion, many forms of collaboration can and should be managed asynchronously. 

For example, instead of a live Zoom call with eight people, you could:

  1. Put together a presentation and record a video of yourself going through each point, presented via a tool like Loom;
  2. Share the video link with relevant team members via a project management platform like Asana with clear guidance on the input you need;
  3. Enable team members to digest the information —when they’re ready — and use the platform to comment and ask questions, so everyone can also see and respond at their convenience based on a shared understanding;
  4. Allow the team to share related content on the same topic in one place, to add context, highlight interdependencies, or strengthen the argument for a course of action;
  5. Retain a clear point of reference in case you need to re-visit or justify decision-making processes, or you onboard a new team member who needs to be across the information.

Collaboration, culture, and performance all benefit from asynchronous work

On the surface, asynchronous management is about schedules, but the benefits go much deeper because it transforms teamwork into a more focused, democratic, and objective process. 

Understanding the true power of asynchronous management for improving how you harness the collective strengths and contributions of your team — wherever and whenever they work — is key to getting clarity on how to run a productive, high-performing remote business. And meeting the needs and expectations of sought-after talent.

This article has focused on collaboration benefits, but how does asynchronous management of remote teams influence other aspects of your operations like performance management, and culture and engagement? How can you select the best tools to support the approach? 

Get answers to these questions and more by hearing Time Doctor CMO and Co-founder Liam Martin talk about the book he co-wrote about asynchronous management, called Running Remote. Watch on-demand now.

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