Asynchronous remote work: 5 tips for success

Asynchronous work, in which team members work when and where it best suits them, is becoming common in today’s hybrid world. Consider this expert advice to reap its many benefits
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In 2020, the world went remote. Virtual communication tools exploded overnight as organizations from established corporations to startups to schools adopted them to enable synchronous work (and back-to-back meetings).

In 2021 came “The Great Resignation.” People around the globe reassessed their priorities, with many exploring new industries and careers and pursuing work that better fit their values, preferences, and ambitions. People were also more burned out than ever, grappling with constantly changing COVID regulations, market uncertainty, inflation worries, and pressure on wages.

[ Want to foster teamwork among your hybrid teams? Read Hybrid work: 4 ways to strengthen teams and boost productivity. ]

In 2022, we’re turning off Slack and Zoom and shifting to an asynchronous work model, in which people work when it best suits them and teams no longer need to be simultaneously present. Perched alongside hybrid work, asynchronous remote work leads to better resource management, reduces waste, and boosts employee satisfaction – all of which improve overall productivity and efficiency.

5 tips for asynchronous work

Here are five tips to help your employees make the most of asynchronous work.

1. Plan ahead and manage time effectively

Asynchronous work allows for greater flexibility, but it’s still important for employees to manage their time effectively.

Just as you deliberately incorporate synchronous time into your workweek with meetings, make sure to also allocate time for asynchronous work. Build a culture around making asynchronous work equally important for your team so that synchronous meetings don’t always take priority.

Block chunks of time in your shared team calendar when employees can focus on specific tasks. This helps promote transparency among your team and makes planning easier.

Remember that when teams are working across different time zones, responses and approvals might require a minimum number of hours.

2. Make expectations clear

As long as work is done on time, allow employees the autonomy to choose how and when they do their work.

Make sure you and your team members are clear about goals, priorities, and deadlines.

Be open with your colleagues about your availability and manage your time accordingly. By now, most of us should have established enough trust through remote work that people shouldn’t feel demonized for working on a schedule that suits them. As long as work is done on time, allow employees the autonomy to choose how and when they do their work.

You might even consider offering perks such as sleep tracking devices to help team members optimize their work according to their circadian rhythms.

[ Read next: 3 reasons autonomy is more important than flexibility ]

3. Communicate early and often (but don't over-communicate)

Be deliberate with communication channels and communicate your schedule and preferences early. That will help others plan and execute their work more efficiently. When you can’t rely on face-to-face communication, it’s important to choose the right channel based on what you’re trying to accomplish.

Limit the number of emails you send by holding daily team check-ins. Encourage employees to ask questions even if it’s outside their typical working hours so they receive a response as soon as they log in.

Also, never assume that your distributed team members are available just because they’re at home.

4. Establish a culture of feedback and recognition

It’s important for asynchronous teams to ensure that feedback and recognition flow freely throughout the organization, and this applies to teams in companies of any size.

Taking a data-driven approach to collaborative planning and feedback will help employees understand the type of hybrid work model that works best for them and for the company.

It can be easy to overlook recognition when we’re working asynchronously. Take the time to build recognition processes into your synchronous meetings and catch-ups – make the most of face-to-face time. If meetings aren’t possible, use tools that request feedback automatically so managers can provide recognition and constructive feedback to employees in an asynchronous mode.

Establishing clear work-life boundaries can help to diminish stress and burnout, avoid conflict, and help enhance well-being and productivity.

5. Encourage healthy work-life boundaries

Establishing clear work-life boundaries can help to diminish stress and burnout, avoid conflict, and help enhance well-being and productivity. Create a culture that encourages people to recognize and set these boundaries, especially in an asynchronous work environment where they can easily blur. Encourage team members who work from home to create a designated working space area that is just for work. This can help to clarify the lines between work and personal life.

It can be tempting to work extra hours or maintain inconsistent schedules when working asynchronously. Encouraging everyone to strictly regulate set working hours can help to keep energy levels up in the long run.

[ Read also: Remote work: 5 tips to keep your teams healthy and successful ]

People should also be encouraged to take sick days when they aren’t feeling well, and to use their vacation time. No one should be proud of never taking a day off, or leaving their Slack on 24/7. Clarify expectations for responding to Slack messages and emails and make sure everyone understands when they should engage.

In a world of constant connectivity, boundaries are more important than ever. By encouraging everyone to feel good about setting limits, you can create a healthy, respectful, and productive work culture.

Give employees the freedom to structure their work in a way that best suits them (and the world around them) by revising your asynchronous remote work policy as necessary. The future of work involves remote workers, hybrid work, and asynchronous work, and workplace culture must reflect that trend.

Proactively build your culture so employees feel supported, and they will do their best work. Ultimately, it’s vital that every member of a hybrid workforce has equal access to resources and opportunities, regardless of where in the world they work.

[ Want more advice on leading hybrid work? Read What is a hybrid work model? and Hybrid work model: 5 advantages. ]

Ilkka Mäkitalo
Ilkka Mäkitalo, CEO and co-founder of Howspace, is also the father of the Howspace digital platform. Ilkka’s passion is in participative leadership, digitally facilitated organizational development programs, and the future of work.