How to successfully integrate asynchronous working into your hybrid team

Olivia Rowe

If the pandemic has taught us anything, it’s that traditional working culture and employee expectations have changed. Hybrid models and asynchronous work have increased and it looks like they’re here to stay.

In fact, a study by Swinburne University found that 58% of workers want non-traditional working arrangements and a lack of flexibility is a deal breaker for more than 2 in 5 workers. 

Asynchronous communication in the workplace is also on a steady increase according to a recent study conducted on Microsoft employees. More companies are moving to hybrid and asynchronous models including Airbnb, Spotify, Atlassian, Culture Amp, Trello and even our own team here at Cape. 

As the way we work continues to evolve, companies are finding new ways to keep up with changing employee expectations in a post-pandemic world. 

While asynchronous working offers stacks of benefits to teams, it does come with a few potential challenges and considerations. To help set your team up for success, we’ve rounded up the pros and cons of asynchronous working and our top tips for nailing this new way of working. 

What is asynchronous working?

Beyond just a buzzword you may have heard floating around, asynchronous work involves employees working on their own time. That means saying goodbye to the expectations of being online, available and responsive during traditional 9-5 work hours. 

Companies using asynchronous work allow employees to get their work done and communicate when it’s most convenient for them. It’s all about creating a flexible work schedule that puts team members in the driving seat of their day.

In comparison to synchronous work, involving simultaneous collaboration, asynchronous work positions autonomy and trust at the forefront. This new way of working acknowledges the diversity of employees and that not everyone performs effectively at the same hours of the day. Rather, as long as key tasks and deliverables are met, employees have the ability to schedule work around their lifestyles.  

What are the benefits of asynchronous working?

Asynchronous working has increased in popularity as it offers a range of benefits to employees and employers. Let’s run you through the case for working asynchronously and how it can power up your team. 

1. Greater flexibility and productivity

Asynchronous companies offer flexibility and greater opportunities for healthy work-life balance, something that is becoming increasingly important for employees. More flexibility means employees can juggle other responsibilities while still meeting work deadlines and KPIs.

Productivity is also shown to increase with asynchronous working, as it removes the interruptions found in traditional work environments such as always commuting to work and coworkers stopping by your desk to ask a few questions. 

Fewer interruptions mean your team can get into a state of deep concentration and  complete tasks faster. A recent study revealed that the average task completion was reduced by 58.8% with asynchronous communication compared to synchronous methods. 

2. Workplace diversity and inclusivity 

Since employees are stating a lack of workplace flexibility is a deal breaker, employers that offer hybrid and asynchronous models are able to attract employees with diverse life experiences and backgrounds. 

Asynchronous working removes the barriers of different time zones, meaning employees can come from all walks of life and work from anywhere in the world. 

3. Supporting mental health and reducing stress 

One of the most important benefits of asynchronous work is the positive outcomes on employees' mental health. The expectations of having to be available and online during set working hours can create extra stress and leave no room to take care of personal needs (such as picking the kids up from school or taking the dog to the vet). 

Removing these expectations creates a culture where mental health is prioritised and employees overall well-being is improved. In fact, allowing employees to communicate and work on projects at their own pace can decrease stress by 57%

The challenges with asynchronous working

While asynchronous working has its advantages, it needs to be implemented properly to be successful. Let’s take a look at some of the drawbacks of remote work and the things you need to watch out for. 

1. Loneliness and isolation

The freedom to work at your own pace can come with a few trade-offs. One of the biggest drawbacks can be a lack of connection and a sense of community with your team. 

By working remotely and on your own schedule, you might feel a sense of loneliness, isolation or become disconnected from your team. That’s why it’s so important to use strategies to keep your team culture alive even when working asynchronously.  

2. Blurring the lines between work and personal life

Your team may find it difficult to distinguish between work time and personal time, and if clear boundaries are not established, asynchronous work can hinder (not help) work-life balance. 

3. Responses taking time

An asynchronous model might not always suit a work environment that requires fast and immediate communication and actions. If urgent tasks or emergency situations arise, it may be more difficult to get them resolved efficiently. 

What does it look like in practice?

You might think asynchronous working is difficult to implement, but it’s easier than you think with the right systems and practices in place. 

Here are our top tips and best practice recommendations for nailing asynchronous working.  

1. Planning

To get the most out of asynchronous work, it’s important to develop policies and systems that clearly outline what’s expected from your team.

When designing your policies, make sure to establish clear core hours, output expectations, and individual performance goals. This way of working also relies on clear, intentional communication and breaking up tasks into smaller duties

On an individual level, it’s important to support your team to develop clear boundaries between work and life. That could mean turning off Slack notifications outside of work hours or fostering a culture of healthy work-life balance boundaries. 

Plus, getting the right tools and systems in place is key to keeping your team connected and working at their best (even when working in different locations and time zones). That means adding the right collaboration tools into your tech stack such as Slack, Teams and Toggl, or Trello and Clickup

2. Onboarding

Next, you need to make sure your team and new hires are properly introduced to asynchronous working. This style of work might be new to some of your team, so it’s essential to bring everyone up to speed and outline what’s expected of each team member.

A good place to start is to give your team proper training on the tools they need to use or even include mentorship systems for new employees so they feel supported and connected to your wider organisation.

3. Engagement

Facilitating employee engagement between remote and asynchronous employees can pose a challenge. Here at Cape, we have launched a company engagement survey as a way to understand what’s working well and what isn’t to help us improve our asynchronous working practices. 

This feedback loop is essential to understanding the challenges our team are facing and troubleshooting any roadblocks that are holding us back from working at our best. 

Plus, it’s important to prioritise virtual and in-person engagement through events such as happy hours, team-building exercises, and even virtual coffee breaks.

4. Learning

Considering asynchronous working is fairly new, there is always room for learning and improvement. 

Understanding the results from engagement surveys and subsequently implementing them will help you learn what areas need to be improved. Informal chats with employees are another great way to gain direct feedback from your team to improve your work culture and bring everyone on the journey. 

Getting it right

Asynchronous working models can bring lots of value to your business. Since hybrid and remote work is here to stay, the benefits and challenges of asynchronous working are useful to understand alongside the best practices you can implement that suit your company. 

Ultimately, getting asynchronous working right involves setting expectations early, developing clear policies and working with your people to review and refine them on a regular basis.