By: James Dillon, Senior Content Production Manager at Remote
We often confuse remote work with async, but there is a greater difference than you might think.
Async work means employees and team members are not required to work on the same schedule. This model is the true keystone of remote work, allowing everyone to work at their peak periods of energy and creativity in deep focus, free of distractions.
In essence, async allows you to work at whatever time suits you without any hindrance to the rest of your team or general workflow.
Async is far from a new phenomenon: people have long been working for global brands and companies whose employees come from a range of timezones where it’s impossible to be online at the same time of day.
But since the pandemic, async is more common than ever before, even among domestic and localised enterprises. 73% of employers believe workplace culture has improved recently – and async work has played a significant, yet commonly understated, role.
Global employment specialists and champions of async work, Remote, have created an expert guide to asynchronous work and culture to set the record straight in 2022.
Async is not the same as remote work
Remote work is a small part of asynchronous business culture.
Asynchronous work (or async) is a way for employees to organise tasks to align with their own timetable. Communication is not expected to be immediate, meaning you have full flexibility in your working day to reduce pressure on yourself and your colleagues.
Remote work, on the other hand, strictly refers to the act of working away from the office. Some companies offering remote work (even some that have gone fully remote) still expect their employees to be at their desks and work a traditional 9-5 – this is known as synchronous.
Flexible work isn’t without its challenges, but there is little benefit in companies simply going ‘remote’ without first adopting an async culture. Buffer’s State of Remote Work report found 45% of people are working longer hours when working remotely, with a further 52% finding themselves in more meetings. So, it’s clear that without the intentional approach to collaboration, meetings and expectations that async brings, the remote model doesn’t work.
Global demand for async is confused with remote work
|Google Trends: ‘remote work‘||Google Trends: ‘async communication‘|
|2017||2022||Change (%)||2017||2022||Change (%)|
The holistic demand for async has recently found new peaks in tandem with remote work.
Worldwide demand for the search term ‘async communication’ has risen by 73.33% since 2017, while ‘remote work’ has enjoyed a further 158.06% increase in the same timeframe. Yet, in reality, people searching for remote work are acutally seeking async working opportunities and their benefits.
Google Trends data perhaps indicates a disconnect between popular terminology and what the term actually means for our life-work balance. Benefits we associate with remote work such as flexible hours and greater workplace inclusivity are, in fact, more applicable to an async work environment. And over the past five years, these terms have also seen a significant increase in demand of up to 125.93%.
|Google Trends: ‘working abroad’||Google Trends: ‘work-life balance‘||Google Trends: ‘workplace inclusivity‘||Google Trends: ‘flexible hours‘|
|2017||2022||Change (%)||2017||2022||Change (%)||2017||2022||Change (%)||2017||2022||Change (%)|
So, is your company offering true asynchronous work? Or is your life-work balance still out of control, even when you’re away from the office? Forward-thinking companies are using async work methodologies to help curve this and instead offer a genuine life-work balance.
Async work is essential for global teams like Remote
Asynchronous work is vital when you collaborate with a global team: this is certainly the case for global employment experts, Remote, who champion async culture day-to-day.
Talking about the impact of asynchronous work at Remote, Rhiannon Payne, Senior Product Marketing Manager:
“During an average workday, I work with colleagues across the US, Europe, Australia, South Africa, and many other regions across more time zones than I could probably count on both hands.
“Trying to arrange a call or speak to them all synchronously whenever we need to launch a project or resolve an issue would be nearly impossible. Asynchronous work empowers us to collaborate and do our best work without pushing our schedules beyond the boundaries of what would be healthy in terms of work/life balance.
“We rely on written documentation and a lot of transparency across our organization to make it work —and honestly, it’s the most effective work environment I’ve ever been part of!”
Build a culture of trust with asynchronous work
When you work asynchronously you are working within a culture of trust.
You and your team are empowered to work independently (and autonomously) with far less supervision. The async work model leaves no room for micromanagement, with every employee responsible for managing their own schedule and workload while following their company guidance or handbook.
For this to flourish, companies need to invest in solid documentation processes to enable async work flows and encourage team transparency, efficiency and trust.
The autonomous nature of remote work encourages innovation, making you feel able to take risks. And with 73% of workers citing either work hours flexibility or less time commuting as their number one reason for increased productivity, async often results in a much happier and more efficient workplace.
Support wellbeing with an async work culture
When you aren’t restricted to a typical 9-5, employee engagement and overall wellbeing can flourish. An asynchronous culture encourages a better life-work balance, one that enables plenty of flexibility in your day.
Async work culture is inclusive of a myriad of lifestyles and personal commitments. Everyone works differently, after all. Some people get the majority of their tasks done in the morning, while others enter a better flow state in the evening – async means you can marry up your schedule to times where you feel most present.
Remote’s Senior Product Marketing Manager, Rhiannon Payne, comments on her personal experience with async work and how it supports their wellbeing:
“As someone who struggles with ADHD and chronic sleep issues, asynchronous work is so impactful for my mental and physical health.
“At Remote, I’m empowered to work on my own schedule. I tend to focus best in the evenings, so that’s when I get most of my work done. I can also block off early mornings on my calendar to make sure I’m still getting enough sleep to feel my best.
“And because we rely on a culture of documentation instead of cramming our days full of Zoom calls, I feel less overwhelmed and able to lead a healthier life overall.
“I’m not perpetually stressed out preparing for the next thing on my calendar. I actually have time to breathe and do things that matter to me throughout my workday such as workout, read my book, take a walk, or even take a nap when I need to.”
Async work is inspired by Toyota’s production system
Asynchronous work is commonly associated with the car manufacturer, Toyota.
Async maximises productivity through processes that allow employees to work autonomously, without waiting on others to complete tasks: this is inspired by the production systems at Toyota – an even, swift and nimble pipeline.
The Toyota production system aspires to the 3Ms methodology – Muda, Mura, Muri – to eliminate the wastage of time and resources.
- Muda: activities that waste resources with no benefit to the customer
- Mura: unevenness in operation, causing workers to hurry and then wait
- Muri: overburdening workers beyond appropriate workforce management
Eliminating the 3Ms is what async is all about, a more efficient working day creates a more harmonious life-work balance and improves the bottom line.
Toyota is one of the UK’s top employers for a reason, after all.
Remote are leading the development of async communication
Remote has found adopting asynchronous working makes you happier, rested and more productive when it counts – but how have they created this culture?
To make async work for everybody, you need digital tools that support transparent work, as well as thorough documentation so everyone remains updated.
At Remote, Notion houses the employee handbook and GitLab is their planning platform: everything is easy to find and there is one source of truth.
Remote use communication tools like Loom to record videos for questions and updates for employees in other time zones to watch later. Slack is also essential for sharing updates in public, easily accessible spaces. Remote tracks the percentage of Slack messages sent as direct messages and keeps this number as low as possible by encouraging people to default to public channels for all conversations not involving sensitive information.
Managers and leaders set the example with proactive tool usage and respect for calendar boundaries. The communication process assumes people won’t be online at the same time, allowing team members to feel focused when working and disconnected when they’re not.
Commenting on how asynchronous work can transform a business, Remote CEO, Job Van der Voort:
“Asynchronous working is a remote-first inspired trend that helps nurture a better life-work balance in a global team, as well as any other team that has enjoyed the newfound flexibility of work over the past few years.
“The benefits of a remote-first world are clear: you enjoy higher productivity, greater flexibility, and an autonomous workforce with commuting time cut to zero. But with an international team, like Remote, your business benefits from all the above and so much more.
“When working async, your team does not require everyone to be online simultaneously, and you can encourage employees to work autonomously without having to wait for others to complete their tasks. Trust employees to manage their own time, and they will almost always reward you.
“Blending remote and asynchronous working also enables talented professionals to do their best work when and where they feel most comfortable. A strong async culture nurtures creativity by providing greater value to people’s roles and allows for a harmonious life-work balance around the globe.”
Remote was founded in 2019 by Job van der Voort and Marcelo Lebre to simplify how companies employ global talent. Remote’s mission is to open up the vast potential of the world for every person, business and country. They help companies and individuals achieve this through their global business connection services, taking care of global employment, international payroll and employer of record contracts. Remote envision a world where every person and business truly belongs in the global market.