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Asynchronous vs. Synchronous Teams: What You Need to Know
•
Angelica Krauss
•
August 30, 2022

Asynchronous vs. Synchronous Teams: What You Need to Know

Flexible work has become a popular trend as more companies restructure to accommodate the model — research shows that a lot of companies are in the process of redesigning their office space to accommodate hybrid work.

According to a survey, remote workers save at least 2 hours per day thanks to reduced in-person meetings and commutes. A large portion of workers want flexible work options to stay, and a global survey revealed that more than half of employees would leave their job if they were denied flexibility at work after the Covid-19 pandemic.

While most employees prefer flexible work options to stay, others want more in-person collaboration. Here we discuss asynchronous and synchronous work, and the benefits and downsides of each.

What is an Asynchronous Team?

In an asynchronous (async) work model, employees complete their assigned work on their schedule, working from different locations and time zones. The team has the freedom to choose a flexible work schedule and perform their tasks when they are most productive — as long as they finish their work.

You need to adopt asynchronous communication tools for this model, since employees are available at different times of the day. The communication may be done through tools or platforms such as email, project management software, messaging via Teams or Slack, collaboration tools like G Suite, etc.

It's advisable to have a clear policy detailing the preferred collaboration methods for effective communication. For example, you could designate email for general communications, voice messages for delivering complex information, project management software and G Suite for sharing documents and project updates, and so forth.

Asynchronous collaboration is ideal when your team works from different geographical regions. It allows employees to maintain what they consider a regular work schedule without the inconvenience of crashing time zones.

What is a Synchronous Team?

A synchronous team works in collaboration at the same time, usually in-person or sometimes remotely. The team follows a standard schedule to execute their assigned duties and tasks during the same hours — most organizations have synchronous teams that clock in and leave at standard times. While these teams may utilize virtual communication tools such as email or private messaging, they also conduct frequent synchronous meetings in-person at an office.

If the team is working remotely, synchronous collaboration is enabled by real-time communication solutions like video conferencing tools (Zoom, Google Meet), phone calls, email, direct message, etc. Though emailing and messaging are also used asynchronously, the recipients are expected to provide immediate feedback in synchronous collaboration.

Even if your work arrangement is async-first, you might require synchronous collaboration sometimes — for example, if you have a complex project that requires a 1-on-1 virtual briefing to clarify the details and answer the team's questions. If you have chosen an async collaboration model, however, you should keep synchronous communication at a minimum and only use it when it's really necessary.

Pros and Cons of Asynchronous Collaboration

Running an asynchronous team is the future of work, but it has its advantages and disadvantages. If your work demands asynchronous collaboration, it's essential to familiarize yourself with the pros and cons so you can decide which one is right for you.

Pros of asynchronous collaboration

  • Gives employees more control over their workday – Working under a flexible work arrangement allows employees to adopt a schedule that's most convenient for them. In addition, it gives them the autonomy to work at their own pace, which helps improve productivity.
  • Reduces pressure on the employees – With asynchronous collaboration, employees can choose to work when they are most productive. This leads to better planning, thus enhancing their input on projects.
  • Better collaboration across different time zones – As there's no pressure to engage in real-time communication, the employees can communicate or provide feedback when it's most convenient for them, which fosters better collaboration across varying time zones.
  • Boosts employee satisfaction – Async working gives employees the flexibility of working when it best suits them. As a result, they maximize their time, leading to increased productivity and, ultimately, employee satisfaction.

Cons of asynchronous collaboration

  • Requires high self-discipline – Asynchronous working means you won't be able to monitor the teams closely to ensure they are working when they should. Hence, the team members must have a high level of self-discipline.
  • Weakened connection – Lack of in-person and real-time collaboration can make the employees feel disconnected. With delayed feedback, it becomes challenging for the team to engage in spontaneous interactions.
  • Micromanagement – If you lack trust in the employees, you might be tempted to micromanage, further souring your relationship.

Pros and Cons of Synchronous Collaboration

Despite the growing popularity of the async work model, many people still prefer synchronous collaboration. Let's look at some of the pros and cons.

Pros of synchronous collaboration

  • Fostering strong connection – Synchronous collaboration, whether in-person or virtually, helps create rapport between team members, fostering a strong connection. Real-time communication allows spontaneous brainstorming and instant feedback, which are harder under the async work model.
  • Easier assignment of complex projects – Synchronous model allows real-time collaboration in complex projects and sensitive issues, eliminating ambiguity.

Cons of synchronous collaboration

  • Time zone differences – Getting a global team to collaborate synchronously can be inconvenient for some due to time zone differences. If the model is inflexible, requiring the employees to work outside regular hours, it can affect their work-life balance and eventually interfere with their productivity.
  • Decreased productivity – A synchronous work model requires employees to show up for work at standard times, which may not fit well with their personal schedules. As a result, a lack of flexibility to work at their ideal time can significantly impact their productivity.
  • Time delays - When your employee spends a significant portion of their day commuting to and from an office it reduces their productivity during the day (in both their work and home life).

Conclusion

In short, asynchronous work (async work) holds the idea that not everyone does their best work during the same hours of the workday. As long as outputs are being met and everyone has access to the information they need, teams are more agile and productive.

With the rise of global remote work, there are many opportunities to hire great remote talent from anywhere worldwide. You can hire and manage employees across different time zones and countries with an Employer of Record (EOR) like Remofirst. Request a demo today and start hiring tomorrow!