Workplace collaboration is divided into two types: synchronous, where people collaborate on a project in real-time, and asynchronous, where people work on the same project but at different times.
In remote teams where colleagues may not share the same time zone, asynchronous collaboration can help bridge the gap when synchronous communication isn’t feasible.
However, it’s not always clear whether a workplace collaboration strategy is paying off. Let’s look at how to identify efficient asynchronous collaboration in remote teams.
1. Clear Communication Channels
One of the main signs of efficient asynchronous collaboration is when the team’s communication channels are clear, with a distinct understanding of where to find relevant information for team members.
Just like how a clear mind allows for purposeful action, clear communication channels make it easy to disseminate important project details since they won’t get lost in the hubbub of day-to-day workplace chatter. Meanwhile, the people who need this information know for sure that they’ll receive it when they need it, and they can easily look it up when required.
Here are some examples of tools that are great for effective asynchronous communication:
- Trello (project management task card system)
- Slack (workplace instant messaging with dedicated channels)
- Loom (asynchronous video messaging)
- Geekbot (asynchronous meetings in slack and MS Teams)
The right tools will help you sort team member communication into the right places, with a clear indication of what goes where. Referencing project information without the friction of sorting through cluttered communication will make the project run smoother overall.
Outside of communication categorization, well-structured templates, appropriate deadlines, and consistent communication also contribute to clear communication channels. The key here is to reduce the amount of guesswork required in the execution of a project – proactive and predictable communication that is easy to process will hit the spot.
2. Well-Defined Goals and Objectives
Another indicator of efficient asynchronous collaboration is clarity in terms of goals and objectives. In distributed remote teams, it’s easy to lose track of what needs to be done and when – a team where everyone is on the same page is a team that spends less time trying to figure out the next step and more time working on the project itself.
Goal setting in asynchronous collaboration guides teams towards the next milestone of a project, preventing them from meandering off into the sunset and working on a project task that isn’t necessary just yet. Setting S.M.A.R.T. goals is a great way to identify all the aspects required to achieve success in a project.
Another way to set goals and objectives is to work backwards.
For example, you know that this project needs to be done in Q4 of this year, and it’s currently Q1. Since you already know when it should be completed, assign appropriate targets for each week, month, or quarter so that the project team is steadily progressing throughout the year. Well-defined goals and objectives help prevent harried, last-minute work and stress.
3. Structured Workflow
In the same way the previous signs of efficient asynchronous collaboration emphasize the benefits of clarity, a well-thought-out workflow structure manages uncertainty and reduces task friction, especially in distributed teams.
Having a step-by-step guide to take you from the beginning to the end of a process lessens the amount of decisions to be made in a typical workday. When workflows are combined with a system that shows when tasks are assigned, when they are completed, and the person responsible for them, they become powerful tools for asynchronous collaboration.
Teams with structured workflows can easily check project progress without interrupting someone’s deep focus – however, this only works if the systems being used are well-managed and integrated to prevent disconnections.
In remote teams, collaborative software with features like commenting and version control will help team members get on the same page, even during asynchronous collaboration.
Here are the steps to creating and maintaining a structured workflow:
- Identify the stakeholders involved.
- Determine the inputs required to complete the workflow.
- Establish the results of the workflow.
- Identify the steps that need to be done.
- Define the conditions that need to be met for the workflow to be considered complete.
4. Documented Processes and Guidelines
It’s easy for important information to get lost in the organized chaos of a typical work day, even more so for remote teams where everyone is distributed across multiple time zones. Documentation is crucial to keeping things congruent – without it, asynchronous collaboration falls apart since no one can make heads or tails of what’s going on.
A team with efficient asynchronous collaboration is much more likely to have robust documentation for processes and guidelines. The benefits are twofold: first, nothing important is missed during the execution of a project, and second, any documented process is easily duplicated since it’s been recorded and standardized.
You can start process documentation by creating a centralized knowledge base with project categories – Google Workspace, Notion, and Microsoft 365 all work well as collaborative documentation tools. A project management tool like Asana lets you assign tasks to team members and mention them in comments, so they know what to pay attention to.
What’s important is to have everyone on board with the systems and tools chosen, so that the documentation is complete and updated regularly. Otherwise, the documentation will be ineffective, potentially leaving team members out of the loop.
5. Effective Time Management
Collaborating is easy when everyone’s in the same time zone – it’s when teams are scattered across the globe that things get a little hairy. Great asynchronous collaboration is most apparent when you look at a team’s time management since it directly correlates with deadlines, working hours, and work-life balance.
Scheduling meetings for remote teams can often involve some finessing, especially if half the team is on the other side of the planet.
A robust communication plan works well to fill in the blanks and reduce the amount of synchronous communication required, leaving the precious overlapping remote team work hours for things that actually need face-to-face discussion.
Try adding these to your plan:
- Regular check-ins – reduces ad hoc meetings with a predictable schedule
- Schedule transparency – lets colleagues know when you’ll be available
- Defined core working hours – sets expectations for overlapping schedules
- Time blocking – manages interruptions and encourages focused work
The humble calendar is one of the best time-tracking and management tools out there, and Google Calendar integrates with just about anything. Use it in tandem with Calendly, where you can block off times when you won’t be available (or asleep) and let others pick the best meeting slot from the time that remains.
6. Feedback and Continuous Improvement
Getting feedback isn’t always an all-hands-on-deck kind of situation – asynchronous collaboration makes the feedback process much more efficient since the team doesn’t have to be restricted to sharing their thoughts in a specific format. It’s even better for remote teams since everyone can give feedback at convenient times during their workday.
The feedback process can also be automated using tools, making the task of collating the feedback, analyzing the data, and implementing improvement strategies much easier.
If your team is new to asynchronous collaboration, getting feedback is a useful way to find out how you can do better. Put the asynchronous format to use by asking team members to fill out a survey in their own time, and collect the survey results when they’re done.
In contrast to doing a face-to-face feedback interview in real time, survey participants don’t just feel less pressure – they’re also more likely to provide longer, more detailed, and more honest answers if the survey is done online and appropriately anonymized.
Implementing new best practices always involves some trial and error, as some tools and processes will suit your team better than others. In the spirit of continuous improvement, it’s important to be open to experimenting and learning as you look for your team’s asynchronous collaboration sweet spot.
7. Measuring Results and Productivity
Asynchronous collaboration is particularly effective for measuring results and productivity. Since metrics don’t usually have to be discussed in real-time, global remote teams in particular benefit from this as any overlapping work hours can be used for other things.
The impact of efficient asynchronous collaboration on remote team productivity shows up in certain metrics, such as project schedule variance (PSV), employee satisfaction, and working hours and overtime. Done right, asynchronous collaboration can positively affect metrics like these as it lets team members do more meaningful work in less time.
Getting Asynchronous Collaboraton In Remote Teams Right
Good asynchronous collaboration shows its effects across many areas in the workplace, namely communication, goal setting, workflow structure, process documentation, time management, feedback processing, and productivity metrics.
Focusing on an asynchronous collaboration strategy is likely to yield positive outcomes, especially in remote teams where opportunities for synchronous communication are harder to come by. Regardless of your team’s work arrangements, mindfully implementing alternative collaboration techniques is bound to help with seeing work in a new light.
Frequently asked questions
What tools are essential for efficient asynchronous collaboration?
Tools such as project management software, document sharing platforms, communication channels (e.g., Slack or Microsoft Teams), and task-tracking apps are crucial. It's essential to use tools that streamline communication, task assignments, and updates.
How can remote team leaders promote efficient asynchronous collaboration?
Remote team leaders should set clear expectations, establish communication protocols, provide feedback, and encourage open channels for questions and assistance. Promoting a culture of trust and autonomy is vital for team members to thrive in asynchronous collaboration.
What are the benefits of efficient asynchronous collaboration in remote teams?
Efficient asynchronous collaboration offers benefits like increased productivity, flexibility, reduced time constraints, and a more inclusive work environment. It accommodates diverse time zones, allowing team members to contribute at their most productive hours.