Do you struggle to push projects forward because you’re stuck in an endless stream of calls and meetings? Are you wondering whether collaborating asynchronously would help you free more time and get stuff done?
It’s a common challenge. Sometimes, you just can’t do the work on your own. You may need a client’s input to move the project forward. Teammates can help you evaluate the work so far. And sometimes, you just need to run ideas by someone else.
Unfortunately, this typically means ending up on another meeting or call.
Luckily, there is a way to collaborate with clients and teammates without constantly interacting in real-time. It’s called asynchronous collaboration, and you’ll learn exactly what it is and how it works from this guide. You’ll also discover how you can get started collaborating with clients and other team members asynchronously, and I’ll show you several tips to help you embrace this method of collaboration even more.
What we’ll cover:
What is asynchronous collaboration?
Learn what it means to collaborate asynchronously with clients and teammates.
When to use asynchronous collaboration?
Discover when collaborating asynchronous makes the most sense.
Benefits of asynchronous collaboration.
See how your organization can benefit from embracing this type of collaboration.
How do you get started collaborating asynchronously?
Learn a simple, 4-step framework for leveraging asynchronous work.
Asynchronous collaboration tools.
See examples of tools to help you implement and manage async collaboration with teams and clients.
So, let’s take it from the top.
What is Asynchronous Collaboration?
The term - asynchronous collaboration - refers to a method of collaborating with clients and teammates without having to interact in real-time.
When collaborating asynchronously, you, your team, and clients share messages. But instead of responding instantly, everyone involved can read and act on them in their own time.
Email is one obvious example of asynchronous communication. In a typical email conversation, neither you nor the recipient must read or act on messages in real-time. I can imagine that your inbox is full of unopened messages that wait for when you have the time to process them.
Other methods of collaborating asynchronously include instant messaging, video messaging, or comments.
Async communication contrasts with the traditional, synchronous collaboration - A method of working together that relies on real-time interactions - meetings (both in-person and virtual), calls, and real-time messaging on Slack or any other chat platform.
When to use asynchronous collaboration?
Let me start by making this clear: The asynchronous collaboration's goal isn’t to eliminate the need for real-time, in-person interaction. Both asynchronous and synchronous communication have their place in any organization. However, there are situations where collaborating asynchronously just makes more sense. Here are just some of them.
Endless meetings, video calls, notifications that pop up on your phone’s screen outside the office hours, and more seem like an unavoidable part of a typical remote working environment.
But it doesn’t have to be so. Remote teams can easily collaborate on projects, discuss and share ideas, make plans, or even have a friendly banter without constantly interacting with one another in real-time.
Plus, when collaborating asynchronously, you and the team build a record of the back-and-forth communications you can refer back to when needed.
The US remote work survey conducted by PwC last year found an incredible shift in the adoption of remote work. According to the study, business leaders have already become convinced about the benefits of working remotely. That said, they’re not ready to switch to that model entirely.
This means that many companies have embraced hybrid work instead. Their employees spend only certain days in the office and work remotely for the remainder of the week. Unfortunately for many, this means having to endure a constant stream of Zoom calls and virtual meetings to collaborate with teammates.
Asynchronous collaboration is an ideal alternative that allows teams to bridge hybrid work and have everyone participate in all projects, regardless of whether they work in the office or from home.
International and distributed teams
International teams face a different challenge - Time zone differences often make it difficult to find a good time to get together in real-time. This usually leaves at least one side facing having to work outside their normal hours to facilitate real-time interactions.
By leveraging asynchronous communication tools, international and distributed teams can still share knowledge, experience, and ideas but do it without forcing time differences to affect anyone.
Fact: Communication is the key to building strong client relationships. But with only so many hours in a day, agencies regularly struggle with keeping up with client demands for their time.
Asynchronous communication gives agencies an almost unlimited way to collaborate with clients - from sharing ideas and project updates to client reporting and even answering their questions - without having to ask for more meetings or calls constantly.
4 Benefits that Make Asynchronous Collaboration an Absolute Must for Modern Organizations
#1. It’s more convenient than synchronous collaboration
I admit it; collaborating in real-time can be so amazing. You share energy with everyone in the room and bounce ideas off each other. It’s electrifying!
The problem? Well, for one, it doesn’t happen very often, does it? Sure, you meet with colleagues or clients and try to push the work forward. But that magic isn’t always there. One reason is that those sessions aren’t always convenient and often disrupt your deep work.
Asynchronous collaboration, on the other hand, doesn’t disrupt your flow and allows you to process and respond to information when it’s the most convenient for you.
#2. Asynchronous work increases flexibility and boosts productivity
When you collaborate in real-time, you never fully own your workday. Other people might set up meetings and work sessions for you, leaving you with no option but to oblige.
With asynchronous work, the opposite is true. You can be as flexible and independent as you need to be. You can choose to work when you’re most productive and focus on work when you’re most likely to get more done.
#3. With asynchronous work, you retain the record of all collaboration and communication
This is an often-overlooked benefit of asynchronous work. All your async messages - in a chat, via email, asynchronous videos, and more - are automatically saved, and everyone can reference them when they need a particular bit of information.
#4. Asynchronous communication is more inclusive
This ties in with the previous point. Asynchronous communication allows everyone to participate. It doesn’t matter where they are, their time zone, or the most productive time of the day; when working asynchronously, your teammates can access all communication and share their ideas with the rest.
#5. Collaborating asynchronously helps reduce meeting fatigue
Fact: Too many meetings can have a seriously detrimental effect on your health.
Think about it. Every meeting you attend, whether on Zoom or in-person, requires your full attention. It forces you to constantly think and analyze what’s being said and respond immediately, without having time to think about your ideas. Not to mention that it makes you constantly conscious about how you look and how others perceive you.
Asynchronous communication allows you to process information in your own time, without the pressure of being constantly present, reducing the possibility of you suffering from Zoom fatigue.
How to Leverage Asynchronous Collaboration
Step 1. Project planning
Lack of planning is, by far, the most common pitfall I see organizations fall into when trying to embrace async collaboration. They decide to turn away from in-person meetings but never really evaluate how async communication will take the project further.
Unfortunately, without fully realizing the project's scope and end goal, it’s hard to realize who should be involved in asynchronous collaboration and what those people aim to achieve together.
So, as the first step, write down your short and long-term goals for the project, and share them with everyone involved.
This will help get them on board and understand the objectives for collaborating asynchronously on it.
Step 2. Create the project’s main resource
This step is particularly important for projects that are already underway. Create a main resource that will help you give access to all the information about the project, past communications, decisions, assets, and plans to everyone involved.
This way, even though the teams work individually, everyone still has access to all assets and knows where to look for additional information.
Step 3. Define roles and responsibilities
This is a hugely important step in any project planning process, and it’s no different when you work asynchronously. The master resource we covered in the previous step should also include clearly defined roles and responsibilities for everyone on the team.
TIP: Use the Responsibility assignment matrix (RACI) to define four critical roles on the team:
- The person who is responsible for completing the project
- People who are making decisions and act on different tasks
- The person who will be communicated with in relation to the decision-making process and specific project tasks, and
- The person who will be updated on decisions and actions during the project.
With the RACI matrix, everyone on the team will know their responsibilities. The team will know who has the final say in different matters, whom to include in message chains, and whose opinions to consult before moving the project forward.
Step 4. Set up asynchronous collaboration tools
By its nature, asynchronous communication requires you to use various tools:
- Project management platforms help you plan and track the work and share comments and ideas on tasks.
- Tools like digital whiteboards help you brainstorm ideas without having to be present in the same room at the same time, and
- With asynchronous communication tools, you and the team can share messages and communicate about the work.
Now, depending on the project, you might not need all of those tools. But if you genuinely want to embrace asynchronous collaboration, then, at minimum, you will have to leverage dedicated communication platforms.
Here’s one of them:
How ZipMessage Helps You Boost Asynchronous Collaboration
ZipMessage (disclaimer - this is our tool) is an asynchronous video messaging platform that helps you give teammates and clients more face time without scheduling more calls in your calendar.
With ZipMessage, you can record and share video messages with clients and teams that they, in turn, can view and respond to in their own time.
We’ve packed ZipMessage with features that help teams like yours embrace asynchronous collaboration:
- Threaded conversations. With ZipMessage, you can create a separate conversation for each project or task and exchange messages related to it asynchronously.
- Screen sharing, camera, and audio: With ZipMessage, you can record and share your screen, turn on the camera, or do both simultaneously. This is perfect for sending clients progress updates, answering their questions, or even asking for input without hopping on a call.
- Personalized URLs: Customize URLs per your calls or set your ZipMessage link as per your brand name.
- Privacy: Mark your asynchronous video link as private if you want a selected group of people to see your videos.
ZipMessage also integrates with Slack, Zapier, Chrome, and Firefox; you can even embed ZipMessage conversations on your website using a simple HTML embed code.
How to Make the Most of Asynchronous Collaboration
To close off, let me share with you several tips and best practices I’ve found particularly useful when switching to asynchronous collaboration.
- Make sure that your teammates and clients know how to communicate asynchronously. Include a walkthrough of the tools and processes you use during onboarding.
- Create a standardized asynchronous communication process. For example, you could decide that each project and client will get individual conversations, with all communication posted only to that thread.
- Take breaks from async communications. I admit it; this advice may seem in contrast to what we’ve discussed. But, unfortunately, it isn’t. Even with asynchronous collaboration, you might experience the urge to respond to messages right away. But this might lead to the inability to log out of work and similar fatigue as you might experience with synchronous communication.
- Define procedures for urgent issues. Asynchronous communication is amazing for sharing ideas and collaborating with teams and clients. But its non-real-time nature means it’s not an ideal medium for dealing with urgent issues and problems. So, as part of your process, also define what to do when you’re faced with something that needs urgent attention from another person.