Remote teams working from different locations

How to Make the Most of Asynchronous Work

Worker productivity is a mythological creature in any organization—how do we know someone is actually productive? So, we created checkpoints, such as in-sync meetings, cubicle presence, timed lunch breaks, and 9-5 routines. 

Times have changed, though. Synchronous, in-office work is no longer the only kind of work. Workers today seek more flexibility, not just in the hours they work, but also in the way they do.

As a business leader, manager, or HR professional, how can you implement strategies to help them? Let’s find out.

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What is Asynchronous Work?

Asynchronous work is an operating style where employees work, complete tasks, and communicate with colleagues at a time of their choosing. 

Essentially, the working hours of each individual on the team do not synchronize with the other, hence, asynchronous.

What does an asynchronous workplace look like?

Asynchronous does not necessarily mean everyone is a remote worker or is all in various parts of the world. It simply means that everyone has the freedom to design how, where, and when they work.

Working asynchronously is characterized by the following.

  • Employees have the flexibility to work remotely
  • They design their work hours around their lives, habits, and productivity cycles
  • Teams communicate through remote work tools, collaborative documents, emails, and project management systems (instead of real-time one-to-one meetings)
  • They decide the rules, boundaries, and code by which their asynchronous work is governed
  • Any real-time collaboration is scheduled in advance and optimized for maximum productivity

In short, asynchronous work decouples productivity from visibility and availability. As Tyler Gillespie, Founder and async worker, in his blog on asynchronous communication points out, async work is “a testament to the fact that employees and team members are adults who do not need to be monitored or managed constantly.” 

In short, you don’t need to sit in your cubicle to be seen as working!

How is asynchronous work shaping the job market?

Naturally, asynchronous work demands a huge shift in the culture and emotional fabric of the entire organization. 

Employees need to be self-managed, and managers need to be more trusting of employees they don’t see on a regular basis or have never seen at all.

The expanding talent gap, especially in knowledge work, has forced managers to accept and encourage asynchronous work. 

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Understanding Asynchronous Work

Asynchronous work decouples productivity from constant communication. Async helps get the job done in the least disruptive way possible without the need for an immediate response or reaction. In this style of working colleagues come to respect autonomy and value workplace flexibility

Well, how is it different from traditional work (which we call synchronous work)? Let’s find out.

Synchronous vs. asynchronous work: How does it differ?

Asynchronous and synchronous work are two operational models that differ primarily on team members’ availability at a given time. Synchronous work is typically 9-5 when everyone is in office or available online. 

Asynchronous work occurs when teams set their goals and acceptance criteria together and then go away to do their part of the work in their own time and space. This difference manifests itself in various ways.

AttributeAsynchronous workSynchronous work
Working modelEmployees exercise both location and time independenceEven distributed teams collaborate in real time and work together
CommunicationThrough project management tools, emails, messaging, etc.In-person or via live video/audio calls 
ManagementHighly self-managedManagers play a big role
Response timeCollectively agreed by the teamImmediate response expected
TrustHigh trust and autonomyLow trust (with monitoring)
Differences between Asynchronous work and Synchronous work

In what ways is asynchronous work better?

Imagine an in-office situation: You clock in, pleasantries are over, and one colleague asks for a piece of content. You start working on it. 

Knock knock; you are interrupted by another colleague passing by your desk who wants to discuss the monthly Google Analytics report. You peek at the numbers and do some mental math when ping!

Your manager wants you to take a quick call with them. You reprioritize a few tasks and discuss some people issues on your team; before you know it, it’s lunch time.

Summary: While you have been busy, your original list of work remains untouched. 

While this can occur in async work, too, the systems provide certain tactics and methods to prevent it.

Notification off: You can turn off Slack notifications and focus on your tasks. (You can’t avoid a colleague passing by the office!)

Better daily planning: You can set aside time to check messages or emails so you’re not distracted while doing deep work. (how do you plan for taps on the shoulder?)

Managed expectations: Async teams don’t expect immediate responses, making it easier to say no to things, if needed (much harder to say no to someone requesting you in person for a “quick chat”)

Purpose-built systems: Async teams also have documentation, project management, and other tools to ensure information is open and available to anyone who needs it. (You don’t have to be the one to answer all questions)

Calendar management: You can schedule ‘communication hours’ like a professor’s office hours to signal to people when you are available for calls. (Doing this in the office might seem pricey)

Asynchronous work is a tap on the shoulder that remains suspended until you or your colleague log in or begin co-writing documents across different time zones. 

Does that mean all synchronous work is a productivity killer? Nope!

Not all synchronous communication is unnecessary. There are multiple cases where real-time collaboration is necessary to bring teams to the same page. 

When is synchronous and asynchronous work suitable?

Synchronous work is best when real-time communication is essential, such as:

  • Team reviews: Being in person in real time helps address the emotional and human aspects of feedback better
  • Brainstorming sessions: Synchronous availability helps build on each other’s ideas in a closed environment
  • Serendipitous ideation: A casual watercooler moment can lead to significant breakthroughs if teams work synchronously
  • Persuasion: It’s very unlikely you can persuade a prospect to buy or an angry customer to stay without a one-to-one interaction 
  • Workshops: Learning by doing is better done in person and in real time. This is especially true for tasks that need two or more people to work together

Asynchronous work is better when teams need the space to do focussed work, such as:  

Stand-ups: Just updates about work done, work-in-progress, and blockers can be sent asynchronously. In fact, with a tool like ClickUp Brain, you can automate this based on the previous day’s inputs.

Progress updates with ClickUp Brain
Automate standup updates with ClickUp Brain

Creating together: Once you’ve agreed on a topic, you can write the article asynchronously. Multiple people can input their work in a common document and edit independently.

Project management: A project manager can do most of their work asynchronously. For instance, they can assign tasks, build workflows, send audio/text feedback etc., without being with team members.

Onboarding new employees: Gone are the days when you handheld a new employee through every step. Today, you can set up a clear and thorough onboarding document that the new employee can walk through themselves!

If you follow a model that combines the two, here’s how you can make your hybrid workplace communication effective.

Now that we’ve understood what asynchronous work is and how it differs from traditional models, here’s why you should embrace it wholeheartedly.

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Importance of Asynchronous Work in Today’s Work Culture

Business leaders and HR professionals can no longer avoid asynchronous work structures for several reasons.

Job-seeker preference

Studies show that around 98% of the workforce wants to work remotely, at least part-time. GenZ employees are far more likely to engage in remote work and the flexibility appeals to women in the workforce. 

Digital nomadism

Several modern knowledge workers prefer to work as they travel. Some of the most specialized and highly paid skillsets are only available among those who want location and time independence. For them, asynchronous work and digital nomad tools become fundamental to effectiveness. 

Alternative leave policies

Until now, one full-time job has been performed by one person, who has been allotted a fixed number of days as paid leave. Today, employees want a lot more flexibility. They seek to take sabbaticals and long leaves to pursue other interests. 

This has given rise to job sharing, which enables two employees to share the responsibility of a single full-time position. The practice is becoming common in law firms, where consultants divvy tasks according to urgency and take responsibility for specific tasks. 

It helps employees share their work and time, ensuring someone covers the tasks. This flexibility also means less reliance on a single employee, minimizing bottlenecks due to dependencies. 

Competitive advantage

Every organization is considering remote/hybrid work these days. AirBnB has a live and work anywhere policy. Internet search provider DuckDuckGo has employees in 15 countries. You need to be an asynchronous company to attract top talent in today’s competitive market. 

Talent gap

Speaking of talent gaps, an organization comfortable with asynchronous work can hire from anywhere in the world. This can be cost-effective and reap significant benefits in the long run.

If that sounds attractive (or inevitable), here’s how to implement asynchronous work practices in your organization.

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Implementation of Asynchronous Work: Best Practices

In theory, asynchronous work is simple—let people manage themselves and their work in ways that are best suited to them. In practice, this can create chaos.

To implement asynchronous work seamlessly, you need people, processes, and technology that enable not just employees but also managers, HR, etc. Let’s see how you can leverage eight best practices to ensure success.

1. Identify asynchronous work champions

You can’t get anything done if people don’t believe in and identify with it. To enable this, you need to know your audience’s pulse.

  • Conduct surveys to understand if your teams want asynchronous work; ClickUp Forms is a great way to do this
  • Ask if they need just flexitime or flexi location as well
  • Learn their current methods of working and productivity levels
ClickUp Form View
ClickUp Form View for surveys

Then, identify the especially enthusiastic members of your team who will champion the cause among the rest of them. Empower them with the tools and processes needed to strengthen change management.

2. Create systems

Remote teams also need a common workplace, except a virtual one. Enable a comprehensive, multi-faceted virtual workspace for your team. ClickUp’s all-in-one work platform for remote work gives you everything you need to power async work:  

  • Projects and tasks
  • Multiple views
  • Productivity tracking
  • Performance management
  • Documentation
  • Automations

3. Consolidate communication

Ensure that any system you set up enables async communication, idea exchange, and collaboration on action items. 

ClickUp includes a number of asynchronous communication features as well. ClickUp tasks has nested comments for teams to debate/discuss ideas in context. ClickUp Whiteboard and Mind Maps make virtual collaboration both visual and effective.

ClickUp Chat View is purpose-designed for asynchronous work, consolidating all messages under one window. You don’t need to jump through hoops to find messages they all presented to you to review and take action on when you’re ready. 

ClickUp Chat View
ClickUp Chat View for a consolidated look into all messages

4. Go beyond text messages

When texting, especially among people who speak a different dialect or come from a different culture, your tone can be misunderstood. So, create communication opportunities across text, audio, video, and more.

For instance, ClickUp’s Clips allows you to share screen recordings instantly and offer voice-based feedback. Instead of making a video call (which needs common availability, you can create a video that the receiver can view later.

With Clip, you can also:

  • Transcribe recordings and copy snippets
  • Add comments inside the video and start conversations across a timeline 
  • Turn Clips description into an actual to-do list 
  • Search through transcripts for a specific point 
ClickUp Clips
ClickUp Clips screen recording and video hub

5. Manage expectations 

Bring the team together to set guardrails and expectations for each other. This might include making decisions on:

  • How soon must one reply to a message?
  • What timezone are deadlines set in?
  • When can we request real-time conversations?
  • Where and how should feedback be given?

Create an asynchronous work charter for your team/organization on ClickUp Docs. Share with everyone relevant. Invite them to comment/give feedback. Evolve as you go along!

ClickUp Docs
Document thoroughly and collaborate effectively with ClickUp Docs

6. Track productivity

While teams might dislike being monitored on what they’re doing, when they’re working, etc., it helps the organization to track productivity. Encourage team members to:

  • Use the ClickUp Time Tracking feature to record their work hours
  • Set availability clearly so the project manager can assign tasks accordingly
  • Make near-accurate time estimates for tasks assigned to them
ClickUp’s project time-tracking
ClickUp Time Tracking 

Also track how much time goes in meetings, emails, chat messages, Slack huddles, etc. to measure the productivity impact of going asynchronous.

7. Prevent groupthink

Groupthink, simply put, is an uncritical consensus on something because people want to avoid confrontation. This can be a bigger problem in remote teams because it is easier for those who disagree to just stay quiet.

To prevent this from occurring:

  • Encourage everyone to speak up
  • Tag people and invite them to offer comments
  • Coach the async work champion (remember from step 1?) to nudge silent folks to contribute
  • When absolutely necessary, create ways of anonymous input through forms and polls

8. Integrate work and workflows

Most teams use several tools to accomplish their work. Effectively integrating your asynchronous communication tools makes work easier. 

For instance, you might integrate Zoom with ClickUp to start calls directly from your project management platform. With Slack integration, you can notify specific people of a change in task status. Software teams integrate tools like GitHub, LambdaTest, etc., to make their workflows seamless.

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ClickUp offers integration with 1000+ tools to make your work seamless

Despite your best efforts, challenges are inevitable. Let’s see what you might face and how you can overcome them.

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Asynchronous Work: Challenges and Limitations

We’ve seen that asynchronous collaboration offers several benefits and is highly preferred by modern teams. However, in and of itself, async isn’t the best approach for all cases. Here’s why and how you can overcome such limitations.

Zoom fatigue and notification overload

Not working in the same physical environment might cause people to ping each other too often or demand too many meetings. This can defeat the very purpose of going async.


Build a culture of documentation in the organization. Encourage teams to record key ideas, thought processes, opinions, and more so people can access them whenever they need to. Use this to create an asynchronous workflow that makes life easier for everyone in the long run.

Communication across timezones

Ever sent a “hi” and by the time the receiver responds, you’ve forgotten what you wanted? This can happen more often when teams work across time zones.


  • Identify common working hours to schedule critical video calls, real-time communication, and project handover tasks
  • Set clear expectations about when and how team members will respond to each other’s messages
  • Set templates and frameworks for conversations—say, encourage everyone to offer context and ask a question in its entirety instead of a “hi”

Team engagement

Isolation from being remote and not interacting face-to-face with peers can affect motivation. Soon, team members will lose their sense of purpose and alignment with organizational goals.

Solution: Include team engagement in managers’ key responsibility areas (KRAs). Include bonding and fun activities once in a while. (You may even ask your team member to share their cat photo—always works!)

Urgency vs. flexibility

Working remotely means that team members might not understand certain issues’ urgency or impact. For instance, a “priority one” ticket needs to be attended to immediately, which a flexible team might not have anyone available for.

Solution: Plan your flexible schedule to ensure your service level agreements (SLAs) are met. If you need team members available at certain times, outline that early and schedule accordingly.

Efficacy of training

Even as self-paced individualized learning is gaining popularity, it is often not the most effective. It is nearly impossible to document or transfer tacit knowledge within the work environment. Working in the same office helps model behaviors that can be difficult async.

Solution: Build action-oriented learning modules. Bring the teams together to learn from each other. Make lesson plans interactive. Don’t stop at the initial onboarding—create avenues to regularly train and retrain team members.

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Ace Asynchronous Work With ClickUp

Whether you’re working synchronously or asynchronously, productivity is often mythical, like unicorns or Cheshire cats. In traditional work environments, the marker of productivity used to be visibility, being online, sitting in their cubicle, speaking up in meetings, etc.

In the asynchronous world, visibility takes a back seat. To make it functional, async teams need a radical new way to manage their work, communication, and performance.

ClickUp’s project management software is designed to enable precisely this. With whiteboards, mind maps, real-time chats, task management, documents, dashboards and more, ClickUp will transform your team’s work. 

See for yourself. Try ClickUp today!

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