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Now that the pandemic has had so many of us working from home, you’ve probably heard some buzz about asynchronous communications. Did you know it’s possible to create asynchronous meetings?
It's not just possible — it can also save you and your team a lot of time since it allows everyone to respond thoughtfully at their own pace. Whether you need to schedule team meetings for planning, follow up on action items, or check in and share status updates, the asynchronous method may be the way to go. Below, we'll explore what asynchronous meetings look like, their benefits, and tips for running them with your team.
Understanding asynchronous meetings means understanding the difference between asynchronous and synchronous communications. When teams or individuals communicate in sync, they’re communicating simultaneously — as you might during a face-to-face meeting, Zoom call, or phone call.
Asynchronous communications happen when there is a lag time between each message. Emails, message boards, or instant messages that don’t require immediate responses are all forms of asynchronous communication.
Asynchronous meetings build on that. They’re meetings that don’t happen in real time. Most often, they take place on a message board where participants can add talking points, thoughts, and opinions as they have the opportunity to do so rather than at a scheduled time where everyone can join in.
Whether you’re managing a remote team or you all work together in an office, asynchronous meetings can have several benefits. The most significant advantages to them all revolve around flexibility and clarity in communications. We’ll explore some of these perks below.
Many modern teams defy boundaries, with team members working on opposite sides of the country — or opposite sides of the globe. In these situations, scheduling synchronous meetings can be a headache, especially when someone in a different time zone has to attend a meeting at 3 a.m.
Asynchronous meetings solve this challenge beautifully since everyone can check in when it fits into their schedules.
Workplace flexibility is one of today’s most talked-about employer benefits — so much so that a recent study by the Harvard Business Review finds that 59% of workers cite flexibility as more important than salary or other benefits.
Asynchronous meetings are one great way to offer that flexibility, especially when people are working remotely. Rather than forcing everyone to rearrange their routines so that they can all make time for a synchronous meeting, this gives your team — both the early birds and the night owls among them — the freedom to work and respond to the meeting when it’s convenient for them to do so.
Some research suggests that introverts make up close to half (40%) of the population — which is a number that often proves surprising since we don’t always hear much from this quieter group of people.
By nature, introverts are more likely to sit back and listen in meetings while their extroverted counterparts are more likely to engage in lively back and forth conversation. It’s not that introverts are necessarily shy. Even though most find socializing with their peers enjoyable, they also find it exhausting — and solitude is how introverts recharge their batteries.
Asynchronous meetings are a huge win for introverts because they eliminate that sense of exhaustion that comes from face-to-face interactions. This type of meeting allows introverts to do what they do best: Listen quietly, think about the topic at hand, and provide a measured response in their own time.
Creating detailed, organized meeting notes on the fly can be a big challenge — especially when the designated note-taker is also trying to participate in the discussion. Asynchronous meetings eliminate the need to take notes at all, since these meetings typically take the form of written communications. The notes are right there within the back-and-forth between team members. At most, all you’ll need to do is condense the conversation into an easy-to-read digest for later reference.
While asynchronous meetings have many advantages, as with anything, there are also some drawbacks. If you choose to go the async route for remote work, make sure you’re aware of the disadvantages listed below so that you can work around them.
Introverts might make up half the population — but extroverts make up the other half! Some people are both better at communicating face-to-face and more comfortable with it.
When virtual meetings are the norm, expect some team members to start feeling lonely after a while. To counteract this, make yourself available to support and encourage everyone — and encourage positive discourse among the team, too. It’s also smart to emphasize creating a good work-life balance. This way, any team members who feel lonely have plenty of free time to get out of the house and meet up with friends and family.
In a typical back-and-forth conversation, the natural flow generally lets people offer ideas and request clarifications. This means that asynchronous communications must be crystal clear, whether you’re leaving asynchronous video messages via something like Loom or an app that lets you create a message board. With that, encourage team members to request clarifications wherever necessary so that you can make sure everyone is on the same page.
The fact that you don’t have to respond to async meetings and comms immediately is both a perk and a drawback. It’s a perk in that it allows people to respond on their own time, but when messages are time-sensitive, you won’t get an immediate response. This can prove problematic when the team needs to make quick changes or when you have to rapidly shift focus within a project.
This doesn’t mean you should abandon asynchronous communication, however. Instead, ensure that you’ve got proper channels available for the time-sensitive things. Brainstorming, check-ins, and similar interactions can remain in messages where team members can participate when they are available. But set aside a line of communication — like phone calls, emails, or Slack instant messages — for the things that need immediate attention.
For many teams, remote work is a relatively new development — but one that is likely here to stay, since it offers so many conveniences for everyone involved. Still, hosting remote async meetings might feel like foreign territory, so here are a few tips to help you and your team conduct effective meetings.
One of the most important things to do is to set deadlines for everyone involved in the meeting. This means making sure that participants' responses are required, and setting a time limit for those responses. Busy team members can easily forget that they’re supposed to contribute to remote meetings — and even if they don’t forget, they may push responses back farther and farther on their schedules as they make room for other action items. Creating deadlines ensures that your meetings don’t drag on for days.
No matter what type of meeting you’re hosting, documentation is always key. For asynchronous meetings, this means creating a system in which you can easily document all talking points, including those planned before the meeting and those brought up during the meeting. Use templates to create a meeting agenda that lists talking points, participants, and other crucial bits of information. Once the meeting wraps up, you'll also want to make sure that you document the decisions made or conclusions reached during the meeting.
Once the meeting is over, create a condensed version of the notes. Between messages, documents, comment threads, and so on, it’s easy to lose track of important parts of the conversation. By organizing and condensing, you can save your team a lot of time and frustration, giving them easy access to the most important parts of the discussion.
It’s easy to think of key performance metrics (KPIs) in terms of marketing or sales, but you can also track them to get insights into meeting efficiency. What are some of the best KPIs to track? Here are a few:
Track these for each meeting to build up a backlog of data. From that, you can draw conclusions. For example, if the time spent per meeting grows longer, but fewer agenda items are discussed and fewer decisions are made, this is a sign of unproductive meetings. If this happens, it’s time to look at making meetings more productive since the goal is to get more done while spending less time in meetings.
Why hold retrospective meetings? Because they’re one of the best ways to make improvements.
Retrospectives typically happen after a project wraps up. They’re meant to be all-hands meetings where everyone can discuss what went well and what didn’t. It’s the perfect opportunity to polish up workflows and processes before the next project starts — and that includes improving the way you use asynchronous communications tools, how you handle Zoom meetings, and the best ways for distributed teams to have asynchronous meetings.
Asynchronous meetings benefit from some serious collaborative tools. A Microsoft Word document and an instant messenger won't cut it. Look for tools that offer integrations with your most-used apps, plus features designed to facilitate asynchronous and remote meetings.
Range gives you access to all of this and more. You can integrate it with Slack and use the Range app to organize meetings of all kinds, from planning sessions to check-ins and beyond. Check out some of Range's features here.
One great use for meeting time (or a designated time after the meeting) is to gather feedback. Because async comms can be challenging at first, one of the best ways to smooth out the kinks is to simply ask your team what is working and what isn’t. This way, you can focus on improving how you run meetings.
With that, be sure to deliver feedback of your own. Let team members know what you like, and feel free to request additional details from team members who haven’t contributed quite as much.
There are some downsides to asynchronous communications, but it’s easy to overcome them with the right tools — and provide a positive experience for remote teams working across different time zones.
That’s what Range is all about. It’s the best place for distributed teams to check in with each other, whether asynchronously or in real time. Learn more about how Range can elevate your team's asynchronous check-ins.