Collaborative Project Management for Asynchronous Work
by Juliette Lagerweij on December 9, 2021
With the rise of remote and hybrid work, many employees and employers have the flexibility to work when it suits their lives. This is called asynchronous work, and it may mean everyone on your team isn’t available for the usual nine-to-five workday.
Asynchronous work is great for individual team members and consultants, who can strike a better work-life balance:
- Parents can work around time with their children.
- Travel junkies can work in different places.
- Night owls and early risers can work when they’re most productive.
But the rise in asynchronous work has also proved challenging for managers and team leaders, especially where collaborative project management is concerned. Coordinating teams across different schedules, maintaining collaboration, and effectively communicating are a few of the top concerns.
While these are indeed challenges, it’s time to embrace them! You and your team can experience major lifestyle benefits with asynchronous work, as long as you have a great system to back you up.
As an asynchronous team ourselves here at PSOhub, we’ll explain the details and benefits of asynchronous work and how it impacts project management. We’ll also run through the practical tools you can use to help you keep it all together in this alternative working environment.
What is asynchronous work? (You may already be doing it!)
The concept of asynchronous work is simple: not everyone works at the same time, aka the team is not synchronous in their work hours. In the post-COVID world, it’s become more and more popular as many teams are now working from home. Additionally, small businesses often hire creatives and developers that work in different time zones or different countries altogether.
Asynchronous environments are also preferable for certain organizations like nonprofits, as real-time conversations don’t always leave room for everyone at the table to participate; it’s therefore on the rise even among completely in-person businesses.
What to expect
In an asynchronous work environment, don’t expect immediate responses or feedback to emails, calls, or questions.
Teams are already moving online, making information accessibility all-important. People can access materials and reply on their own time with asynchronous work because all tasks, necessary info, and notes should be accessible.
It’s important to note that remote work is not the same as asynchronous work . Some remote positions still require everyone to be online at the same time, regardless of time zones. Many teams are still expected to participate in real-time activities like Zoom meetings and check-ins.
Overall, teams seem to love working in asynchronous environments; it creates more space for a work-life balance since location and time matter less.
How does asynchronous work affect project management today?
Implementing asynchronous work means making some intentional changes to how teams collaborate together and get things done. Here are the 7 way in which asynchronous work will affect how you go about project management:
1. Work hours are scheduled differently
Figure out what tasks are better done in real-time like brainstorming/collaborating and which can be done largely on the own time of your team members. You’ll need to schedule collaborative sessions at a time that suits all those who need to take part while giving team members more leeway with the hours in which they perform their regular billable work.
2. Streamlined communication is non-negotiable
Asynchronous work and communication require project managers to clearly define ownership of each task, especially when managing teams across the globe. Be sure to show a clear path to completion without everyone needing to be involved in every step of the process. Using things like dependent tasks in a software solution can help you manage your team’s communication around tasks, so everyone can be aware of what the current status is.
3. Cover all the bases with task management.
Each task must be created intentionally with all of the information someone would need to finish it (ideally) without having to reach out to someone. To make this happen, you’ll need some kind of task management in place that will create transparency and allow anyone to see the progress. Task management refers to the iterative process for moving tasks forward-- Do it to the best of your ability with the information you have and get task management software to keep things organized.
4. Specific communication is needed around capacity.
Working in an asynchronous environment will mean you need to outline pathways for specific communication around capacity. With everyone working at their chosen hours, sometimes in multiple time zones, you’ll no longer have visual hints at how people are doing in the office. It’s therefore critical that you encourage open and honest conversation around capacity to keep team members and clients alike happy. Resource management becomes hugely important as you start to take on more projects on an asynchronous team.
5. Information accessibility to move through tasks at all hours.
Information accessibility is a big one, as people working in different countries and at odd hours cannot simply call up their team members at any given time to get to a file. Information in asynchronous work must be accessible to all parties who need it. This may mean documenting more than what you normally would in a traditional office environment: things like milestones, decks, notes, and project details must be accessible for context when needed instead of being stuck in the head of one person.
6. Project timelines necessary
Because your team’s work hours will be scheduled differently with asynchronous work, project timelines should be a no-brainer. Be sure to draft realistic project timelines with input from the people who are being counted on and consider delays between each step of a project. Collaboration will be slower with an asynchronous team with members all over the world, so don’t forget to factor this into your project timeline as well.
7. Need to rely on tools
Project management tools bring the team together when needed and help you manage all your tasks, invoicing, contracts, etc. These should be intuitive for anyone to use and provide access to necessary materials. Be sure that the software tools you select are affordable, efficient, and allow for easy communication surrounding anything needed for project completion.
Tools for asynchronous project management
For global asynchronous teams, keeping communication and information in one place can be a challenge. However, you can easily put in place processes to ensure important information makes it onto a platform where everyone can access it. Check out the common tools for creating an asynchronous work environment to help you keep track of it all.
In most asynchronous working environments, messages often won’t get an immediate response. Make sure that internally, you don’t expect an immediate reply, so long as internally it’s known what the expectations are on email turnaround time. Let your clients know too that your team will be working at different hours, so they aren’t dismayed if someone doesn’t respond immediately. While email is an obvious tool to help you communicate with team members and clients, don’t rely too much on this for communication. Information can easily get fragmented and lost.
Be clear about what expectations are around email and which email addresses will be used by everyone on the team.
A lot of team communication does happen in real-time on chat platforms rather than forum styles. By using a chat or messaging service, your team will experience more synchronous communication. At the end of the day, expectations of how fast someone should respond come down to company culture. Be sure everyone on the team knows what’s expected. An effective solution to help you with this is by using functions like do not disturb and updating status when in meetings, doing work, away, etc.
Like email, a chat/messaging tool will have its drawbacks when it comes to keeping communication completely streamlined. While you’ll get a clear timeline, information easily gets lost as the conversation moves along.
Be clear about expectations around response times for your chat/messenger. Popular tools include Slack, Discord, WhatsApp, and more. Pick one and stick with it to keep everyone on the same page.
A project management tool certainly isn’t exclusive to asynchronous work. However, it can serve as a backbone of the entire process. That’s because a solid project management solution will let everyone know what’s been done and what’s coming down the pipeline. You and your team can easily track project details, important documents, and timelines, regardless of where everyone is located or at what hours they work.
An effective path forward with project management for asynchronous work is to go with an all-in-one platform. The less software your team has to use, the better.
Get a project management tool to streamline your workflows and automate admin processes. There are various affordable options, the most complete being PSOhub (We now have users in over 40 countries. Just sayin’...).
Video tools can be very synchronous with popular services like Zoom and Google Hangouts. But video can be leveraged in asynchronous situations as well, an example being recording meetings and making them accessible afterward. To that end, depending on your business, you may want to look into platforms to store and record tutorials or relay important info. Because for asynchronous teams, this means not everyone will have to actually attend the meeting in real-time to get the updates they need.
While video is categorically synchronous, you can leverage this tool in an asynchronous way, too. Zoom lets you record meetings for free and services like Loom and Screencast-o-matic enable you to send screencasts.
Utilizing the cloud to connect teams isn’t new, but it’s imperative to everyone having what they need to complete projects on time. Consistency and organization in file storage keeps your information both accessible and scalable. The most common free tools for file storage for asynchronous teams are Google Docs, Dropbox, and Onedrive.
Promote a clear understanding as to how your team’s files will be stored. Like some of the other tools above, pick one solution and stick with it.
Finally, knowledge management in asynchronous work isn’t difficult with the right tools and more importantly, clearly communicating to everyone where they can find the internal information they need. All standard operating procedures, internal jargon, company policies, training docs, etc. should be accessible and shareable when needed.
Communicate clearly with your team about what you put in place regarding knowledge management, so no one is bewildered or confused. Popular platforms include Confluence, Tettra, and Notion. However, you may be able to get everything you need for asynchronous knowledge management from a file storage solution like Google Docs.
Asynchronous work works!
Asynchronous work is on the rise, as businesses and individuals alike across the world enjoy the benefits of productivity and a work-life balance. Having a tech stack with PSOhub can keep your team on track with everything they need to be as productive as possible. All at an affordable price for your growing business.