Why asynchronous collaboration is a must in hybrid work

Connecting in real time takes a toll on employees’ productivity

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Collaboration has become one of the most vital challenges in the hybrid work model, where people are not working from office regularly or frequently. During pre-COVID times, it was easy to collaborate and make people come together and work as a team. It was easy to get quick feedback and share ideas. However, now, this has become quite a challenge as everybody is operating from home.

This is where the asynchronous collaboration approach offers relief. Let us see how it makes a difference.

Just imagine a team working on an assignment or a project. During pre-COVID times, it was very convenient for any team member to share ideas, give feedback, and provide a status report verbally, as everyone was working in the same building. It was easy to call short meetings and have conversations. This is synchronous collaboration, where communication was in real time.

Asynchronous collaboration, on the other hand, is a type of collaboration in which the exchange of ideas/knowledge and interaction among users occurs as and when schedules permit, instead of the sender and receiver of messages and ideas connecting in real time.

Generally when cross-functional teams work on projects collaboratively they do practice this form of asynchronous collaboration.”

Sharad Sharma, CHRO & chief ethics officer, Pramerica Life Insurance

Let us understand this with an example. Suppose a team of professionals is working on a project and there is a project-management system or a platform where the leader can mention all the essential details such as opportunity, status, new ideas, sales pipeline, and so on. The other team members can pour over it whenever they want to, and can add comments or make edits either simultaneously or at a later time. To support this, there are multiple tools, such as Google Docs. Here, the key activity is the preparation of self-explanatory presentations and documents, which audiences can understand. In the end, it leads to a synchronous way of collaboration in the form of a meeting, which is quite precise as everyone comes prepared and the purpose of the meeting is to take the final decision.

This saves a lot of precious time, which would have otherwise gone into taking status updates on calls or video conferences. Especially during these times, when some people are working from home and others are operating from the office, these disruptions can be quite annoying.

“In any pharmaceutical company, the sales personnel are spread across all geographical areas. Not just in the pandemic era, we have been practising asynchronous collaboration for a very long time via a digital platform in which every sales person has to feed in their update at the end of the day as a sales report. This platform is used to submit and access status reports.”

Rajorshi Ganguli, president and global HR head, Alkem Laboratories

Today, however, many teams try to replicate or follow synchronous communication which can end up to be a big challenge for every team member as most of the time is spent on calls or video chats.

Rajorshi Ganguli, president and global HR head, Alkem Laboratories, shares that in their industry, this kind of a collaboration is not something very new. The sales force makes up almost 65 per cent of their workforce. As in any pharmaceutical company, these sales personnel are spread across all geographical areas. Not just in the pandemic era, the firm has been practising asynchronous collaboration for a very long time via a digital platform in which every sales person has to feed in their update at the end of the day as a sales report. This platform is used to submit and access status reports.

“We did not do anything extra during the pandemic to put asynchronous collaboration into practice during the pandemic. It already exists in our industry as the nature of job demands it,” says Ganguli.

At Pramerica Life Insurance, the cross-functional teams practise asynchronous collaboration to work on and complete projects. “We may not call it asynchronous collaboration but we have applications like MS Teams, where we have tools to maintain status reports and chat with people. Generally when cross-functional teams work on projects collaboratively they do practice this form of collaboration,” mentions Sharad Sharma, CHRO & chief ethics officer, Pramerica Life Insurance.

“Asynchronous collaboration can be very beneficial for organisations that have embraced the hybrid model as it can lead to effective time management, better productivity and also enhanced work- life balance.”

Rajeev Singh, CHRO, Yokohama Off-Highway Tyres

When a team follows the approach of asynchronous collaboration, there may be times when an immediate need to communicate certain information becomes a priority during emergency and crisis situations. The key here is to identify such moments. “This would depend on the topic and the situation. Of course, the monthly and weekly meet-ups will be scheduled as per time, but there may be some instances where decisions may need to be taken instantaneously. Also, you will have to collaborate on video calls for brainstorming sessions,” tells Ganguli.

According to Rajeev Singh, CHRO, Yokohama Off-Highway Tyres, asynchronous collaboration is a very important concept which can be followed by organisations during these times when it is hard to collaborate in person. “It can be very beneficial for organisations that have embraced the hybrid model as it can lead to effective time management, better productivity and also enhanced work- life balance,” opines Singh.

Sharma adds, “While no form of collaboration can ever replace face to face interactions, during these times, this is the only way to stay productive. Asynchronous collaboration becomes a must in a hybrid working model as all employees are not working from the same location. They need to collaborate and use their time effectively. With this approach, meetings become more of a precise activity aimed at final decision-making. This fastens the decision-making process.”

If you think most of your time is wasted on follow-up calls and status update meetings, then asynchronous collaboration is the solution. After all, it is better to spend most of your time into productive activities rather than in front of a chat window!

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