What are asynchronous meetings?

Watch and Learn Social Learning

Remote teams have always been challenging. But with more of us working remotely than ever before, these challenges are exacerbated and brought to the fore. If this pandemic has taught us anything, it’s that the old ways don’t cut it in the “new normal” world of remote work.

Asynchronous communication – specifically, meetings – offers remote teams a way to work, collaborate, and focus more effectively on what matters; getting their work done.

Asynchronous gets results and is complementary to synchronous communication – or “traditional” meetings – being something every organization should consider including in their 21st-century workplace communication mix.

In this post, we’ll introduce you to the concept, explain its benefits, and help set you off in the right direction to start incorporating asynchronous meetings into your organization.

The hidden cost of meetings

The traditional meeting has, and will continue to have, a role to play in the workplace – sometimes, you need to “jump on a call” to get instant feedback.

Unfortunately, for many organizations, this meeting culture turns toxic, with employees finding themselves in endless meetings, leaving them unfocused, disengaged, and unable to get their work done.

And it’s not just the time lost to meetings; it’s also the real costs to your organization through lost productivity – although most will never quantify or even realize this hidden cost.

According to a study published in the European Journal of Work & Organization Psychology, meetings cost US businesses up to $37b each year in lost productivity. In another article from HR Digest, professionals lose 31 hours each month to ineffective meetings – that’s a full working day each week! The meeting madness must stop!

So, what is the solution? Is there an alternative to traditional meetings? Yes! Say hello to the latest addition to your productivity toolbox – the asynchronous meeting.

What are asynchronous meetings?

To answer this, we must first start with the question “what is asynchronous communication?”.

Put simply, asynchronous communication isn’t real-time. It’s “asynchronous” – not occurring or existing at the same time. This makes it ideal for remote teams, whether separated by time zones, locations, or, as many of us now are, working from home.

In contrast, synchronous communication – the method we’re used to in the workplace – occurs in real-time, with participants responding immediately. Think board room, conference calls, face-to-face in the office, or, most recently, Zoom.

Essentially, an asynchronous meeting – or async meeting – is one where participants don’t need to synchronize schedules to meet at a specified time. Instead, they share ideas, collaborating on a topic independently, using a shared document, channel, or tool like Slack, Microsoft Teams, or Watch and Learn.

Benefits of asynchronous meetings

1. Less meetings, more productivity

For the most part, traditional synchronous meetings don’t work. Unproductive, disruptive, and time-consuming; meetings are to productivity what kryptonite is to superman. And it’s not just the meetings; aligning schedules, agreeing times, and pre-meeting prep all take time away from getting work done.

2. Minimize interruption, maximize focus

We’ve all been there. Got time to jump on a call? Followed by another…and then another…until you look up and the day is gone. Asynchronous meetings let staff jump in and out when they have time, freeing them to focus on work without interruption.

3. More thoughtful, less impulsive

Asynchronous meetings allow staff to step away, think, and gather more information before they weigh-in. This results in more thoughtful contribution, which in turn leads to more effective decision making.

4. Open forum, not open mic

Every organization has someone who hijacks meetings, talking over everyone else. This isn’t just bad for morale; it’s bad for business, as missed contributions from less extroverted staff result in missed opportunities. With asynchronous meetings, everyone gets to hear and be heard.

5. Full transcripts, not minutes

Voice, video, or chat; everything is recorded. No more forgetting what was discussed once everyone is back at their desk. Refer back to conversations and decisions in-full, on-demand, removing the need for minute taking.

The main takeaway

For many organizations, this is the first time they’ve worked from home, which presents a significant challenge, a challenge that asynchronous meetings could very well be the answer to tackling.

Synchronous communication still has a place; there are many situations where an immediate response is needed, whether in an emergency, taking critical, time-sensitive decisions, or other such scenarios where instant matters.

However, it isn’t always the best option. Traditional meetings siphon off your staff’s time, replacing work with an endless cycle of meetings, taking focus away from getting the job done. This often leads to a frustrated, disengaged, and demotivated workforce, presenting a serious risk to you, your organization, and it’s customers.

Asynchronous communication doesn’t replace the traditional meeting entirely. Instead, it complements them, working alongside synchronous to help promote better alignment, collaboration, and productivity across your organization.