Aug 11

What is async work?

Let's define asynchronous work and compare it to synchronous work. 
Asynchronous means "not occurring at precisely the same time." Thus, asynchronous work, or in short "async work" refers to work that doesn't happen simultaneously. 

When working asynchronously, it is not required for you and your co-workers to be present at the same time and responses in real-time are not expected by default.

You can do your tasks on your own at a time that fits best in your schedule, as long as you don't need immediate interaction with others. That is true for many knowledge workers who for example have clear, independent tasks, consume or research information, analyze facts, think about them, and document solutions to communicate them to others. 

Synchronous work

In contrast, synchronous work happens at precisely the same time.

You and your co-worker are sitting together in a meeting interacting in real-time or at least awaiting your simultaneous attention. Besides meetings, when working synchronously you are asked to be present and ready to interact immediately by answering phone calls, chat messages, emails, or questions from people that show up at your desk in the office. Your default is always on and ready to interact within a short time frame. 

Synchronous vs. asynchronous work

For more and more people, synchronous time spent in meetings seems to be a huge waste of working time.

On the other hand, working asynchronously on their own and getting tasks done is often referred to as "doing real work". 

Unfortunately, the current work situation in almost all companies prioritizes the mere ability to immediately connect at any time over the ability to do focused work and deep thinking. 

Only asynchronous work?

To get it right: For most of the jobs, asynchronous work is not the only working mode. It is not a question of "either-or". There will always be the need for meetings and real-time interactions, especially for social gatherings and 1:1s.

But thinking about asynchronizing your work, challenges the status quo of being always on and more than 50% of your regular work time in meetings.

Is asynchronous work for everyone?

If most or all your tasks rely heavily on real-time interaction with co-workers or clients or urge you to be at a certain place at a certain time, synchronous work is the best if not the only choice. If you are working in a call center, your main job is synchronous communication, if you are working in a factory, you need to be present together with your co-workers at the same time to get the work done. Asynchronous work is not an option then.

However, many workers are so used to the standard of synchronous work that they cannot imagine working differently. They miss the opportunity to change their work and take back the time flexibility that contributes to more productive work and a less stressful life.

Synchronous vs. Asynchronous work

All facts at a glance
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Or, have a deeper look at the usual problems of our default synchronous work style and listen to Sarah and Toni, what they experience in their work life.
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