It is important to be clear about the objective of the collaboration and the process, including why a combination of synchronous and asynchronous working is helpful in the specific context.
Time is the key aspect to consider when decisions about synchronous and asynchronous working are taken. As the goal is to manage everyone’s time as efficiently as possible, synchronous work, i.e. meetings in which all participants are present at the same time, should be as short as possible and as long as necessary to reach the objective of the collaboration. Tasks that do not need all team members can be handled in an asynchronous working style, either in smaller groups, or individually, to provide more flexibility to the collaborators and avoid wasting time in unnecessary meetings. This is particularly important if overlapping working time is limited, for example when contributors live and work in different time zones.
It is important to carefully think through and design the sequence of asynchronous/synchronous work as a process over a longer period (e.g. two to four weeks). To achieve a smooth and efficient collaboration, the tasks to be completed before, during and after the meeting need to be planned in detail. For example, documents need to be prepared and distributed well in advance, when it is expected that all contributors read or comment the document before a meeting.
For synchronous working, it is helpful to:
- Think about what information can be transmitted in advance rather than during the meeting, e.g. prepare or share already available materials before the meeting (documents, videos, powerpoint slides) so that the synchronous time is used efficiently for discussion. In this way, long presentations can be avoided during the meeting.
- Use synchronous working sessions to give an update about what happened before and plan or inform about the next steps, so no one gets lost in the process.
For asynchronous working, it is helpful to:
- Assign clear responsibilities and deadlines;
- Plan ahead to ensure that there is sufficient time for asynchronous tasks to be carried out before a synchronous working session and send a reminder a few days before the deadline
- Use asynchronous working to prepare participants for an upcoming virtual event (e.g. workshops, group meeting, etc.) to bring them all to the same level of knowledge. In this way, the participants can join the discussion directly.