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How Async Collaboration Can Solve Your Meeting Problem

Written by 
Brianna Hansen
 and 
  —  
April 22, 2022
Calendar showing lots of chaos notifications across each day of the week.

Collaboration is a good thing ... when it's done right. Effective collaboration leads to breakthrough ideas, insightful discussion, and confidence-inspiring plans. 

Perhaps the most well-known way to collaborate is through meetings, whether they take place in person, virtually, or a mix of the two. In many people’s minds, the two are one and the same: meetings = collaboration. With this mindset, it’s easy to see why so many of our calendars are filled with meetings. We’re collaborating, after all!

This couldn’t be further from the truth. The idea that meetings are synonymous with collaboration is not only a common misconception — it’s actually costing your organization. 

A cluster of meeting notifications and money signs.

Think about it: A single hour-long meeting with six attendees, each earning $100,000 a year, costs $50 per person for a total of $300. 

It’s not enough to throw your brightest minds together and wing it. Simply put: collaboration should not be left to chance

So, what’s a collaborative but cost-savvy company to do? The good news is that leaders can learn new ways to collaborate that make teams happier, more effective, and even more productive — in and out of meetings. One of these methods is asynchronous (“async”) collaboration. 

What is asynchronous collaboration? 

Asynchronous collaboration is any type of communication where the involved parties contribute at different times.

Meetings are a form of synchronous (at the same time) collaboration. The opposite of synchronous collaboration is asynchronous (or async) collaboration. While the word “asynchronous” or “async” might sound intimidating, it just means you can work on it whenever you’d like. Participation isn’t tied to a specific time. 

With tools like email, shared docs, murals, looms, etc. at your team’s disposal, async isn’t just a theory; it’s something you can implement right away. And it can help you make the most of time spent together and apart. 

4 benefits of async collaboration 

So, how can async collaboration help solve your meeting problem(s)? Let’s go through four of the main benefits of this type of teamwork. 

1. Fixing the “too many meetings” issue

Take a look at your calendar. How many “syncs” or “status updates” do you see? If those meetings were suddenly moved to async, how much time would you save?

Updates and async are particularly well-suited to async work. In fact, any task or project that has clear expectations, is relatively easy to explain, and/or involves administrative rather than creative work, is a good candidate for async.

If your team is serious about meeting reduction, you’ll want to do an audit of all recurring meetings. Our async meeting calculator can help you determine which of them can be moved to asynchronous collaboration channels. 

2. Boosting productivity 

Research shows it takes around 23 minutes to refocus after being distracted. This makes it challenging to get anything done with a packed calendar.

Clocks showing 23 minutes.

With fewer meetings on your calendar, you’ll likely be able to accomplish more in your workday. More specifically, you and your colleagues will have time to engage in deep work — a state of focus, concentration, and productivity. This type of work produces those incredibly creative, “big picture” ideas — the things that make your organization stand out from the pack and help it prepare for the future.

3. Creating a more inclusive meeting culture 

We’ve all been in meetings dominated by one or two voices and struggled to get a word in. And the more introverted among us might not feel comfortable speaking up in-person even in the most democratic of meeting environments. Async gives these individuals the chance to add their thoughts, suggestions, and ideas in a less anxiety-inducing way. 

It’s also a great option for employees who need flexibility in terms of response time. These may be parents or other caregivers — or just people who prefer to think on something before giving a response. If you’re one of those people who has amazing ideas in the middle of the night or in the shower, you can simply capture it whenever inspiration strikes.

4. Making your must-have meetings more effective

Meetings are a big investment, so you want to make the most of them. Consider your last not-so-great meeting. If you moved the “status update” agenda item(s) to async, you’d have more time for discussion and active teamwork. And if everyone had gone over the meeting materials the night before? Or added suggestions to a “brainstorm” section early that day? You’d have even more time to work on the “meat” of the meeting. 

And this is perhaps the biggest benefit of asynchronous work. It doesn’t just reduce the number of meetings on your plate — it improves the meetings you do have. 

Quality over quantity when it comes to meetings

If you’re like most professionals, you’ve got too many meetings on your calendar. Moving some of them — or at least some of their associated tasks — to async can free up a lot of your time. Plus, it can make the meetings you do attend more effective. 

➡️ To learn more about why and how to make asynchronous work part of your team’s collaboration culture, check out our guide, How to Change Your Team’s Approach to Meetings 🗓️

About the author

About the authors

Brianna Hansen

Sr. Integrated Content Manager
Brianna is a storyteller at MURAL. When she's not writing about transforming teamwork, she enjoys swimming, cooking (& eating) Italian food, reading psychological thrillers, and playing with her two cats.