Are async meetings the future?

It’s no understatement to say the way we are working and communicating is shifting. Video meetings are now vital for many businesses—but they have their drawbacks. Learn how asynchronous meetings can help virtual teams with their collaboration and productivity.

An illustration of a professional working from home on a laptop.

More flexible work opportunities—including hybrid and virtual-first teams—are here to stay. According to a 2020 study by PwC, 83% of employees want to work remotely for at least one day per week since the pandemic.

As more businesses move towards remote working, communication and collaboration technologies are becoming essential. Video meetings are now a commonplace method of keeping remote teams connected and engaged.

Yet, video meetings can be chaotic—not to mention exhausting when used to excess. Slow internet connections, overlapping conversations, and a general lack of productivity are just some issues remote workers encounter with video meetings.

In fact, an Atlassian infographic indicates we spend 31 hours per month on average in unproductive meetings. So how can you leverage the benefits of virtual meetings, without sacrificing productivity, team engagement, and connectivity?

Enter: asynchronous (“async”) meetings.

A professional sits on the floor at home while working on a laptop.

Let’s start with the basics… what do we mean by “async”?

Asynchronous communication occurs when one person (or group) provides information, and there is a time lag before the recipients provide their response. 

A classic example of async communication is email—messages don’t require an immediate response and there are gaps or delays in the exchanges.

Put simply, an async meeting doesn't happen in real-time. It will be organized and planned to some extent, but will not require a schedule. Communications may be one-way, such as a pre-recorded training video, or more interactional like on-demand video messages.

Async video meetings are not live streamed—instead, they are recorded so they can be watched and reviewed later. 

What’s the difference between asynchronous and synchronous meetings?

So, you may be wondering what makes asynchronous meetings different. Well, if you’ve worked remotely for a while now, it’s likely that most of your meetings have been synchronous. This means that they are live and require participants to be active at the same time.

Like async meetings, sync meetings allow you to engage with colleagues and clients even when location is an issue. However, sync meetings have to be scheduled and a record of the meeting may or may not be taken for future reference.

In summary:

  • Synchronous meetings happen in real-time—live video meetings on platforms such as Zoom require a two-way conversation between participants. Participants review the meeting materials together and feedback is immediate
  • Asynchronous meetings are the opposite—they aren’t live-streamed and the communication doesn’t happen in real-time. Async video meetings are recorded and shared so the content can be shared and viewed at a later time
A professional works at home and sits on the sofa while working on their laptop.

What are the benefits of async meetings?

Async meetings present new opportunities for businesses to innovate and become more flexible. Let’s look at a few reasons why async meetings would benefit your business.

Greater flexibility

Async meetings are a must-have for hybrid, distributed, and virtual-first remote teams. By avoiding the inconvenience of in-person meetings, businesses can expand their talent pool and recruitment opportunities beyond the limits of the office.

This approach also allows you to work across different time zones and platforms. If you have clients in other countries, you won’t have to worry about scheduling a meeting that’s too early for one team and too late for another!

Removing the pressure of an immediate response means team members are less likely to experience burnout if there are competing stresses and demands on their time.

On a personal level, an asynchronous approach demonstrates that you trust your team members. It shows that you have confidence in their abilities to fulfill their roles without the constant contact of supervisors or managers.

You can regain control of your schedule and free up the time you would spend in must-attend meetings (that may or may not be productive!) Team members can watch a video meeting at their own pace, at a time and place that is convenient for them.

Better productivity

Compared to synchronous communication—and its seemingly endless stream of notifications—there are fewer interruptions involved with asynchronous work.

Because you can consume async content when it suits you, you have the opportunity to catch up on a video meeting when you are feeling the most productive during the workday or when you are in the right headspace to really concentrate.

Async meetings enable you to be more proactive than reactive in working and collaborating with colleagues. You won’t have to rush to watch a video or feel the pressure to respond to a meeting as quickly as possible.

With no post-meeting fatigue, as you might experience after live video calls, you’ll be fresher and more prepared. When you’re allowed the space to watch an async meeting with your full attention—and have the ability to pause or rewind the video—any feedback that is expected of you will be sharper and more focused.

Additionally, async meetings enable more colleagues to contribute to discussions. Multiple voices or dominating personalities in synchronous video calls can drown out quieter team members. The async alternative encourages better participation and collaboration.

A professional works in their home office.

Capture meetings for future reference

The nature of async meetings cuts out the reliance on manual note-taking and memory for relaying information after the meeting is over.

With a tool like Dropbox Capture, you can create a record system of video meetings for current and future employees to use when needed. This makes it much easier to provide training videos for new starters, and even seminars for the whole team to access.

By capturing meetings that can be reviewed at any time, you contribute to a work culture of transparency and trust. The recordings will be available to support you if you need to revisit your project goals or expectations.

So, are async meetings the future of work?

According to Buffer, 20% of remote workers find it a struggle to collaborate and communicate with their team. If this sounds familiar, async meetings may offer a solution—they remove many of the constraints of synchronous meetings and give teams more flexibility.

Async meetings help you innovate and adapt your business in a time of shifting work cultures and unprecedented challenges to productivity. 

However, sync meetings don’t need to be entirely replaced—but they shouldn’t be your priority, either. Some team members and clients may prefer face-to-face conversations rather than recorded videos. Additionally, you will need to bear in mind the lag in response time associated with async meetings for projects that have tight deadlines.

Ideally, you should find a balance with tools that allow your business to grow in line with your long-term goals. A platform like Dropbox Capture not only removes the pressure to attend meetings, but also enables team members to provide feedback on videos with frame-accurate comments.

A video of a screen capture in Dropbox Capture.

No syncing feeling

With remote and hybrid working becoming more common, video meetings are becoming the norm for many businesses. With Dropbox Capture, async meetings are a breeze.

Your teams, both near and far, will thank you for allowing them to take control of their schedules and produce great work in the time they may have spent in pointless meetings.