Why are digital whiteboards ideal for asynchronous work?
Digital whiteboards are wonderful collaborative tools and are particularly useful for teams, whether in meetings, workshops, or other training or development scenarios. But don’t be fooled into thinking that online whiteboards are only worth using when your team members are working together synchronously.
In fact, online whiteboards also have a lot to offer when your teams need to work asynchronously. Using an online whiteboard in these circumstances can allow your teams to work more efficiently and use their time more effectively. Your colleagues will be better able to control the pace of their own work, and therefore move forward on tasks as and when they can, and it is necessary.
What is asynchronous work?
Asynchronous work is work done independently by team members, without real-time communication or collaboration with others. Team members can therefore complete their tasks at their own pace and when it suits them best. This means it can be useful for when immediate feedback or input from other colleagues is not a priority. It empowers them to move forward on their own terms.
Projects might involve large teams and complicated timelines and deadlines, but people do not have to work in conjunction with others all the time. Individuals will still have opportunities to carry out elements of their work to their own schedule. This is particularly important for teams who are in different geographical locations or working in a hybrid work environment. The team still needs a centralized hub for all the relevant information to be housed.
Why asynchronous work is becoming increasingly popular
The Covid-19 pandemic and the unexpected and unprecedented move to remote work, combined with rapid advances in digital technologies, showed us that more flexible and distance work arrangements were possible – and, in fact, could be beneficial for companies and their employees alike.
Many employees felt that working remotely allowed them to seek a better work-life balance, or it saved them time and money. There has been some reticence for employees to return to pre-Covid working conditions and companies are having to deal with this. In the UK, for example, at the beginning of 2020, 5.7% of people worked from home. Asked in March 2023, 37% of British workers questioned said they had worked from home at least one day in the previous seven days.
While working remotely or on a hybrid basis offers many benefits to both an individual and for the company, it can also present certain challenges. Communication and coordination between team members can be more difficult, and it can be harder to know exactly who is doing what and when. It is vital that teams can find a balance between individual productivity and team collaboration.
Without the means to do this effectively teams run the risk of lagging behind and failing. A digital whiteboard is the obvious choice for when teams need to work collaboratively and as a team. They are also the not-quite-so-obvious choice for ensuring that asynchronous work is carried out in the best ways possible too.
How and when do teams work asynchronously?
Teams can work together in many different ways and for various different reasons. Some teams are brought together for specific projects, others will always work on the same team basis. Some may be working together in the same workspace, others may be geographically dispersed or have a hybrid working environment to navigate. There are various ways in which teams can end up working asynchronously and we’ll have a look at them here.
Teams working on specific projects
You might be on one team for one project, another for a second one. You might be working with people you have worked with in the past, or you might have a whole new set of people to contend with. When you are working on a project together there needs to be a degree of collaboration and understanding. However, this does not mean that you will all necessarily be at the same stage of your work at the same time. And this needs to be managed properly.
There will be times during project management when you might all be working to a fixed deadline, but you might not all need to be doing the same thing at the same time. Perhaps you need to finish a certain task before something else can get done, or vice versa. But there are also other occasions when you can complete your work regardless of what anyone else is doing. Or maybe you can get a head start on something for a different team project if you have reached a bottleneck elsewhere. Maybe you have some additional time you were not expecting.
Working asynchronously to get your tasks done when you have the opportunity can pay huge dividends if the rest of the team has managed to do the same: then, you are all suddenly ahead of schedule. Managing the process is key.
Teams working remotely
You may be working remotely but based in the same location, or you might be part of a team that is dispersed across the globe. Either way, there may be many reasons why you are not or cannot work on things at the same time. This could be due to personal commitments and preferences. It might be down to time zone differences or different days of the week off due to cultural or religious reasons. Teams still need to be able to work well together while apart and when working asynchronously.
Teams working on a 24-hour basis
You may not be expected to work a 24-hour shift but that does not mean that your team ever shuts down. For example, customer support teams might need the ability to respond to inquiries or complaints on a 24-hour basis. Your teams need to be able to work well asynchronously to achieve this.
Research and development teams
Research and development teams are likely to have periods when they work asynchronously on projects and come back together to update each other on their progress, review their findings, and so on. Being able to work together but separately within the remit of a project is vital.
What do asynchronous work and digital whiteboards have in common?
Team members working asynchronously at times can lead to many of the same benefits that digital whiteboards offer: put the two together and you have a winning combination!
For example, using a digital whiteboard for collaborative purposes gives your team members opportunities to find better ways of working. We will not go too far into the benefits of using a digital whiteboard in this article but, amongst other things, they can help teams improve performance and become more efficient.
Asynchronous work – and digital whiteboards – allow flexibility and accessibility, and can lead to better engagement, collaboration, teamwork, and team outcomes.
What qualities does an online whiteboard have to complement asynchronous work?
Team members need to be able to collaborate and share ideas, even if they are not doing it in real-time. Because digital whiteboards offer a centralized location for keeping files, timelines, ideas, documents and so on, they can be used for this purpose too. This can help to improve teamwork and increase engagement among team members.
A project might need team members to undertake tasks only when they receive feedback from another team. If you know what is expected of you and can go away and do it in your own time, while still being able to contribute your ideas and thoughts to the team without having to wait for a meeting or an official channel, the outcome is likely to be better. Ideas are less likely to be lost or discounted by the person who had them as not valid or workable, for example. Feedback can be collected on an ongoing basis and used to inform the next phase of a project.
As we know, not all teams work in the same workspace, or even in the same time zone. Online whiteboards are accessible regardless of where your team members are located and whenever they wish to access them. Depending on where you are in the world and your personal circumstances, this might be preferable. After all, the weekend varies around the world, and so do public holidays. Then, all team members can access and contribute to an online whiteboard at their own pace and from their preferred location, regardless of time zone or specified working hours.
All the information relating to a specific project can be kept on an online whiteboard because they are not limited by size or scope. This makes it easier to keep track of the progress of tasks, no matter who is charged with performing them or where they are situated. This also means that other team members can understand at what stage everyone else is and how what they are doing fits in.
Not every team is the same, and neither is every project. Online whiteboards can be customized to fit the needs of the team and the project, making it easier for asynchronous work to be managed and accounted for. And as different people learn and assimilate information in different ways, online whiteboards benefit those who learn and understand information better if they can see a representation of it, using the power of visual management.
If you are working asynchronously you may not always be able to go to another team member to ask for advice or clarification right now. By keeping all the files in the same place and allowing team members to see information in more visual ways, it is easier for everyone to keep up to speed with what is going on with their own personal tasks and those of other team members.
How can team members work on a digital whiteboard on their own?
Because digital whiteboards are known as such a great collaboration tool, it is often assumed that they are only useful for teamwork. This is not the case. There are many things you can use your team’s online whiteboard for when you are working on the project on your own.
Brainstorming is a popular technique, particularly used in the design thinking process to create innovative and exciting new ideas. Typically, it is seen as a team process. However, it works on an individual basis too. You can either start with a blank canvas or use a template to help you come up with new ideas. The same goes for mind mapping.
It can sometimes be overwhelming to think about all the tasks you will need to do for a project. Digital whiteboards can be useful for project planning, and not just for the project as a whole. You can create a visual representation of your section of a project and include all the relevant information you want, For example, if you map out timelines, milestones, and tasks, it is easy to break down complex projects into more manageable pieces. You will also be able to track your progress more easily.
Using your digital whiteboard for asynchronous teamwork
Online whiteboards are a powerful tool, and it would be a shame to neglect them just because your teams are working asynchronously. Using it, the team will work more efficiently together, even though the individual members are working separately. Teamwork is not just about working in one location on the same thing at the same time.
At Klaxoon we have created all the tools and templates you need to help your teams become more efficient, even when they are working asynchronously. Online whiteboards help drive creativity and innovation, as well as increase engagement and productivity, regardless of where your team members are or what they are working on.
Why not check out our resources page to see how our tools and templates can help your business work better?