As IT leaders evolve current unified communications strategies and invest in technologies to support remote and hybrid work through meeting equity, asynchronous workflows have come into the spotlight.
Already growing before the pandmic — accounting for 27% of knowledge workers and 17% of all workers in 2019 — remote and hybrid work looks only set to increase as companies and organizations find the level right for their business and culture. In fact, Researchers estimate that 25% of all professional jobs in North America will be remote by the end of 2022, and this percentage will continue to rise, leading people like Harvard Business School professor Prithwiraj Choudhury to declare, "We will probably in 10 years stop calling this 'remote work.' We'll just call it work."
With these asynchronous communication styles quickly becoming mainstream, real-time meetings and presentations are increasingly evolving toward recorded events that can be consumed on demand or as a transcript. Capturing the benefits of asynchronous workflows — and avoiding the pitfalls — requires thoughtful planning and the right technology.
An asynchronous workflow refers to any communication or process that's not in real time. There are numerous examples within business and life such as text messages, podcasts, on-demand webinars, video content, and email. One individual generates content on their timeline, and others consume it when they can, even going back repeatedly to reference the information shared. This kind of workflow enables people to more easily access information across multiple platforms, too.
With remote and hybrid work styles being more firmly and comprehensively integrated into business and the need to collaborate effectively across time zones, these asynchronous workflows have rapidly become the day-to-day life of knowledge workers. They are also providing what today's workforce wants most: flexibility.
"Asynchronous communication continues to reinforce flexibility," says Martin Bodley, market lead for Bose Professional, "not only on our physical location but also on our time, enabling flexibility on our calendar."
Businesses have long relied on unified communications to power workflows and collaboration in environments where key employees are located across incompatible time zones. For example, a technology executive on the East Coast may need to rely largely on asynchronous communications to work with an Asia-based development team.
Today, this goes one step further in the expanded use and comfort around video tools seen in the trend towards capturing information for the flexible consumption, even when employees are in the same place. That demand is driving innovation in some of the most familiar products used in offices.
"Microsoft has now included a record button in its latest release of PowerPoint, instead of relying on third-party products to record presentations," notes Bodley. "That's a testimony to the customer demand for more content-capturing tools in today's marketplace."
Bodley notes that in addition to the wide adoption of unified communications platforms such as Zoom and Microsoft Teams, hardware continues to evolve, providing the technology infrastructure companies need to realize the full value of asynchronous work..
"In the hardware space, there are desktop devices that are customized for high-performance content capture with high-quality, advanced studio lighting, and sophisticated audio capabilities," says Bodley.
Transcriptions are also playing an important role in everything from recordkeeping to meeting equity. Some providers are offering AI-powered transcriptions that are increasingly accurate.
"This strengthens the value of our asynchronous workflows, because people can read transcripts later, complete with speaker attribution," notes Bodley. Transcription can also serve as the basis for translation and localization for multi-lingual global teams to help break down communication barriers.
When applied properly, asynchronous workflows can provide ample benefits, starting with improved collaboration from team members, especially those who may have felt less empowered to contribute in real-time settings.
"In a live environment, certain people are always going to speak up, while others are shy, introverted, or need more time to consider their response. Those individuals are going to be more likely to speak up in an asynchronous environment. It fosters a much more equitable opportunity to contribute, and that has a lot of value, as you're hearing from everyone at the table," says Bodley.
He also highlights the opportunities for asynchronous communication and collaboration to invite participation from leadership and key contributors who may have to miss meetings due to packed schedules. Asynchronous meetings can also be used to save time and record content such as weekly standups or project updates that can be consumed at will.
Investing in the technology to power smooth, asynchronous workflows is critical. While workers may have some tolerance for glitchy live meetings, it's crucial to achieve the smoothest, most natural experience possible to both build confidence and deliver the best possible recording. Audio and visual quality impacts everything from replay quality to the ability to generate accurate transcriptions. "The audio quality of what you're capturing to enable this asynchronous workflow is paramount," says Bodley.
Given the importance of non-verbal communication, it's also vital to think about video capture and display. "If you look at how prevelant high-quality video capture is in consumer social apps, there's an increasing priority on the caliber of the content you capture on video. We all expect the experience to be high quality," says Bodley. "The way we communicate is more than just our words; we communicate with body language, facial expressions, intonation, and all of that is captured."
With audio and video quality in mind, IT leaders should explore the technologies that are best designed to support high-quality capture and replay in a variety of settings.
For individual remote and hybrid workers, noise cancelling headsets can deliver professional audio quality and make it easier to screen out distractions. For small or midsize meeting rooms, integrated videobar solutions can deliver easy-to-operate audio and video that integrates with unified communications platforms.
The Bose Professional Videobar VB-S, for example, offers four beam-steering microphones, a 4K ultra-HD camera, and signature Bose Professional sound for rooms up to 10 feet x 10 feet. The Bose Professional Videobar VB1 offers expanded capabilities, including six beam-steering microphones, to deliver the same high-quality recording and playback experience for rooms up to 20 feet x 20 feet.
The workplace has changed a lot over the last two years, and it will continue to change and evolve. Companies are rethinking their approach to technology to accommodate today's way of working. This will be an important, competitive advantage tomorrow. Asynchronous workflows and relying on unified communications tools will only increase as Gen Z and younger generations come into the workforce.
"Take a look at teenagers. I have three kids and see how they use their phones. They make one or two calls per month. But their texts and notifications are in the thousands. With an entire generation growing up this way, that asynchronous mindset is bound to have a significant impact on the workforce. In fact, it already is," says Bodley.