Have you ever tried keeping track of the different communication mediums you use during the day? Right now, most of you are working remotely, and remote teams use a suite of tools for various reasons:
- Stand-up call with the team: Web conferencing tool
- Interactions with your customers and other stakeholders: Emails and phone calls
- Quick banter, work updates and everything in between: Chat software
- Reviews and feedback: Video calls and screen recordings
- Task assignment and tracking: Project management tools
This is not an exhaustive list, but it gives a great overview of how our communication pattern looks. Now take a moment, and look at the contrarian nature of some of the tools that you use.
Web conferencing, phone calls, and video calls are examples of synchronous communication tools. Team communication has to be done on an instant basis. When you’re having an synchronous conversation, you’re present in real-time to carry on the communication.
On the other hand, there are tools like email software, screen recorders, chat software, and project management tools. When you use these tools, you have the choice of replying to someone at your preferred time. Like a chat, you can reply to it instantly or later. All of these tools are asynchronous tools, and when you use them to interact with others, you’re indulging in asynchronous communication.
In this blog, we will talk about asynchronous communication in detail. What are its benefits and drawbacks, why do companies rely on them, and what are the most common asynchronous communication tools used in workplaces.
What is asynchronous communication?
Asynchronous communication is a conversation not done in real time.
When two or more people exchange information without expecting to get an immediate reply, they’re said to be conversing in an asynchronous manner. When you participate in asynchronous communication, you have the choice of deciding when you want to reply to the text or chat message you have just received from your friend, colleague or family member.
Asynchronous communication takes a laid back approach to communication. While this may not sound that great, it comes with a lot of benefits (which we will explore later in this blog). It works well for the kind of jobs that demand an extended time of concentration. By managing most of the communication asynchronously, you can give yourself the time to focus on the task in hand instead of spending time taking calls.
Phone or video meetings require you to be online or present in real-time to share information. If this is done too frequently, a major amount of your time gets spent on just communicating with others.
This is only the basic detail of asynchronous communication.Now let's move deeper into understanding the differences between synchronous and asynchronous communication.
Asynchronous vs. synchronous communication
To get a more holistic view, here’s a detailed comparison table showing the differences between synchronous and asynchronous communication.
A form of communication done between two or more people without staying active at the same time. It’s not required to be done in real-time. Therefore, even if the users are offline, a conversation can still take place.
A form of communication done between two or more people in real-time. To have a synchronous conversation, all the attendees have to be present. Without that, it’s not possible to have a conversation.
Asynchronous communication is slow and may take more time to complete a conversation. There can be a delay in replies, as thoughts and ideas can be discussed only when the user wishes to reciprocate
Synchronous communication is faster. As the replies come almost instantly, it takes a lot less time to exchange information
Best suited for
Asynchronous communication is a great choice for tasks that require extensive research and deep thinking. Here, a higher amount of time has to be spent on thinking. Not suitable for tasks that require quick results
Synchronous communication is the best choice for tasks that demand quick action. Real-time discussion or information sharing can help to reach a decision at a faster pace. This type of communication is not suitable for jobs that requires deep research
Asynchronous communication is less personal. There is a delay in the interactions. Therefore, the participants cannot see or hear each other in real-time. With screen recording videos, the conversation can be made personal to a great extent.
Synchronous communication is more personal. As it’s done in real-time, participants can interact while looking at each other. This helps in building a personal connection. Like having a phone conversation with a prospect to solve their product-related issues.
Why do companies rely on asynchronous communication?
Knowing the definition and the difference between synchronous and asynchronous communication is a great way of building an understanding of this subject. In this part of the blog, we will take a step further, and find out why companies are relying on asynchronous communication and including it in their work culture.
A more productive form of communication
Fewer interruptions = higher productivity. Asynchronous communication allows employees to work on a task for a longer period. Since the communication is not done in real-time, there is no need to hop into a call or a meeting in between. Automatically, it helps them to get more things done at a specific time. As companies are obsessing over productivity, asynchronous communication tools have become a natural choice for them.
Thoughtful communication among teams
Well-connected teams can increase productivity by 25%. By developing an asynchronous work culture, companies can expect to strengthen the connectivity between these teams. Asynchronous communication has a more empathetic approach to teamwork.
Instead of scheduling video meetings and phone calls every hour, by using asynchronous tools, at least a few communication tasks can be delayed. This will give team members more time to gather their thoughts, and think more deeply. In the long run, this will encourage employees to collaborate more effectively.
Better overall relationship within the company
When you let your employees concentrate on their work, and establish firm ground for thoughtful communication with their peers, it builds an overall positive relationship within the company. It creates a fine balance between achieving personal deadlines and contributing to teamwork with an open communication atmosphere. It also helps in retaining employees, as 62% of them tend to reject other job offers when they have a close relationship with their teammates at the workplace.
Easy communication in different time-zones
If you work with people from different geographical locations and diverse time zones, then asynchronous communication has the upper hand when it comes to communication. Due to time limitations, you cannot expect all your team members to be available for a synchronous call every time.
Asynchronous communication is more helpful for interacting with your team. You can use the time lag to your advantage by being more mindful about what you say, and use it as an opportunity to construct deeper relationships with remote teams. Therefore, an asynchronous communication tool is a must-have in the list of remote work resources.
Helps to keep a trail of communication
Many asynchronous communication tools depend on written communication. This sounds like extra work because talking is more spontaneous and easy as compared to thoughtful writing. However, it has a silver lining. With asynchronous communication, you can keep track of the communication. You can always go back, refer to previous communication, and draw new insights. This gets more important when you use asynchronous communication for interacting with customers. It helps in dispute resolution and acts as a knowledge base for the teams
Benefits of asynchronous communication
A few companies are reaping the benefits of using asynchronous communication in their workplace. A few will transition to remote work in the coming times, and adopt asynchronous tools. As an employee, what are the benefits you can expect from this form of communication? Find out in this section of the blog.
Lower mental stress
Synchronous communication can get stressful if done too frequently. Imagine attending back-to-back video meetings with multiple members. You have to switch attention between different speakers, stay attentive all the time, and speak up when it’s your turn.
This combination can become overwhelming and ultimately lead to problems like Zoom fatigue, whereas asynchronous communication keeps you miles away from this kind of stress. When you have the power to decide what and when you want to communicate, you have better control over your communication and mental balance.
Easier to participate in discussions
Not everyone is comfortable participating in live online calls. Even the thought of it can be a traumatic experience for someone having social anxiety. The nervousness arises from the fear of being judged or compared with others. In such a case, synchronous calls can be counterproductive for the team.
With asynchronous communication, employees can easily let go of this feeling. There is no pressure on them as to how they sound or look. Moreover, they don’t have to suffer from palpitations when someone asks them for their opinions or thoughts. They can construct it in their own time and share it with others.
Seventy percent of employees prefer flexibility in their jobs. It makes their job more attractive to them. This is understandable because a lot of employees give higher importance to their work-life balance. Remote working provides flexibility to an extent. But if the communication is mostly synchronous, it doesn’t stay that way for a long time. Their productive hours are taken by calls and meetings.
By using more asynchronous methods of communication employees can plan their work schedule more effectively. They can not only decide the work schedule but also when they want to communicate with others. They get more freedom to do their job at the best time without interruptions, and schedule replying to chats and emails later during the day.
Deep work means getting into a productive zone where you work for an extended period without distraction. For remote teams, deep work is very important for producing effective results. This can be achieved with asynchronous communication. By limiting the number of synchronous calls, employees can get into a flow and tunnel their vision on completing the task.
If you have read the blog till here, there’s one thing that you must have realized already: asynchronous communication helps you have more control over your schedule. By schedule, it means both work and communication.
This is important for employees as they get their job done, communicate thoughtfully with their peers, have better mental satisfaction, and are a lot happier. It’s also good for companies as they don’t have to worry about lower employee turnover rates, and spend extra dollars on hiring new talent every time. This is one of those off-beat examples where higher control leads to more results.
Drawbacks of asynchronous communication
Asynchronous communication has many positives. It gives more freedom, encourages thoughtful communication, supports deep work, and helps to maintain a better work-life balance. However, it also has a few drawbacks which can come in the way of daily work. Here are the three major disadvantages of using asynchronous communication tools that you should be aware of.
Less personal appeal
Asynchronous communication gives more time to reply to a conversation. But, while doing that it loses the personalization that synchronous communication offers. Live face-to-face interaction is limited which can have a negative impact on the employees. A longer duration without such interactions can make them feel left out. Personalization in communication is important for customers too.
Eighty-four percent of customers agreed on spending more on a brand that provides personalized customer service. In such an instance, if you’re choosing emails over phone calls, you may end up losing customers. Moreover, there is always a risk of your written communication getting misunderstood which will add to your trouble
More time in taking actions
In a competitive landscape, businesses thrive by taking quick actions. Usually, these actions are taken after having thorough discussions with the team. In a synchronous call, every team member can participate in real-time, put forward their ideas, and get things rolling. This is just not possible with asynchronous communication.
As people have the choice to interact with others at their own time, they may not participate instantly. This delays the process of taking action. Decisions get stuck in a communication limbo jeopardizing business gains. If you manage a business where actions have to be taken almost immediately, then using asynchronous communication for limited interactions will yield better returns for your business.
Not good for instant brainstorming
Similar to fast-footed actions, instant brainstorming doesn’t go well with asynchronous communication. Brainstorming sessions are important to develop a participative and collaborative environment within a company. Not all brainstorming meetings will have a concrete solution, but it encourages employees to share their ideas and views.
With synchronous calls, they can do it instantly, and get feedback too. They don’t have to wait for others to reply in their time. Brainstorming can be done with asynchronous tools, but the priority and expectation have to be set that way. The participants should be given clear instruction on how things work out in an asynchronous way, and what they should expect.
9 software tools for efficient asynchronous communication
Let’s uncover the most common asynchronous tools used in workplaces and remote working environments.
With over 3 million emails sent every second, it’s not too hard to relate to the working dynamics of email communication tools. Emails are asynchronous because once you send them, you do not expect an immediate response. It’s an acceptable norm for the receiver to reply at their own time.
Due to the ease of use, emails are a popular mode of communication within and outside the organization. Be it team discussions or customer support, emails do a great job of establishing clear communication.
Project management software
Project management is an essential part of daily working in a corporate and remote working environment alike. Using project management software, teams maintain a scrum or a kanban board to keep a track of activities. They communicate asynchronously by moving cards in different categories. The categories mostly reflect what tasks have been completed, how many are in progress, and how many have to be started.
Teams also comment on each other’s cards and add team members as collaborators to interact on the progress. Project management software is a great example of how you can get things done without always getting on a synchronous call.
Instant messaging software
Teams rely on instant messages, also known as chats to share reviews, feedback, and updates that don’t require sending an email. Instant messages are usually shorter in length and more convenient for quick messaging. It saves time and can be more productive when there are many tasks lined up to be completed. Teams can create separate fun groups to have non-work discussions without interrupting their work schedule.
Screen sharing software
Screen sharing software allows users to share their content on a laptop or computer screen with others asynchronously. They can also do webcam recording along with voice narration. Screen recorders are one of those very few tools that help to have video communication albeit in an asynchronous manner.
It works very well for giving personal feedback, recording tutorial videos, embedding in welcome emails and video presentations too. With the increase in the number of remote workers, screen recorders surely have a bright future in the video communication space.
Knowledge management software
Knowledge management software is a type of content management software used by companies and conglomerates to build a repository of information. The information usually consists of processes that can be accessed by everyone else in the company.
Anyone can contribute to knowledge management software on an ongoing basis. It’s an example of an asynchronous communication tool as it gives them the freedom to build an information system together at their own pace. Co-creators can also comment or update each other’s information thereby collaborating toward a common goal.
Online forum software
Online forums are very popular for indulging employees and customers in the product growth journey of a company. Internet users like forums too, as 15% of them actively participate by reading and commenting in online forums and communities. It also has a strategic advantage for companies; when you build a community with stakeholders, they take a personal interest in the growth and trust you more.
In a forum, employees can post questions to get answers from their teammates. Similarly, customers can also post questions, feature requests, and updates on product development. Since the intention here is to inform rather than having a conversation, the discussions mostly remain asynchronous.
Surveys and polls are similar to online forums. The major difference is that surveys may not be ongoing. It’s conducted from time to time to understand customer feedback, product review, and market expectations. Similarly, it can also be done internally to know what the employees think about the company.
Surveys can be done in a synchronous manner, like phone surveys. However, asynchronous surveys are more preferable as they’re less intimidating and give more time to think while sharing feedback. In an asynchronous survey, companies share a feedback form with pre-filled questions. Customers or employees can enter their thoughts when they feel like doing it. There is no undue pressure of answering immediately.
Digital whiteboard software
Online digital whiteboards are brainstorming tools. Instead of scheduling a video or phone call to talk about new ideas or inspirations, digital whiteboards allow you to do that with the same effectiveness in an asynchronous way. It also gives more freedom to play around with the interface by customizing it as per your liking. You can create boards and add notes to share ideas.
Brainstorming sounds more attractive when done over synchronous communication mediums. However, asynchronous tools like whiteboard software help to look at things visually which unlocks new possibilities.
Meeting management software
Executives feel that 67% of the meetings fail miserably in communicating the principal agenda of the meeting. That’s more than 5 million meetings each day. The productivity loss is abysmal. Agendaless meetings are more hampering for remote teams as employees have a higher personal responsibility of getting things done.
To have more thoughtful and purposeful meetings, meeting management software is very helpful. You cannot just nullify synchronous meetings, but you can set a better agenda by using these tools. Meeting management software empowers team members to plan ahead what they want to discuss in the call. They can set agendas, timelines, and add documents to have focused collaboration. This way every team member is crystal clear on the meeting plan and approach, too.
Asynchronous communication: the key to successful remote teams
Remote working is a lot about owning responsibility and getting things done within the timeline. Therefore, it demands deep work and more flexibility in communication. Asynchronous communication offers both. Remote workers can focus on tasks on hand and schedule replying to messages later when they’re done. This eliminates stress and ensures a better work-life balance.
This is more applicable for remote teams that are distributed worldwide working in different time zones. With so many new remote workers joining the brigade, asynchronous communication will be in more demand, and highly preferred by remote teams.