We are familiar with technological evolution — the advancement in technology, the lightning-fast information exchange, and the subsequent changes in the way we live, and work today. It takes time to catch up with the changes, but eventually, it works well for most of us.
Talking about changes, a few of them that seemed ludicrous or unnecessary a few years back are now actively sought after by companies and employees alike. For instance, remote working. Earlier, not many companies were willing to consider this form of the working environment. Fast-forward to current times, remote working is trending. Yes, we do have to give unceremonious credit to the pandemic for acting as a catalyst, but we can’t discount the fact that without technological impetus we could have been in a state of limbo.
Remote working is great, and it’s here to stay. But, that’s a discussion for another day. In this blog, we will discuss how remote working has made us switch consciously to a more thoughtful form of communication known as asynchronous communication. With remote working as a background, asynchronous communication has started getting the attention it always deserved.
There are many facets to understanding asynchronous communication. Let’s start by uncovering them, starting with the definition.
This Article Covers:
(Click on a link below to jump to a specific section)
- What Is Asynchronous Communication?
- Difference Between Synchronous And Asynchronous Communication
- Advantages Of Asynchronous Communication
- Examples Of Asynchronous Communication
- How Have Async-first Companies Embraced Asynchronous Communication In Their Daily Tasks
- Most Commonly Used Forms Of Asynchronous Communication And Tools
What Is Asynchronous Communication?
Asynchronous communication is exchanging information, ideas, thoughts between two or more people, but without staying active at the same time.
Let’s give this definition one more shot.
Asynchronous communication is any form of communication between two or more people NOT done in real-time. So, when you’re in an asynchronous conversation, you cannot expect the other person to reply instantly. They may or may not reply immediately. There is a matter of choice here which you don’t find in synchronous forms of communication.
Ok, now before we head on to the next section, here’s a quick challenge to make sure that you have got the definition right.
Do phone calls qualify as asynchronous communication?
If you said NO to that, then you’re right. You have got the concept.
If you answer YES, then reread the definition and try to compare it with one of your phone call conversations. Unless the other person was active on the call, you would have been talking to yourself. Therefore, in a nutshell, phone calls are synchronous communication.
Alright, we have a solid understanding of the subject. Let’s continue the example and go deep into understanding how asynchronous communication is different from synchronous communication.
Difference Between Synchronous And Asynchronous Communication
The best way of understanding the difference between synchronous and asynchronous communication is by comparing them using different parameters in a tabular format
|Parameter||Synchronous Communication||Asynchronous Communication|
|Definition||Any form of communication that is done between two or more people in real-time is synchronous communication||Asynchronous communication is not done in real-time. It has a more laid back approach where communication can happen even when the users are offline|
|Reply time||In synchronous mode, you do not get a lot of time to reply. Since the communication is happening in real-time, your reply has to be more or less instant||In asynchronous mode, you get more time to think through your reply. As it’s not in real-time, there is a lower demand for your reply to be instantaneous|
|Suitable for||Great for discussions and meetings where fast action is required. Hopping on a real-time call, taking everyone’s views and executing the plan is the normal flow of such calls||It is most suitable for discussions where more thought has to be given to a piece of information or assignment. Instant results or fast action are not expected.|
|Remote working||Can get a little frustrating if there are too many synchronous calls. Especially when the team is spread in different countries and time zones||Asynchronous communication works very well for remote teams. As it doesn’t demand physical presence; employees can reply to messages in their own time|
|Personal appeal||This type of communication is more personal because the interaction is direct. Moreover, as everyone can hear, see or talk to each other in real-time, it automatically builds a more personal connection||This type of communication is less personal as there is a gap between the message sent, received, and responded to. It might not be the right choice where a high level of personal service is required. Having said that, there are asynchronous tools like screen recorders that can make communication a bit more personal with webcam recording|
Advantages Of Asynchronous Communication
Asynchronous communication has its own strengths and weaknesses. For some areas, it fits the bill perfectly, while in some it might not be the right choice of communication. Nevertheless, it still makes a lot of sense to concentrate on the advantages of embracing asynchronous communication in your daily schedule.
Here are the top benefits that you should know —
Cal Newport introduced the term deep work in his book of that title. In his book, he explains deep work as a state where you focus on your task for an extended time without any distractions.
For a company, especially for a remote company, deep work can be extremely beneficial. Working from a remote location is difficult, but with deep work, teams can get a lot of work done. Asynchronous communication is a boon for getting into that zone.
With limited meetings, almost no phone calls, and most of the communication done using asynchronous tools, you can almost guarantee that a lot of productive work can be done more efficiently.
With asynchronous communication, you get the flexibility to respond. This is not possible with synchronous communication.
To explain this point further here is an example: you can respond to an email later, but when you’re on a phone call, you have to be actively present in the conversation.
The option of delaying the response allows you to schedule your work and prioritize high-priority tasks first. You can set a time slot for checking chats, replying to emails, or catching up on company forum discussions.
More Mental Peace
Synchronous communication can become taxing after a point in time. You can feel exhausted after a string of calls and back-to-back meetings without actually accomplishing anything. What follows is a state of frustration, ultimately leading to burnout. This has become more common after the pandemic.
As the labor force around the world transposed from office hives to their couches and coffee tables at home, synchronous calls and meetings started to make up for the lack of face-to-face human interaction. Due to this cumulative experience, Zoom fatigue developed – a phenomenon caused by regular and greater-than-needed exposure to synchronous messaging tools.
On the other hand, asynchronous communication does things on a lighter note. By cutting out the instant nature, it gives us more breathing space. The demand for being online, listening, and participating in conversations is absent. Which means you have more time to think and act.
Basically, you do your productive work when it requires your full attention, and you deal with the emails and messages later. A win-win for your work and mental goals.
Poor communication has a detrimental impact on office work. 28% of employees admitted that lack of proper communication is the reason why they’re not able to deliver work on time. Having a thoughtful approach to communication is a way to evade this problem.
Synchronous communication tools can keep your interactions thoughtful. However, asynchronous tools have an upper hand here –
- This mode of communication offers more time to think, explore, introspect and act.
- It has higher viability of employees coming up with better and well-thought ideas.
- Also, the drive to communicate ideas is more intrinsic here and not influenced by performance pressure.
- The best part about this form of communication is that over time, the company stands to benefit from the improved communication standards among its employees. As communication gets better, the company performs better monetarily.
As asynchronous communication becomes more popular in the work culture of a company, it starts influencing external communication too. Using more asynchronous communication tools to talk to customers, partners and other stakeholders can give good returns.
For instance, instead of making a prospect sit in an hour-long demo session, a screen recording can do the work. Similarly, a video message can replace an introductory phone call. In both examples, the prospects or customers have more time to analyze the product.
Here, it becomes like a relay race. You’re passing on the benefits of asynchronous communication to your external agents, thereby influencing the whole ecosystem of the company.
Examples Of Asynchronous Communication
We ended the last paragraph with a few examples about using asynchronous techniques to forego live calls. Let’s take it ahead and explore a few more possibilities where asynchronous techniques can be very helpful in changing everyday work
It may take customers time to become familiar with different modules of the product. They may get stuck as they are exploring new features. Thus ensues a series of calls and screen-sharing sessions. This is fine; this is what the usual procedure is.
However, maintaining a collection of short tutorial videos for each feature of the product may change this.
In this case, all you have to do is embed the link in an email or share the link to the video via chat. They can access the video anytime they want, watch it many times, and get solutions to their problem too.
Performing code reviews is a common task for senior developers. Basically, they analyze the codes written by junior developers and share their feedback to improve the code in different areas. Face-to-face code review meetings occur often in offices, which can consume the most productive time.
A great alternative to this is screen recording videos. It’s easy to record and highlight the areas of improvement. Along with this, you can record your voice, which is more or less like having a private conversation with them. As a result, you can accomplish more work without affecting working hours.
Companies invest a lot of time in designing employee training programs. A lot of them are instructor-led, which is understandable.
However, the entire process doesn’t necessarily require a human presence. A one-time investment in developing training resources, go-to guides, takeaways, and leaflets can help save time and resources. Uploading these documents onto the company intranet will reduce the burden of training new recruits on every little thing. It will give them the choice to check things at their own pace, and refer to the document multiple times if needed.
How Have Async-first Companies Embraced Asynchronous Communication In Their Daily Tasks
While we were talking about examples, it also makes sense to include the names of a few companies that have stayed ahead of time by embracing asynchronous communication in their work.
A time tracking tool that can help with time tracking, reporting, and improving the productivity of your tasks. They have been propagating different ideas for remote teams to work and communicate more effectively. Their blog section is very rich with valuable information, like the blog post on remote work influencers who write about asynchronous communication. It’s worth checking out.
Doist is the flag bearer for adopting async communication in their office culture. They are also confident that remote working is the future, and eventually, many companies will have to embrace asynchronous communication to keep things steady within the company.
Doist has published many blogs and guides on how companies can get started. They even hosted a candid Q&A session where their team answered questions surrounding remote working, asynchronous communication, and teamwork. Here’s the link to the video: Ask Doist
Gitlab is another company that has taken the concept of asynchronous communication very seriously. Being a platform principally getting attention from developers, it understands the need for deep work. And, for that, it has a well-researched and well-written guide on async communication.
It has covered a fair extensive amount of details ranging from when you should and shouldn’t plan an asynchronous meeting to how it impacts your mental health. This is highly recommended — transparency on capacity.
Most Commonly Used Forms Of Asynchronous Communication And Tools
Before we head on to the conclusive section of this blog, it’s also important to look at different forms of async communication along with some tools. Here they are.
- Email communication is done using tools like Intercom and HubSpot
- Screen recording videos made with Vmaker
- Project management tools like Asana
- Team communication tools like Slack, Discord
- Online communities built using tools like Discourse
- Wiki tools like Notion
- Webinars conducted using tools like GoToWebinar
This is not an exhaustive list. Based on your work, product, and company culture, there might be a few more tools that qualify as asynchronous. If you find them, make sure you add them to this list.
Summing It Up
Asynchronous communication is a more relaxed and non-instant way of having a conversation with others.
It’s great for remote teams as it doesn’t railroad on productive working hours, thereby giving an ample amount of time to concentrate on regular tasks. It’s not an alternative for synchronous communication, but a mix of both can be great for maintaining a balance and avoiding burnout-like situations among employees.
If you’re planning to embrace the asynchronous communication culture, learn from the companies that are already doing it. There are some precious takeaways from their learnings.
Tanoy heads Content Marketing at Vmaker (A product of Animaker). He enjoys writing about marketing and spends a lot of time getting better at it. In his spare time, he reads, listens to music, and adds new travel destinations to his bucket list.