What Is Asynchronous Communication?

April 1, 2022

Let’s face the facts! This year saw a rollercoaster ride of challenges. Be it greetings without a handshake, presentations without a projector or couches over office chairs. The work culture around us is evolving itself to be more competent and effective than ever.

One of the essential requirements at a workplace to achieve better business results is communication. Without which no business can flourish. Face-to-face or remote communication, technological advancements are making this fairly effective and easy for us.

You can almost communicate with anyone in two ways - Asynchronously and synchronously. The office talks and discussions are synchronous types of communication. Whereas an email can be asynchronous.

This blog can optimistically alter your attitude to asynchronous communication as a whole, but you may think synchronous communication is a suitable means of interacting with others.

Let’s dive in and actually see the meaning of Asynchronous communication. What is the difference between asynchronous and synchronous communication? Which one is better and why?

What is asynchronous communication?

By definition, Asynchronous communication is when two (or more) people can communicate without the requirement of being “present” at the same moment in time.

In simple words, Asynchronous communication may include any message that you can choose to read and respond to at your pace. The conversation is not in actual terms “Live”. The time delay can be stretched anywhere between minutes to days.

A classic example of asynchronous communication is a public discussion forum. The information exchanged is very important. All the members can comment or respond at their own time. This doesn’t minimize its significance.

Well, synchronous communication on another hand means communication occurring at the same time, simultaneously. It is basically “Our time communication”, where both (sender and receiver) are present. A conversation at the coffee table or daily stand up meetings can be few instances. Now it is not necessary to be present at the same place and same time. A simple call on the phone or facetime can also be termed as synchronous communication.

Think of a text message, it can be seen as both asynchronous and synchronous. If the responses are one after another parallelly in time then it is synchronous communication. If the same conversation is stretched over a day or week it simply becomes asynchronous communication.

Major difference between asynchronous and  synchronous communication

Life is fast-paced and there is a constant need to be updated and productive. This doesn’t mean you need to check the mails or conduct meetings frequently. Elon Musk believes that working asynchronously helps him stay productive. Once he said “I do love email. Wherever possible I try to communicate asynchronously. I’m really good at email.”

The better workspace doesn’t necessarily mean a lot of meetings and discussions. You can be asynchronous and still manage a global company.

Let’s look into a case, Assume you are managing a team of people from different time zones. Your priority is quality work and to produce results. Conducting video conferences can be a poor choice in such circumstances. Whereas if you choose to conduct a discussion in a messaging platform, each one will have enough time to respond and there will be no interruption in the routine.

Asynchronous communication examples:

  • Emails
  • WhatsApp
  • Facebook messenger
  • Yahoo messenger
  • Slack
  • Intranets (Sharepoint)

These tools can help you share your viewpoints in the discussion. You can be completely free in the medium you choose. These platforms provide various means to communicate like video clips or voice notes or even emojis. You can put up as you desire.

Examples of synchronous communication

  • Phone calls
  • In-person meeting
  • Video calls (e.g. Zoom, Skype, Google Duo)

Synchronous communication tools connect you almost instantly with people across the globe. This allows conducting hassle-free video sessions brainstorming on different ideas.

For instance, Emily finds it easy when her doubts are solved instantly, Richard gets novel ideas on a video call almost spontaneously but Grace prefers a sorted worktime. It is possible to manage the various task effectively by choosing the correct way of communication.

The real-time meeting sometimes turns out to be a complete waste of time. You all must have attended at least one meeting which was very time consuming and there was no outcome. Haven’t you?

Asynchronous communication can almost change the way you think about communication as a whole. Even when there is no one on the other end responding immediately, this works as effectively as synchronous communication or maybe more. 

In the next section, we will have a comprehensive understanding of the advantages of asynchronous communication.

Benefits of Asynchronous communication in the workspace

Asynchronous communication does lack a real-time advantage but it is proven to be useful for senior managers and executives to solve major hurdles. Below listed are a few benefits of working asynchronously.

1. Aids in work flexibility

Almost each one of us in the office has a different work schedule. In a broader spectrum, a global team has teammates from different time zones. The major hurdle in such circumstances is selecting a time for discussion.

Asynchronous communication can work miracles in such circumstances. Discussion shall initiate and the teammates can respond as they see the message. This can be as effective as a real-time session with them. When each responded, choose their own time to respond; they will respond with good ideas. An effective work culture can be managed even if people come from different time zones.

2. Enhances productivity.

Office meetings are very important and productive. It can be a platform to share ideas and time to contribute to the plans of the company. But not recommended if they simply turn off your productivity. In a study of Twingate, 45% of employees reported attending more meetings during the pandemic than when working in the office. Often the company laid focus on video conferences and Emails to keep a check on employee performance.

Office video calls can be resourceful but at the same time, it can interrupt the workflow. I would wish to complete the tasks of the day and then respond to a discussion rather than having frequently called up meetings. The asynchronous work environment can make deep work our default.

3. Aids Transparent and recorded Communications.

Communication in the office is very important especially when it is useful for reference. Real-time conversations are productive, but unfortunately, no documentation is done when real-time communication is taking place. 

 (unless someone makes notes).

In asynchronous communication, all the conversation is saved by default. You always have your data backup and it's transparent. This will save you from fast note-taking and guess what, it can be an important reference for future use.

4.  Productive conversations

“What is your view on the latest reform bills? Will it impact our company?” This type of question (if unprepared) can really leave us with no words or just a shallow response.

Out of 182 senior managers, 65% said that meetings kept them from finishing their tasks. The meeting can foster team strength but if it comes at a cost of several uncompleted tasks then it should be avoided.

Note: Conduct live sessions when you feel the decision needs to right away made. If the decision can be delayed, prefer putting it in asynchronous conversations. Moreover, it promotes planned conversations. You can prepare your response, give it your personal touch.

5.  Equal Participation

Everyone gets a chance to speak or take part in a conversation. Normally in daily meetings, introverts never speak up, or they are ignored in an active conversation. Not taking part in a conversation doesn’t essentially mean that they don’t have ideas.

They do have ideas but they need the right platform to share. Asynchronous communication can give them a comfortable space to share their views. Thereby each decision will have the active involvement of all the members.

However, asynchronous cannot be an ultimate saviour. In better words, asynchronous cannot solve all your problems. It got its own set of problems. For instance, it lengthens the discussion, delays the time to solve a problem, and can be easily misunderstood. In such places, synchronous communication can smash a record. Needlessly, one must note that the mix of both can solve almost anything.

Finding a balance is key.

After all, we are humans. A quick brainstorming session on a video call or old fashioned in-person communication can ignite a fire in the team. Whereas the effectiveness of daily work can come through less interrupting work hours.

Successful collaboration and trust in the company are only established if we step out of our virtual spaces. Socializing engages the employees. Synchronous communication can work miracles in such circumstances.

The communication mode to be applied can be determined by the need of your team. Analyze how your team is built, their work schedule, and the pace of work. If the team wants successful group work, then it is possible to schedule one meeting at a time. In the case of a diversified team, the real alternative is asynchronous communication.

How to build the Asynchronous culture in your team?

Shifting a team mindset from synchronous to asynchronous is quite an effort to make. This will involve the active participation of the leader. The building process is quite an uphill task. The few points listed here will help you create one asynchronous culture.

1. Over Communicate with the employees

The simple concept is that when you brief a project to the employees. Share with them all the details in-depth, the expectations, and the deadlines. You can also add screenshots or relevant documents to support the task. This will enable them to discover the entire persona of the task demanded.

2. Share the right tools

The remote working will function well only when the employees use effective documentation and sharing software. Share such kinds of resources that work centrally in the company for smooth functioning.

3. Troubleshooting guide

This may seem less important but is very handy. It is very usual to deal with small tech issues, for instance, Internet connectivity. Such guides will help them solve problems of their own.

4. Reduced social obstacles

While online interaction and collaboration are proven to enhance the online working experience, the truth is that many employees don’t enjoy socializing or feel uncomfortable about the idea of participating in online discussions.

An asynchronous learning approach helps introverted learners eliminate social anxiety, as working remotely makes them feel safer and more comfortable.

5. Decentralize the decision power

Working as a head for all can be very challenging. So assign full responsibility for the project to the employees handling it. Take reviews about the projects and suggest to them if any changes need to be made. Individually shouldered responsibility will make them more sincere for the work.

Be it probation or training, give the team complete charge for their roles and responsibilities.

6. Make transparency, trust, and deep work your priority

The employees mustn’t miss out on any crucial discussions and conversations. These data should be common for all the companies to access. This will eventually build trust in the company.

Key Learnings   

 One thing that creates a difference is that a planned response is way better rather than an instant reply. Instant replies generally lack the depth of conversation. Asynchronous communication is the future of workplace communication. The world after globalization never saw itself limited to a country. Companies are webbing across the world. Such a situation demands asynchronous communication as an integral mode of communication.

The companies that start making these changes will evolve and adapt better in this unprecedented world.

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