2020 has taken the concept of “new normal” and given it a whole new lease of life. It’s a word that’s been thrown around so often but it’s true – it’s permeated every aspect of our lives. Our once loud and proud office culture has been replaced with remote work; the ultimate “new normal” for businesses around the world. We’ve had to juggle family life and childcare with our usual working routines, shifting from video calls to email on a near-constant basis to stay “updated”.

But the growing popularity of remote work has led many to question this traditional way of communicating. This trend of replying instantly, also known as synchronous communication, can have a negative impact on productivity if used for too long. That’s why its counterpart – asynchronous communication – has started to gain traction amongst remote teams.

So, what’s the difference?

Asynchronous VS synchronous communication

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Asynchronous (async) and synchronous (sync) communication go hand in hand. To operate at an optimal level, remote teams need to combine both to get results. Simply put, sync communication is the exchange of information in real-time while async communication is the exchange of information without an immediate response.

Sync communications can include in-person meetings, a progressive dialer system, video conferences, call center campaigns, and digital messaging (if the recipient responds in near-real-time) and async communications can be anything from an email to collaborative documents and discussion forums.

The move towards greater digitalization has led to an uptake in sync communications like video calls and video conferencing. In an office-less environment, there is a need to develop a strong remote team culture among colleagues so this move is understandable.

However, with this digitization comes the risk of compromising security. Secure video conferencing is a must within a remote team so be sure to update your network security with the best enterprise network security products.

While sync communications like these are important for building close interpersonal relationships and interaction, they shouldn’t be overused. The overkill of sync communications can lead to burnout and time wasted as people spend more time responding to lines of communication than focusing on projects.

Consider maximizing your use of async communications for a smoother and more productive result across your remote team.

Stuck on where to start? We’ve compiled a handy list of things you can do to start making the most of your async communications:

  • Use more “async friendly” communication platforms that focus on collaboration such as discussion forums, collaborative software, and computer fax software.
  • When sending a line of async communication be sure to include as much information as possible for greater clarity. This will reduce the need for back and forth clarification and messaging.
  • While team check-ins via video calls are important, don’t underestimate the value of remote check-ins. Not all updates need to be synchronous and these check-ins are helpful when you need to fit around everyone’s schedule.

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  • Recognize the difference between urgent and non-urgent information. Set up a system that allows for urgent information to be relayed instantly and set expectations for an immediate response. Important information around projects and work can be relayed through async communications, freeing up space to get more work done.
  • Consider using the best employee management software to help track your team’s performance and engagement over specific periods of time. This will enable you to keep a record of what async communications work for your remote team.

Still unconvinced by the power of async communication?

6 reasons why asynchronous communication benefits remote teams:

Promotes deep work

Sync communications are important when fostering relationships and relaying urgent information but… they often lead to interrupted work. The expectation of having to reply immediately is not a focus-friendly goal and constant video meetings can be draining. The solution lies in async communications!

While sync communications often lead to shallow work, async communications promote and encourage deep work. Team members will have free time to work on a project for long periods of time without distraction from messages or meetings.

Deep work is defined as any activity that takes place in an uninterrupted environment, where there are few distractions and value-based tasks are the focus. Though sync communications do have positive work outcomes, most of the tasks are low-value and don’t center on an important aspect of a project.

Async communication’s effects on work will not only lead to quicker and more efficient project timelines – but it will also lead to an increased profit margin. By giving team members periods of uninterrupted workflow, your business will be able to focus on the tasks that matter and bring the most value.

Leads to greater productivity

Remote work may be the new norm but that doesn’t make it easy. All of your team members have different schedules and commitments during the day – on top of their working hours. Working from home means they might have to juggle other responsibilities like childcare and family so it’s important to get your communications right.

By maximizing your async communications you’ll give your team more flexibility and freedom to fit work around their schedules. It enables the important tasks to be prioritized, leaving less room for sync communications that offer little value in the immediate moment. That means more work can get done quicker, on top of their personal priorities.

Incorporating more async platforms like discussion forums, collaborative software, and emails (notifications off) will give your team a greater sense of control over their working day.

Less burnout, less stress

The need to be “on” constantly (responding to messages and being available for calls) can put stress on your team, eventually leading to burnout. With async communications, this stress is diminished as more control and flexibility is given to everyone.

There’s a misconception that remote work means being “at your desk” 24/7. Employees can often fall into the trap of responding to messages and communications around the clock, sometimes even past work hours. Promote async communication and encourage your team to switch off after certain hours.

Consider turning off messaging notifications for a specific window of time. Not only will more time be spent on value-based work but your team will feel less of a need to be alert constantly.

Remote work may be different but that doesn’t mean your approach to your team’s wellbeing should change. An overkill of sync communications can often have a negative impact on your team’s wellbeing so it’s important to maximize async communications too. Less burnout and less stress will lead to happier employees… and better work as a result.

Greater options for your remote team

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Remote work opens up the possibility of a more flexible approach to team building and onboarding. You could recruit from around the globe, acquiring a diverse team, but if you just rely on sync communications this opportunity will remain closed off to you.

It’s almost impossible to build up a team of people from around the world on sync communications alone. The need to respond to a line of communication immediately will interfere with time zones and lead to lagged response times and greater stress.

That’s why async communications are so important! You can upload a pre-recorded version of a meeting for those that might have missed it and async platforms like discussion forums and collaborative software will make working in different time zones possible.

There’s no need to limit your team to a certain area. Async communications make building a diverse and global team a realizable goal, meaning you can hire people with fresh perspectives and combine different values and approaches across your business.

Encourages proactivity

Avoid miscommunication with async communications and watch your team become more proactive. While sync communications are quicker they can often lead to knee-jerk responses and less thoughtful ideas. The longer processing time of async communications means this can be avoided as people will be given more time to think over a question or a request.

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Async communication calls for greater clarity and with time your team will learn to respond more thoughtfully, obliterating the need for clarification. This back and forth of communication, so often tied to sync communications, only hinders work and the efficiency of project timelines. By cutting this out, your communications will run more clearly and smoothly, leading to higher quality lines of communication and responses.

Increased transparency

Async communications mean information can be relayed at later stages through writing or pre-recorded videos and audio. This means your team can revisit the goals of a specific project or what is expected of them, leading to greater transparency. Sync communications are useful when delegating tasks and explaining a project at its onset, but it’s just as important to have that information at hand automatically.

Whether in writing or pre-recorded videos, async communications will make explicit what is expected of your team and the timeframe. It will enable everyone to know what they are working on as well as give them access to other areas of the project that others are navigating.

Transparency is incredibly important for team growth and business development – it builds trust and allows for your team to really understand the vision behind business goals.

Async communications are great for developing strong work ethics and growing your business. If you give more control and freedom to your employees, your team can spend more time doing the tasks that matter most – leading to a more productive environment. 

But… sync communications shouldn’t be forgotten entirely. You need to strike a balance between the two to get optimal results across your remote team. Sync communication drives collaboration and is extremely important during the onboarding process when a new team member needs to feel “at home” in their new environment. 

It’s also great for nurturing relationships and developing connections across your team so be sure to schedule monthly sync check-ins. These could be anything from a group or one-to-one video call to in-person scrum meetings.

Async and sync communications are an integral part of business but recognizing how to weigh them out equally can be tricky. A general rule of thumb is to do most routine day-to-day operations asynchronously and leave the rapport-building exercises like scrum meetings and check-ins to sync communications.