Remote working has become a popular way of working in the last several years, and for several good reasons, it has become a staple for many companies out there. The impact of COVID-19 has accelerated the adoption of remote working into the workplace. That has led to many businesses changing their policies and operations. Recent research has shown that 67% of companies are expecting to see remote working become a permanent fixture of their company culture once things start to normalize a bit more.
It makes tons of sense when you consider the massive amount of benefits remote working has to offer, and the challenges it does present are generally easy enough to deal with through proper planning and procedure. While tons of companies have had to adapt and learn about what remote working entails, there is still a lot of room for improvement for the leaders and employees.
One of the many methods managers should learn and embrace asynchronous communication. But what is asynchronous communication, and why should it matter for remote work?
What is Asynchronous Communication
Asynchronous communication is a flexible approach to exchanging information. It allows you to send a message to someone without expecting to respond to it immediately. For instance, if you send a remote team member an email, they will open and respond to the email a few hours later. That means that your remote worker can reply when it suits them best. They will not have to worry about crunch time or worry about having someone wait for a response.
On the other hand, Synchronous communication is when a person sends a message, and the recipient processes the information and responds immediately, no matter what they are doing. It essentially includes every form of communication that occurs in real-time and is one of the most commonly used methods used in the business world. For example, synchronous communications are video conferencing calls or instant messaging, where the idea is to always have a continuous and instant stream.
Why is Asynchronous communication important?
Some of the highly effective remote teams are using asynchronous communication. It has mostly to do because of what it has to offer those who implement it: Availability, flexibility, and timezone.
When it comes to working with a remote team, it is never a guarantee when a team member will be available, busy, or not in front of the screen. If you are relying on instantaneous messaging, there is a good chance it's not working as well as intended. There is a chance of team members being in varying time zones. It can also feel overbearing to expect your teammates to respond to your messages immediately.
Instant messaging, along with video calls and other synchronous communication, can halt the flow of work. Taking the time to set aside time every hour to go through messaging can promote effective and productive work.
The benefits of an Asynchronous communication
These days, most people are willing to accept that interruptions and distractions are part of work. However, when companies decide to implement asynchronous communication, they notice a plethora of benefits on productivity. Some very notable companies like Gitlab, Zapier, and Automattic have settled to adopt asynchronous communication to improve their team's collaboration efforts. Here are some of the benefits you give your remote employees by handing them more control over when they communicate with the rest of their remote team members.
Asynchronous communication is an excellent method for any remote team that consists of remote employees working in various time zones. Asynchronous communication makes it irrelevant if someone lives in New York or London if there are expected time gaps between response time.
For example, if a remote team member decides to send a message to another team member, instead of expecting an instant response, they merely move on to other work while waiting for a response later. Depending on how varied the timezone is, that response could either be sent from one hour to ten hours.
Asynchronous communication is recorded communication. That usually refers to writing, but there are tons of ways you can provide it, such as recorded videos, annotated images, and so forth. It usually leads to everything documented, including conversations, decisions, plans, and requirements.
The natural paper trail that is generated from this will enhance productivity because it helps keep remote employees on the right track while providing them with workflows and other critical information. Everyone on the team has the opportunity to see the reasoning and provide alternatives that could help deal with inevitable roadblocks and objections in a unique manner.
Considerable personal control
Remote employees that have personal control over their workdays are far happier and productive. With the introduction of an asynchronous environment, there are no set hours, which means the employee has a significant amount of control over how they structure their workdays to fit their responsibilities and life. Several asynchronous communication tools help remote teams retain individual control by letting them decide a time for responding to messages, updates, and so forth.
However, that does not mean you should only be using asynchronous communication, but it does mean that you could diminish the stress and requirement for constant communication. You are not merely offering freedom for projects and tasks, but it helps remote employees have the flexibility and be far more willing to respond to any last-minute changes that arise, with less disruption for other works. Results are what should only matter, not the amount of time a remote team member spends in front of the screen.
Flexibility against common physical burdens
One of the many great things about asynchronous communication is the removal of obstacles for sharing information by shutting down traditional physical barriers. An asynchronous environment means that employees do not have to be physically present in a single location or on the phone at certain times to receive information. That enables your remote team in different time zones to participate without feeling isolated or behind.
Clear and curated communication
While Asynchronous communication can be considered slower, it does lead to higher quality communication. Everyone on the team will learn to communicate more clearly and thoroughly to avoid unnecessary back and forth communication. They have the time to consider a particular issue or idea and provide more thoughtful replies.
Instead of reacting overly emotionally in their responses, they have the time to reply when they read a message. Furthermore, when people have time to think things through with their replies, there tend to be fewer unthinking outbursts from team members.
When it comes to curation, we are talking about a set of standards that your company has when it comes to handling specific processes. For instance, every time your remote team begins a new project, you may have a checklist of precise steps to follow, such as setting up deadlines, assigning team members to tasks, linking crucial documents, and so forth. That leads to you deciding on how follow-up will occur, such as Slack messaging or emailing. As you set guidelines for your team communication, it shall become habitual, and confusion is diminished, and less time wasted overall.
Better trust and agreements
Aside from improving your transparency on projects and goals, you are also capable of getting a guarantee on everyone reaching an agreement. That means rapid-fire discussion on crucial decisions or projects is set aside, and clarification can be nested underneath it instead. Team members will also trust things like due dates and project notes when laid out, and everyone can read them. Asynchronous communication makes it more seamless to develop a particular project to-do list, requirements, and more.
Greater focus on work
Since remote employees do not have to stay on top of each message sent their way, they can block off a sizable amount of uninterrupted time to do their work. That is crucial since they can check on the messages later on and process them in batches each day. Instead of needing to bounce back and forth between work and messages, they merely need to concentrate on their tasks.
Asynchronous communication ensures that productivity is raised, which leads to a higher quality of work coming your way. A remote team that has to deal with minimal distractions and higher mental capacity increases work efficiency, has deadlines remain on track, and lowers the number of errors.
Prioritizing asynchronous communication
While prioritizing asynchronous communication among your team is excellent, that does not mean you need to stop having meetings or real-time communication. There will be times when you need to know when to switch over to synchronous communication. For example, urgent situations may require the remote team to speak to each other in real-time. Developing bonds and relationships among your team through one-on-one meetings and team-building activities are best done through synchronous communication.
Team meetings are necessary for keeping the team up to date and to developing bonds. However, even under the best circumstances, these synchronous communications can lead to inclusivity among team members. It can be challenging to have everyone participate and have their words heard. If one person is dominating the entire conversation, it is difficult for others to get involved.
If a person is not online or available for real-time communication, they will feel left out, and the remote employee can miss out on the insight and context provided in these meetings. It is what makes asynchronous communication another massive benefit for remote teams.
Asynchronous communication is beneficial for remote teams in so many ways it guarantees to improve productivity and efficiency. That is especially true for companies that have hired people who work in varying time zones. If your team is set in the same city or timezone, then a combination of synchronous and asynchronous communication may be best for you. It all comes down to how your organization operates and how you decide to implement this type of communication style.