What is Asynchronous Communication and Its Impact on Productivity

What is asynchronous communication and it's impact on productivity

Introduction

Remote teams always need to communicate for work-related purposes. As an international employer always looking for maximized team productivity, you need to manage how and when your remote workers communicate.

Usually, instant communication, or "synchronous communication," comes to mind when remote work is mentioned. However, a second important mode of communication, "asynchronous communication," is frequently utilized and benefits workers and employers.

In either case, communication remains central to managing a global remote workforce. This way, you provide fast and easy communication channels for your remote teams, ultimately generating value.

Understanding asynchronous communication is critical as it helps international employers optimize team communication and management. Various tools are available, which employers can opt in or out of depending on the unique needs of your team.

This guide is your go-to reference to understand:

  • How asynchronous communication works in remote teams
  • The benefits your remote workers get by communicating asynchronously
  • The ways to initiate asynchronous communication into your workforce communication
  • When to prefer asynchronous to synchronous communication

What is asynchronous communication?

Simply put, asynchronous communication is one form of group communication used among distributed teams to communicate messages in different forms — written or voice- or video-recorded — in non-real-time. In contrast to synchronous communication, where communicators exchange messages in various written, broadcasted, or streamed forms instantly, asynchronous communication allows communicators to respond at their own pace.

From the options below, which of the following is an example of asynchronous communication?

  • Emails
  • Messaging services, publicly (e.g., Whatsapp and FaceTime) or privately (e.g., Microsoft SharePoint and Outlook) accessed.
  • Forums
  • Intranets

You guessed it. As long as communication occurs between two or more team members in non-real-time mode (to which all the above tools belong), such communication is said to be asynchronous.

Using asynchronous communication may seem out of place in an age where instant and live communication is a norm. That is if remote team members can communicate immediately to get things done. Yet, why would employers need to delay communication or let team members respond (or not) at their discretion?

The answer to this question is less about how team members communicate and more about why a specific mode of communication is better, even when perceived as "outdated," compared to another. This is what the next section discusses in more detail.

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What are the benefits of asynchronous communication?

Choosing to communicate asynchronously should be informed by a persuasive rationale, making communication among team members more effective and a choice that employers and team members subscribe to.

What advantages of asynchronous communication that employers and team members can subscribe to?

Based on research and practice, asynchronous communication:

  • Is shown to provide team members with enough time to discover and think in more depth about the messages or questions posed
  • Is less intrusive and enables team members to plan work (and life) at their own pace
  • Enables less communicative team members to contribute often overlooked or unknown ideas
  • Decreases meeting fatigue among team members (something COVID-19 Zoom meetings have shown all too well)
  • Increases productivity by making team members focus on what is at hand instead of having many (live and instant) distractions

Depending on your operations and team member size, you can decide when (or whether) to use asynchronous communication. The synchronicity or asynchronicity of communication remains, after all, a matter of culture where behaviors, attitudes, and practices — not tools — define how and when teams should communicate.

Here's how you can implement asynchronous communication in your company or team

There is no one-size-fits-all way to implement asynchronous communication at a team or company level. Instead of managing one or more remotely distributed teams, you should focus more on culture and less on tools. Thus, organizational leaders should emphasize a more comprehensive approach to collaborative, remote work where team members develop an effective communication strategy organically for asynchronous communication to work.

In plain English, for asynchronous communication to work at your company or for your team members, you need to:

  • Manage expectations. That means managing projects should not be according to an "always urgent" or a "top priority" mentality but a more relaxed period where all collaborators have enough time to discover, contribute, and innovate.
  • Emphasize communication. The classic business mantra "less is more" does not work in team management. Thus, ensure details are always provided and repeated, so no miscommunication occurs.
  • Build a culture of trust. Trust is necessary for even the most sophisticated communication tools to help your team be more collaborative and productive. When trust is embedded in your company's culture, everything else follows.
  • Focus on outcomes. Performance, not hours, determines how effective asynchronous communication is. Meaning that qualifying, not quantifying, your team performance is apt to yield results you may never get using hours-based measurement tools.

That said, asynchronous or synchronous communication should always effectively achieve your desired outcomes as an employer. These seven commandments help make communication effective among your team members:

  • Be empathetic and prioritize connections
  • Create a virtual watercooler space
  • Find time to check in with your team regularly
  • Do not micromanage
  • Get regular feedback
  • Create an internal newsletter to share insights
  • Only use the right tool(s) and platforms that work for you

In short: culture, culture, culture. If you have the right collaboration culture, which you can develop as above, you needn't worry about what outcomes you get using asynchronous communication among your team members.

Knowing when to choose synchronous communication over asynchronous communication

In a rapid-paced business environment, change is the norm. So asynchronous communication does not mean it is and should be your constant mode of communication. There are strong reasons why people opt to communicate synchronously.

  • Synchronous communication is ideal if you have a new project and need to brainstorm solutions. Later, team members can discuss an in-depth examination of brainstormed ideas asynchronously.
  • Building relationships. "Out of sight, out of mind." This age-old saying cannot be more accurate than in communication. Having a new team member, urgent meetings, and one-on-one interviews are best communicated over (live, not recorded) video calls.
  • Managing crises. You can't wait during an emergency for everyone to contribute. Instead, you need to respond and act as fast as possible synchronously.

Once again, no one communication mode is fit for everyone at all times. That is why you, managing and collaborating with remote global teams with diverse communication styles, should adapt to evolving situations. Such will inform your communication strategies effectively, timely, and sustainably.

Plus, ensure that you are communicating respectfully with your team members.

Asynchronous communication: an approach to self-planned work-life

Communication is central to effective team management. In a remote-defined world, team communication can take on different forms. And the first mode of communication to come to mind is asynchronous communication. In practice, however, asynchronous communication is shown to have confirmed benefits every international employer should pay attention to.

Tools aside, asynchronous communication is ultimately more about company culture. Building a healthy collaborative culture among team members can enhance productivity, boost morale, and ensure everyone contributes.

Opting for asynchronous communication is also about work-life balance. By letting your team members decide when and how to communicate, you are shifting the communication burden away from urgency to more thoughtful and informed inputs. That way, you gain more information from as many team members as possible and engage team members more effectively by being less intrusive.

Managing communication, asynchronous or synchronous, requires particular attention to details you may need help to capture for whatever reasons. This is where the employer of record services such as Skuad comes in to help you develop effective asynchronous communication strategies so you can manage your team members more effectively, boosting your overall business productivity.    

Skuad is a global employment and payroll platform that enables organizations to global remote teams efficiently by:

  • Hiring full-time and independent contractors in over 160 countries
  • Onboarding talent
  • Providing comprehensive benefit packages
  • Ensuring full compliance with country-specific employment laws and tax regulations
  • Managing payroll - enabling organizations to make accurate and prompt payments to employees in over 160 countries and 100+ currencies.

Ensure you have an effective asynchronous communication strategy for your distributed teams. 

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