Modern working can mean anything from a shared physical workspace to a remote situation where people work individually across the globe while collaborating as part of a team. Regardless of where you work, asynchronous communication means the same thing: a delay between when communication is sent and when it is replied to.
Asynchronous communication is not necessarily about the tools you use, but the approach you take to work. Email and instant messaging can be used both synchronously and asynchronously.
The spirit of asynchronous communication is, for example, that each worker should not be shackled to their email and expected to answer within five minutes. They can design their day in a way that works for them—choosing times to reply rather than being “always available”.
Asynchronous communication should not be confused with remote work, which often uses simultaneous communication tools such as business video chat and conferencing.
What impact does asynchronous communication have on productivity?
There’s not a lot of time to actually concentrate on real tasks when we’re in a “traditional office” setting, which doesn’t refer to the physical space so much as the mindset.
The focus is not on quality output but on mundane chores: Attending meetings that could have been avoided, instantly replying to countless emails, answering sales calls from a business telephone service provider, giving needless updates, and just being there—available to speak to anyone whenever they want to take a break for five minutes.
But when we remove ourselves from the “traditional office”, and leave all those distractions behind, we can engage in deep work.
Without the constant threat of someone demanding our time and being forced into synchronous communication, we have more time to focus on what is really important—the output. And we can achieve a great product through focusing on programming, strategizing, and planning.
Using tools such as call center software can help teams implement synchronous communication when required, as obviously, we still need to communicate. But, more focus on asynchronous communication allows us to continue doing this while being more productive.
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3 tips to help improve your asynchronous communication
1. Be upfront with your communication
In a communal office, people often stroll up to each other to say hello and chat about anything that comes to mind from the weather to the great ecommerce analytics tools they’re using. They don’t get to the point. This type of small talk may help build rapport, but asynchronous communication is all about being efficient and upfront.
Make sure to gather all the information you need and transmit it simultaneously to the recipient rather than sending many disjointed messages. This is easier to reply to, and you will get a more coherent answer. It’s also possible that your colleague will be working in a different time zone, so they will thank you for being considerate.
2. Only prioritize what’s urgent
An essential part of asynchronous communication is to make the distinction between urgent communication and communication that can wait. Inside the office or working remotely, there is always a need for urgent communication—which is where tools such as an ACD telephone system (as well as the communication tools described in the next section) come into play.
But most things aren’t urgent, so don’t treat them as such. Doing so will only waste colleagues’ time and create tension within the team. If it can wait, let it wait, and group together non-urgent communication. Then send it via email as this is a lower priority method of communication compared to other business communication tools.
3. Take writing seriously
Gone are the days when there were so many meetings that writing wasn’t important. Portraying your true intentions is more natural when you’re in a face-to-face meeting, but it’s easy to be misunderstood in an email or instant message.
This means that you should spend the time considering what you write. Don’t act spontaneously; think about tone and nuance. It can make or break relationships.
The way you write says something about you, too. A rushed piece with poor spelling and grammar is not likely to represent you in the best light. But take the time to write thoroughly, and colleagues will view you more positively. Remember, once you write it, you can’t take it back.
Tools for better asynchronous communication
When you need to deliver a lot of information or complex information to members of your team, it may be more convenient and time-saving to record a video rather than spend time on a written document, which you will almost certainly be asked to explain.
Why not use a video platform to help you create, organize, and share instructions, weekly team updates, or information updates in one place, so everyone has access on demand. This method of communication is more precise and will save you time. There are plenty of options available on the web.
Project management tools
There are numerous project management tools out there available at different prices. The relative merits of each one are a personal choice, and you should choose the best one based on the needs of your business and team. However, all of them fulfill the same principle functions: They allow you to create tasks, assign them to team members, establish deadlines, and monitor progress.
They also give you a location where you can communicate asynchronously and collaborate more effectively. You can use any one of the tools to give feedback or post comments for easy access and future reference. Again, all the information is in one central place, and the whole team has easy access to it to help manage project lifecycles.
Similar to project management tools, there are a plethora of workplace internal communication tools out there. Some can be used for free, while others require monthly subscriptions, especially to access advanced features. All can be used for asynchronous communication.
One useful feature that many of the tools have is the ability to create channels. One of the main criticisms of email is the disorganized nature of the tool, but channels offer users the chance to organize messages based on project or client. In that way, everything can be kept together for easy reference. You can also invite only the necessary people to these channels.
What’s more, many of the tools offer great configurations, such as GSuite automation. This empowers you to customize your favorite tools completely and take much of the manual work out of large-scale asynchronous communication.
An internal company wiki is a digital environment where you can exchange, document, and locate vital information. Rather than cluttering their calendars, inboxes, and channels with real-time meetings, you can use an internal wiki to create a knowledge repository that your teams can immediately access whenever there is an update or when they have a query.
How to create an asynchronous workplace
Correctly implementing asynchronous communication in the workplace involves more than purchasing the latest software to plan and create successful projects. After all, communication tools can be used both asynchronously and synchronously. Unfortunately, many companies are making the mistake thinking they’re promoting an asynchronous culture just because they have the right tools.
To truly enjoy the benefits of asynchronous communication, there needs to be an organization-wide cultural transformation that runs from the top down. Here are some final ideas to promote productivity in the workplace by creating an asynchronous workplace.
If your team wants to work somewhere particular or in a combination of places, then you should give them the option. Today, there is only a tiny percentage of people who physically need to be at work. Companies that embrace remote work are more likely to embrace asynchronous communication as both break the “traditional office” paradigm. Moreover, in numerous studies, remote work has been shown to increase productivity.
Hold silent meetings
Prepare and distribute an agenda with a specific plan before your meeting. Request that your team write down their thoughts, questions, and comments before the meeting. Then, at the start of your meeting, schedule time for a silent table read.
Attendees read their colleagues’ memos and jot down their thoughts and ideas on index cards. Clearly, meetings are an example of synchronous communication, but once again, by breaking the “traditional office” structure, silent meetings serve to promote new ideas, such as asynchronous communication.
Ban the instant mindset
As we mentioned earlier, occasionally time is of the essence, but this should be the exception rather than the rule.
Avoid sending messages including “Can you get it back to me ASAP” or “I’d love to hear your response within the next hour.” Asynchronous communication only works when everyone knows there is a time lag between when the communication is sent and when it is responded to.
Establish a clear set of rules: Perhaps communication channel messages are to be answered in one day and email messages within two business days.
What are the benefits of asynchronous communication?
While we by no means think that face-to-face is dead, we do think that leveraging the potential benefits of an asynchronous communication strategy has advantages for a business, employees, and, ultimately, customers.
This strategy can also benefit companies of all sizes, from a small production tests business with only a few employees to a software giant. By taking away constant distractions, employees can enter a state of deep work, which leads to higher productivity and better outcomes.
They can spend more time thoughtfully considering their jobs and less time in synchronous meetings, which are widely acknowledged as often being unproductive.
The employee experience is improved, and teams can work together across time zones and cultures—with all the benefits that this entails. Further advantages include promoting a more inclusive and supportive workplace that promotes diversity, allowing introverts and extroverts to contribute equally, and permitting employees to tailor their workday to their own personal preferences rather than them being shackled by a set timetable that is out of step with modern life.