Jānis Blaus
Jānis Blaus
25 November, 2018

Asynchronous Team Communication vs Synchronous

While it's agreed that the lack of communication breaks a team apart, incorrect communications method also causes productivity to nosedive. Modern technologies have changed various aspects of a company's operation, including workplace communications. Unfortunately, some teams have yet to get their communications method right.

Asynchronous vs. Synchronous Team Communication

Imagine that you’re working tirelessly to meet the deadline for a project, and you have to pick up a call from your manager to discuss an upcoming project. After spending 30 minutes on the phone, you realized that you couldn’t offer any great opinions on the spot and you’re required to revert in a couple of days. This is an example of synchronous communication at its worst. The only thing that tops it is to be dragged into a physical or virtual meeting with 20 other co-workers where the two hours agendas are of little relevance to you. Spent wisely, you would have fixed a handful of bugs in your code during those wasted hours. Synchronous communication is a process where communication involves two or more individuals simultaneously. During synchronous communication, all parties had no choice but remained engaged and responsive during the entire period. Meanwhile, asynchronous team communication is one that happens without the needing parties to respond immediately. This means that the recipients can process the message at their own pace and respond later. At a glance, asynchronous communication is the most efficient of the two and one that is shaping the future of remote workplaces.

Benefits Of Asynchronous Team Communication For Remote Teams

One of the main reasons why modern companies are embracing remote workplace policy is the increased productivity when employees are not spending hours trapped in unnecessary commuting. Being able to work where and when they want, team members are driven to be result oriented, rather than clocking specific hours daily. However, bringing synchronous communication practices into a remote team could put a halt in the productivity engine. Subjecting each member to log in to a meeting chat room daily has the same effect of wasteful lengthy physical meetings. It eliminates the potential benefits that asynchronous communications can deliver, especially for a remote team. Here are perks which asynchronous communication can offer to your team.

1. Focus

You’ll want to concentrate on your task without your team member looking over your shoulder every 15 minutes, virtually or not. This is made possible when asynchronous team communication is put into practice.

2. Make Better Decision

In synchronous communication, you’re often required to provide response or solutions immediately. Often, those are not the best that you can offer. Asynchronous communication allows you to properly evaluate each aspect of an issue before offering your opinions.

3. Prioritize Messages

If you’re responding to every conversation that comes along your way, you’ll never get any work done. By resorting to asynchronous communications, you can prioritize messages that are more important and reserve those that are less urgent for later.

Useful Tools For Asynchronous Team Communication

At Netcore, we make it a point to communicate asynchronously, unless in urgent cases where we would call the particular individual directly but keep communications short. With the presence of various technological means that facilitate asynchronous communications, there are no reasons not to make it a practice for your team. Here are some of the best tools for asynchronous team communications:

1. Emails

Yes. Contrary to common beliefs, this age-old digital mailbox technology can promote asynchronous communications for your team. In fact, it is attributed to Elon Musk’s secret in managing his company amidst a tight schedule. Here’s what Elon Musk has to said about emailing and asynchronous communication: “I do love email. Wherever possible I try to communicate asynchronously. I'm really good at email.”

2. Asana

Asana is one of the most popular applications that remote teams used for project management. With the ability to add comments and link resources to the tasks for each project, it greatly aids asynchronous communications. This tool keeps every member in the loop on the task status and general progress of the projects.

3. Slack

There’s no question about Slack being a great communication platform for remote teams. It allows conversations to be carried out easily without having to bounce emails to a dozen team members. However, you’ll need strict discipline and proper policy to use Slack asynchronously. For instance, avoid mentioning your team member with a '@' tag if it’s not urgent to prevent sending unnecessary notifications.

The Drawback Of Asynchronous Team Communication

‘Asynchronous’ may be the buzzword in team communication right now, and we’re a great fan of it. It delivers the flexibility that our team has always craved. However, that doesn’t mean that everything is well and rosy with sending asynchronous messages. For instance, you expect to have an update from your team member within a 2-hour window, which you deem pretty reasonable. But your team member could be engaged in a task that demands his prolonged attention where you only receive a response 8 hours later. This delay may affect the timeline of your task as you could be relying on crucial information before proceeding further. To overcome this inconvenience, you'll need to be more proactive. Instead of waiting for hours, you’ll need to break the rules and reach out for your team member on the phone to retrieve the response. Of course, the team needs to agree to be reachable and only for extremely urgent matters. A simple call that says "Hey John, it's urgent. Check your email" is still better than engaging in a lengthy conversation.

Don’t Overlook Synchronous Communication

Getting asynchronous when communicating may be the trend in workplaces. But that doesn’t mean that you should brush off synchronous communication. This is not a matter of a battle between two forms of communications but about how can they be applied effectively at work. Synchronous communication is still an essential mode of conveying messages in certain situations. For example, you need to reach your manager urgently to finalize an important deal. Common sense says that take precedence over his or her being in a meeting with a group of interns. There are also certain types of conversations that are best carried out face-to-face. Issuing your grievances, or having a personal talk on your career growth is better conducted in synchronous communication. Sincerity, body languages and emotions still play a significant part in some aspects of conversations.

Using Asynchronous Communication Effectively

Using tools like Slack and Asana doesn’t necessarily mean your team is practicing efficient asynchronous communications. What started as an attempt to asynchronous communication can soon turn into a stream of synchronous conversations. The goal of asynchronous team communication is to provide flexibility. When your queries are not answered on the spot, you’ll want the reply to contain all the information needed. Here are how your messages should include.

1. Information

Be clear about what the conversation or queries are all about. You’ll want to stay away from vague messages that prompt more questions than answers.

2. Deadline

When do you need a response to your message? Setting a specific date ensures both parties are in sync when expecting a reply.

3. Resources

Often, you’ll find that adding links, screenshots, images or even voice clips that better explain the issues at hand help the other party in providing a detailed response.

4. End Goal

Explain what you need from the recipient in simple words.

Final Thoughts

Asynchronous communication is crucial in ensuring your team remains focused and productive. With that said, do not confuse asynchronous communication with the modern tools that facilitate it. It is the mindset and practice that makes asynchronous communication fruitful in workplaces.

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