In this article, we'll cover:
What is asynchronous communication?
Asynchronous communication means communication which happens ‘out of sync’ or in other words; not in real-time.
To fully understand asynchronous communication, it’s perhaps important to identify examples of its contrasting counterpart: Synchronous communication. Synchronous communication is such that takes place simultaneously between two or more parties as a live correspondence. For example, a RingCentral video meeting would be an example of synchronous communication or a phone call to a friend on a mobile device.
That means asynchronous communications takes place as a less time-sensitive interchange between communicating parties. For example, an email to a colleague would be classed as asynchronous communication.
The benefits of a more asynchronous workplace
In an increasingly remote working world, there is a focus on synchronous communications, with many of us finding phone calls and video catch-ups punctuate our working days.
While synchronous, real-time communication has its advantages, the benefits of an asynchronous communications model have become clear during times when distributed teams are increasingly prevalent.
Workplace communication has undergone a significant evolution in recent years. Alongside that evolution has come an acknowledgement that people work in different ways. Now, many forward-thinking organisations adopt a more open, individualistic approach to workday processes, allowing employees to identify how they produce their best work.
This is where asynchronous communications come into play. The nature of async means that colleagues, team members and business leaders can address their tasks and workflows and catch up on their workplace correspondence in their own time. This approach has come to the fore at a time when a vast number of us are work remotely in light of the covid-19 pandemic.
How to build a more asynchronous culture for remote teams
In 2020, businesses across all industries have witnessed the benefits of remote working to the extent that 88% of companies worldwide made remote work mandatory.
With so many now working from home, working flexible hours, the benefits of asynchronous communication are clear. While making use of technology to support meaningful working relationships, organisations also need to find the right balance in encouraging effective team collaboration to meet organisational goals.
1. Practice and advocate patience.
In an ‘always on’ world, many of us are guilty of expecting and delivering an instant reply to messages, whether that be in a business capacity or otherwise. Patience is key. Business leaders need to begin to practice and advocate a new communications model whereby employees feel a sense of security about communicating in their own time unless it’s a highly important or time-sensitive task.
2. Get to know your tech and establish how it can work for you
Choosing the right tech stack and finding new ways to utilise it might just help you in driving a more asynchronous culture that supports your business goals.
3. Encourage routine, but don’t revert to old habits
While in a remote working environment, there is less of a need to retain the standard nine-to-five working hours model we know and love, it might be worth encouraging teams to establish some routine to replace that of the ‘old’ normal. Encourage team leaders to set an agreement of reasonable working hours is a good idea as the lines become blurry when the office is also the kitchen table.
Make it clear to all parties that async communications will take precedence especially for teams working across different time zones or shift-times and encourage a more flexible, more trusting approach to work hours but set out ballpark response-time expectations where possible.
Examples of asynchronous communication
Synchronous communication is any form of communication whereby the recipient isn’t required to be present at the moment of receiving that message, therefore any message transmitted where an immediate response is not required.
Here are a few examples:
- Messages via any instant messaging app (e.g. WhatsApp messenger, RingCentral Message, Slack)
- Messaging via project management tools such as Basecamp, Trello, Mondays etc
- Intranets such as Yammer or Sharepoint.
Software for asynchronous communication
There are several software solutions designed to enable asynchronous collaboration and some which lend themselves to it incidentally. Here are a few of our top software solutions that could help you to encourage a culture of asynchronous communication.
Many communication and collaboration tools such as RingCentral allow for both synchronous and asynchronous communications in equal measure. But some lend themselves more to encouraging a less distracting environment, particularly for those needing to engage in deep work:
Google drive is a great everyday tool to help practice using asynchronous communication to collaborate. Making use of the G-suite tools that play a key role in most people’s workday, organisations can connect teams to collaborate on documents and projects in a way that enables multiple parties to work on the same documents in their own time (or simultaneously). Users can leave comments on resources and documents for other team members to pick up when they next login and files save automatically, so different users can take up the latest document without worrying whether they have an older version of the document.
Communications tools such as RingCentral Office allow users to benefit from both Synchronous and Asynchronous communication depending on organisational culture and how teams utilise the platform to produce their best collaborative work. Colleagues can use the instant messaging function to connect asynchronously, sharing files to collaborate, or they can choose to jump on a video conferencing session for face-to-face in-person meetings and brainstorming. RingCentral’s video record function allows teams to make a video conference or training tutorial asynchronous as they can hit record, then share the recording with their team to access that content at a later date.
Knowledge hub tools such as Slab help to encourage asynchronous learning and skills sharing. Slab provides an accessible resource base for employees to access information about teams. Knowledge nuggets and briefs can be included within specific folders for team members to access at leisure, without disrupting colleagues.
Project management applications such as Asana can significantly aid an asynchronous workplace culture. The tool allows users to assign tasks to team members who can comment and complete the tasks at their own pace, helping internal communications to remain relatively distraction-free.
By the makers of productivity software company Doist, Twist is a communications app, designed for remote teams, that combines email and instant chat functions in one single platform, helping teams to streamline their communications. Twist enables remote workers to disconnect from communications when they need to go into a session of deep work, reconnecting when they have a slot of time to address their messages.
Monday.com gives a great example of how project management tools can support teams in embracing an asynchronous culture. The virtual working hub is ideal for those working remotely or across different time zones and allows members of a project team to see ‘the big picture’, helping them to see the value of their work as part of the project.
Organisations planning to embrace a more asynchronous culture should look first for the communication tools and collaboration tools they might need, then ensure that these will aid an asynchronous communication environment.
Adopting a more asynchronous approach is important in allowing employees to work at their own pace, in the way they feel most effective in the fast-paced, ‘always on’ working world of today.
Originally published Dec 07, 2020, updated Jun 30, 2021