How can businesses benefit from asynchronous communication?

asynchronous communication

How many times have you sat through a meeting which could have been resolved with just an email or an update on Slack? In a shocking revelation, the average employee spends 62 meetings a month, half of which were deemed unproductive. Digital transformation has created a paradigm shift in the way we work. Communication at the workplace has also changed by leaps and bounds to keep pace with this colossal transition. Remote work has become the new normal and thrives on effective communication and collaboration.

The lack of real-time communication has gained prominence making it easier for remote workers to work without the fear of missing out on critical conversations happening at the workplace. While real-time communication, also known as synchronous communication is important during a crisis or brainstorming, employees need preparations in advance to ensure everyone is present at a certain time to attend the meeting, which may not be even necessary.

Effective communication is more important when working with a remote team spanning across multiple time zones. With less work hour overlaps between your remote teammates, you simply can’t afford to waste time on unproductive meetings. This is when asynchronous communication can be a saving grace.

To understand better, let’s look into the basic difference between synchronous and asynchronous communication:

Synchronous communication occurs in real-time when one person shares and the other receives information at the same time. It could be a phone call, face to face meeting, or walking up to a colleague’s cubicle for a quick discussion.

Asynchronous communication on the other hand does not bank on an immediate response. It could be via email, forums or discussion boards, chat tools like Slack or video tools like Soapbox and Loom.

Let us find out the Advantages of asynchronous communication:

1) Lends a voice to the reticent: Reports have shown that employees who feel their voices heard are 4.6 times empowered to perform their very best. We have heard inspiring stories of an intern coming up with a brilliant solution to a problem, or the quiet employee who brought an innovative idea and changed the course of business. These scenarios won’t transpire if meetings are conducted in a way that makes employees feel muted.

Asynchronous communication is a perfect alternative for employees to contribute to the ongoing conversation. Virtual platforms encourage them to add agenda items or share ideas without having to speak up during a meeting. This way, full participation is guaranteed and your team members feel involved and engaged.

2) Reduce time-zone restrictions: According to the Buffer State of report 2020, one of the top 5 struggles of remote work is keeping up with time zone differences. Picture a team member residing in India collaborating with a fellow team member living in London. There will roughly be 4 hours of real-time overlap in a day. And for most of us, this duration will barely suffice to get through meetings, project kick-offs, one-on-one sessions, retrospectives, and everything else.

Asynchronous communication enables distributed teams to engage in necessary discussions required to push forward projects without the time zone restrictions. Being inclusive of the time zone and the way your teammate prefers to communicate, asynchronous communication gives everyone enough time to contemplate before they speak.

3) Documenting meeting notes: Entering a meeting and starting from scratch where you began last week not only impedes processes but frustrates employees as well. In synchronous meetings, usually, a second-hand source is assigned to make notes. Due to the lack of perspective and clarity, these records hardly tell you the whole story.

Asynchronous communication, on the other hand, saves the headache of going through last week’s conversation all over again, thanks to the notes documented during back and forth conversations. When communicating asynchronously, contributions and comments of every team member can be recorded on a shared internal document. These documents can either replace your meeting entirely or serve as complementary to your meetings. Asynchronous meetings can free you up from reviewing past discussions and let you focus on moving projects instead.

4) The flexibility of response: When communicating asynchronously, team members can better manage conversations without disrupting the flow of work. Of course different types of work demand different types of responses. Sync responses form a major part of a manager’s schedule that entails calls, meetings and urgent emails because a manager’s job is to put out fires and do reactive work. But, for others who need long blocks of focus on a particular task, asynchronous communication is a saving grace. So if someone receives an email or chat notification, it can be attended to once the task is complete.

This is particularly useful for people on a maker’s schedule, like writers, engineers, and programmers, who spend long hours at a stretch on challenging and cognitively demanding tasks. Interruptions in the form of a meeting or a question that demands immediate response may cause a setback to the maker’s workflow. Asynchronously, you can manage communications around the work that enhances productivity.

5) Eliminate production block: Sometimes, synchronous communication like a brainstorming session, instead of evoking efficient team collaboration, leads to production block. Production block occurs when one member (intentionally or not) blocks others from contributing their ideas. So instead of generating ideas collectively, one person speaks and others listen. When others are talking, group members may get distracted, forget the idea before getting a chance to share it, or not get sufficient time to think and generate.

Asynchronous communication eliminates production blocks by enabling everyone on board to pitch in their ideas, without the fear of obtrusion or negative feedback. For example, each member can share outlines of their ideas on a collaborative writing tool and encourage everyone to respond to their colleague’s memos. This not only facilitates effective collaboration but also maintains a record of these contributions for future reference. The silent meeting, pioneered by Jeff Bezos of Amazon, judiciously follows this technique. Their leadership management spends about half an hour or more reading structured memos submitted by each other, and then they discuss it. This way, discussions are more fruitful and meetings, more productive.

6) Fruitful conversations: Some people are innately perceptive at contributing impromptu, yet meaningful insights. Ask them a query, and they will astonish you with the quality of their response. But, in reality, most people benefit from time. They need time and space to process the information, formulate their ideas, and construct those ideas in a clear and logical format. Also, in a synchronous communication, the contributor is expected to give an instantaneous response which is rarely the best. Taking a step back, pondering things through and analyzing actions results in a proactive response instead of a reactive one.

Asynchronous communication empowers your team with this gift of time. Like, for example, if one member comes up with a great idea on the new product design and decides to walk up to a colleague’s desk to share, it may get a reactive response or get shelved aside due to the priority of other team member’s workload. Now, if the same person shares an outline of the same idea via email or Slack, it has a higher probability to be dealt with useful feedback than a hasty response in real-time.

Takeaway: We have come a long way when fax machines and phones were the only way to communicate at work. Today, emails, chats, and video conferencing have freed us up from the constant need to “sync up.” The future workforce demands flexibility and autonomy to choose when, where, and how they want to receive and respond to information. Tools and applications that are designed specifically for asynchronous communication are enabling businesses around the globe to improve performance and drive revenue. In today’s fast-paced era where information is dynamic, asynchronous communication ensures that messages don’t get lost in translation.

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