In today’s increasingly remote setting, you can’t expect employees to be constantly available for every single question or update. It’s unrealistic. But at the same time, you want an effective communication system that enables teams to collaborate and get work done.
Asynchronous communication is the answer to all your productivity woes.
Put simply, asynchronous communication is communication that takes place "out of sync" and does not happen in real-time. Each employee finds messages at the best possible time, giving them more control over their workflows and preventing unnecessary interruptions.
But how do you ensure your organization is supporting healthy async work?
That’s where this guide comes into the picture. Read on to learn some awesome examples of asynchronous communication to improve team productivity and streamline communication.
What is asynchronous communication?
Asynchronous communication is a type of communication where messages or information are sent and received at different times, eliminating the need for an immediate response. Common asynchronous examples include emails, company newsletter, chatting on Slack, and Asana and Trello boards.
Of course, message recipients may respond right away — but no one is engaged in an active dialogue.
To better understand asynchronous communication, it’s important to differentiate it from its antonym: synchronous communication.
Asynchronous communication vs. synchronous communication
Before diving into the differences between asynchronous and synchronous communication, you need to understand internal communication.
What is internal communication? Internal communication is the process through which employees stay connected and informed within an organization. It defines how information is shared up and down communication channels, as well as laterally, and in what format (verbal, written and digital) needs.
Every internal communication can’t be done through email or messages and requires real-time or synchronous communication.
Synchronous communication is another type of internal communication that can either be a scheduled or impromptu, in-person or virtual session.
Take your weekly standup meetings, for example. Everyone in attendance needs to be present at the same time and sometimes in a specific location.
Notice how each attendee has to be "in sync" during the exchange. Otherwise, it’ll be a colossal waste of time for everybody.
Keeping this in mind, here are the two key differences between asynchronous and synchronous communication:
- Preparation: Synchronous communication needs some level of preparation. On the other hand, asynchronous communication doesn’t require prior prep.
- Coordination: Synchronous communication requires everyone to meet at a given time and date. Asynchronous communication completely eliminates the mandate of real-time presence.
When choosing between synchronous and asynchronous communication, you also need to consider collaboration style.
If your employees prefer bouncing ideas off each other during a meeting, synchronous communication makes more sense. But if they want more time to ideate, asynchronous is more appropriate.
What are the key benefits of asynchronous communication for a business?
52 percent of employees want their companies to be asynchronous-first, according to Buffer’s 2022 State of Remote Work report. This means they want work environments with default asynchronous communication means with synchronous elements for certain work and team-bonding activities.
This isn’t surprising considering the benefits of asynchronous communication for a business, which include:
Reduced work interruptions & disruptions
Asynchronous communication promotes productivity and effective collaboration.
This is because employees don’t have to drop everything they are doing to jump on a call. Considering it takes about 25 minutes to get back to work after being interrupted, this is a big advantage.
Interruptions when working are always counter-productive, preventing team members from engaging in meaningful work.
Contrarily, asynchronous forms of communication don’t interfere with your employees’ time. Plus, they can always mute notifications or assign a specific time to catch up on messages to avoid getting distracted during work hours.
Improves flexibility & collaboration
Did you know that 86 percent of employees and executives cite a lack of collaboration or ineffective communication for workplace failures?
Luckily, you have a solution.
Remote or hybrid teams can use asynchronous communication tools like Asana and Monday.com to break down time zone barriers. They give them the flexibility to attend to work notifications on their schedule while ensuring they are up-to-date with the latest updates.
This also simplifies project management, helping employees understand each other’s work schedules and accordingly assign, update or report on tasks. This, in turn, makes it easy for teams to work together, facilitating easy collaboration.
Reduces the need for in-person meetings
Meeting fatigue is real. If not physical, then definitely mental.
Attending back-to-back meetings can cause information overload, making it difficult for employees to muster up the energy and complete their to-do lists. Embracing async significantly reduces the number of meetings, ensuring they can focus on completing the actual work on their plate.
Establishes communication transparency
Transparency is imperative to a project’s success, especially when they are multiple stakeholders and team members.
Async communication creates an ongoing transcript, documenting the entire project’s progress from start to finish, as well as input from the involved parties. This makes it more reliable than face-to-face communication.
It also creates a true record for every communication channel, including visual communication, allowing teams to remember vital information and double-check facts, which minimizes errors and promotes productivity.
Encourages deep work
Bestselling author Cal Newport coined the term “deep work“ to denote the state of peak concentration that leads to quality work and extraordinary productivity.
To maximize productivity, employees should focus most of their time doing high-priority tasks. Think about it: won’t your employees be in a constant state of distraction and therefore, unable to commit to doing deep work if they’re always on Zoom calls?
On the other hand, asynchronous communication allows employees to take control of their time and respond to or send messages when they get free. It enables deep work, where employees are immersed in “cognitively demanding activities that leverage our training to generate rare and valuable results, and that push our abilities to continually improve,” in the words of Newport.
As an HR leader, you’ll undoubtedly find async communication valuable and useful. But now comes the next big question: how can your organization adopt asynchronous communication?
We’ve got you.
5 winning examples of asynchronous communication in work environments
Without further ado, let’s get to business!
Here are some async communication examples in a remote work environment:
When we talk about asynchronous communication, email is often the first thing that comes to mind.
It’s the most preferred method of async communication that allows people to respond to messages when it’s convenient for them while creating a secure record of any exchange of information. Think: announcements, meeting requests and project updates.
As long as employees have a stable internet connection, teams can use email to communicate and coordinate without having to meet or talk on the phone. Email can also be CC’ed to multiple people, making it a great collaboration tool.
Project management tools
Project management tools like Asana and Trello show a visual display of who's working on what, making it much easier to work asynchronously.
Each team member can see the current status of each task, whether it’s delayed, in progress, or complete. Most of them also have features like tags and sub-tasks, which are handy for managing large-scale projects.
No back-and-forth of emails and text messages means no confusion.
You can’t expect employees to retain all the information they learned during training. If they need more explanation on how to do a task and you are not online at the same time, tasks can be delayed.
That’s why making reference guides and job aids are highly recommended for effective process documentation. Use these documents to explain tasks and answer common questions likely to pop up when executing them.
This eliminates the unnecessary back-and-forth and provides clarification when needed, even when co-workers aren’t available across the hall in the office. You'll find many process documentation tools to create and share reference guides and SOPs, among others, for async communication effortlessly.
Scribe allows you to make awesome visual step-by-step guides to explain workflows and processes — and store them for future reference. This one, for instance, provides a step-by-step breakdown to set up ZoomInfo Engage VoIP, complete with annotations and screenshots.
Discover more on how to use Scribe for asynchronous communication. Create a free account.
Wikis & forums
Your employees can turn to wikis and forums to access high-quality knowledge on a specific topic.
Wikis are great for locating important documents and finding answers to questions needed to complete work. On the other hand, discussions on forums often have thoughtful replies that employees can use to resolve doubts or learn tips to do their jobs more efficiently.
Think of them as a hub to store company guidelines and structured discussions, among other information, to prevent communication delays.
Swap your wordy emails or long text messages with engaging videos, and your employees will thank you — and we don’t say this without reason.
Communicating through videos captures the tone/sound of your voice and serves as a form of visual communication — both of which are missing from written messages.
But that’s not it…
There’s so much you can do with videos to promote productivity and relay new information. For instance, you can make and share instructional videos to help employees do their work more effectively and quickly. Or you can record an onboarding video for new hires to get them up to speed faster.
How to use asynchronous communication examples for work situations
Now that we’ve discussed the examples of async communication, let’s quickly review how you can use them to improve company communications.
Holding sales conversations
Sales conversations have several touchpoints, including the initial outreach and inquiry to the first sales conversation and follow-up to new customer onboarding.
Asynchronous communication helps lower customer acquisition cost by streamlining these conversations. For instance, you can send emails to follow up after giving a demo or use onboarding videos to onboard customers instead of visiting the prospect/new customer in person.
Generally speaking, conducting interviews to fill a position is a slow and tedious process. There’s a lot that needs to be done.
Thanks to asynchronous communication methods, you can send recorded exchanges to pre-screen candidates before holding live interviews. This allows you to weed out unsuitable applicants that don’t meet the job criteria.
Providing customer support
Limiting customer support options to Zoom, in-person or live chat may not work for customers who aren’t tech-savvy.
Instead, you can embrace asynchronous video messages or handle support inquiries via email or tickets to enable your team members to diagnose and resolve support issues quickly. This will ultimately improve customer satisfaction, resulting in lower churn and more sales.
Holding standup meetings
Standup meetings are often repetitive and monotonous. It’s why moving them to asynchronous platforms should be the first thing on your to-do list.
Team members can post updates on a specific day or each day at a time that suits them while creating a convenient system to track progress. Your employees should also give as much context as possible to avoid back-and-forth.
Collecting customer feedback
Catching up with your clients asynchronously can save your team (and the client!) a lot of time and headaches.
Request the client to send feedback as a video response. Not only does this remove the need for lengthy live meetings but also creates a record of actionable feedback to improve the quality of work going forward.
3 excellent tips for making async communication more effective
The success of asynchronous communication depends largely on the quality of the messages your team members share. Ideally, they should cover the following:
- Adequate information to avoid follow-up questions
- A deadline for the response
- Supporting images, links, and other (relevant) resources
- A clear need — what do you want from the recipient? Approval, guidance or asset?
Here’s an example of a ”complete” async message:
Of course, there’s no cookie-cutter approach to async. Your team members have to adopt new habits, processes and tools. Here are some best practices to help your team adapt:
Don’t assume your team members know how to use the new tech you’ve introduced in the workplace for async. Provide reading documents and videos explaining how to go about each tool, preferably with screenshots and illustrations.
As you train employees, have the trainers use Scribe to record each process and create visual step-by-step guides for future reference. A ‘Pages’ feature lets you combine multiple scribes to document elaborate processes and workflows.
Create and implement async rules
Asynchronous communication gives employees greater flexibility. But you also don’t want them to get carried away.
Create basic workplace rules for your staff to ensure discipline. Some of this can include replying to messages by the end of the next business day, following certain security measures when using personal devices to log in to async communication channels, and so on.
Invest in the right collaboration tools
Your choice of tools is a critical aspect of successful asynchronous communication.
Ideally, you want customizable platforms packed with useful features to promote effortless collaboration. This can include instant messaging software, email, video recording tools, cloud collaboration platforms and project management software.
Some of your best options are Scribe, Slack, Asana and Google Drive.
Experiment & optimize
It’s a wrap! These are some examples of asynchronous communication that you can leverage to boost organizational productivity and prevent delays.
Depending on your team’s cultural dynamics, work type and team size, some async processes and tools will work while others won’t. Be open to experimenting and learning from these trials to ensure effective async.