The greatest benefits of Asynchronous communication in business
What Is Asynchronous Communication?
The most simple definition is asynchronous is the official and slightly fancy name for sending and receiving information when you are not in real-time contact.
Messaging and email are the two most common forms of asynchronous communication.
This compares to synchronous or real-time communication such as phone calls, video meetings, or even face-to-face communication.
Asynchronous – In Practise
It might be a relatively new term but asynchronous is not a new concept. From the dawn of humanity, people have left symbols to communicate with each other. What has changed since the internet has taken over the world is the massively increased volume and ease of asynchronous communication. In practice, we use both forms of communication on a daily basis, especially but not exclusively in the business environment.
Asynchronous – Growth
Over the past few decades, we have seen an increase in the use of asynchronous communication and this is a trend that has sped up for various reasons. People have become more trusting and used to technology and are prepared to tread new ground. In part, this was happening already, but the recent pandemic situation has made asynchronous communication a necessity. The pandemic may well fade into an unpleasant memory, but the likelihood is it will leave lasting effects. One of these effects will be seen in the adoption and increased use of different communication practices and even asynchronous communication as the default communication for business and commerce.
The Benefits of Asynchronous Communication
Apart from the fact that asynchronous communication has become a necessity, there are some absolutely clear advantages over synchronous communication. Some are obvious, it’s more flexible, others are less obvious but equally beneficial.
One view is to look at the disadvantages of synchronous communication. The most obvious is that all parties involved need to be available at that specific time. Even if technology has recently improved enough to allow participants to be in different places, the synching of schedules has always caused problems. There are other issues too. The very nature of synchronous communication is not always conducive to the most favorable outcome. It is instantaneous and direct, this might be appropriate for certain discussions but definitely not all. Sometimes synchronous can be seen as confrontational, certain parties dominate, other parties don’t feel comfortable, and don’t have time to process information. We’ve all been in situations where traditional synchronous communication has not been a success, for either party.
So let’s take a look at what Ayschronous can offer:
Flexibility and freedom
The flexibility and freedom of asynchronous communication have the very obvious advantage of allowing you to work from anywhere, at any time. Being tied to your desk or in the office is no longer compulsory for workers. As long as you have an internet connection and a suitable device you can be in touch with your team members and clients or customers. Whilst a mobile phone will also offer this option, other asynchronous communication tools give you far more control. You can read documents, view files, open attachments, filter messages that are urgent, prioritize messages and replies, etc.
Facilitates Remote work
With the growth of remote work, enforced or by choice, the world of work has quite suddenly opened up a whole realm of new, exciting opportunities. None of this would be possible without the technology to support it. Communication and collaboration platforms offer the chance to communicate with colleagues, employees, team members, clients, and consumers wherever they may be based. Some of these platforms are, of course, synchronous (Zoom, Skype, etc) but others allow you to communicate asynchronously. These asynchronous tools (dropbox, email, messenger service, slack) mean that not only can your employees work from home, but that home can be anywhere in the world. They can work whenever it suits their schedule, from early mornings to all-nighters, can fit in work around their personal circumstances, and can work from any time zone.
This undoubted strength of remote work has seen not only a growth in people wanting to work remotely but also according to studies, a rise in efficiency and productivity. As a business you can employ the best people from around the world, you can have global business contacts and clients, you can operate 24/7 if needed and you can save on physical building space and overheads. Asynchronous communication facilitates this process, it smoothes the rough edges and makes business operations more practical for all parties.
Time to react/time to process
Synchronous communication is by its very nature instantaneous. There is pressure to respond and there is pressure to respond quickly. Some things need to be thought about, discussed, processed for longer, weighed up, and even researched. Of course, you can always say you’ll think about something and get back but in practice, you can’t do this room often even if you want to. Asynchronous communication gives you time to consider your response. You can go away and really think about the situation and exactly how you want to respond. Surely you make better decisions when you’ve had time to think.
This is also a much more comfortable way to communicate if you are in the position of communicating with people for whom English is not their native language. Or indeed if you are communicating in a language that is not your first language.
Time to prepare your response
The time to think is also the time to prepare a response. You’ve made your decision or thought about your opinion BUT what’s the best way to get it across? More time to prepare should equate to a more thoughtful response not only in terms of the actual decision but also in the words you use to express it. You can look at the style, the words, the chances of misunderstandings, and the tone – all important factors when you want to communicate well. You have the chance to make sure you haven’t forgotten anything, you’ve included everything you need and you’ve come across in a professional manner. Your style of written communication says a lot about you, so it’s well worth taking a little extra time to get it right. Asynchronous give you that time.
Again it’s essential if you are operating a business with clients or staff spread around the world, perhaps who are using a second or even third language.
Time to edit
Asynchronous communication doesn’t need to be rushed. If you’ve taken the time to think about your response and the important time to actually prepare an accurate, thoughtful well-constructed response, then take the time to self-edit, proofread and edit again. Nobody is faultless, everybody makes mistakes. Review your response before sending it. Check for mistakes, check for potential misunderstandings, check spellings, check grammar, and check for typos. Try to read it with a different voice, to get a feel for what you’ve written. Use spellchecks and grammar apps, and get a colleague to proofread it – the more sure you are the better. Mistakes are understandable but they also signal a lack of care and attention to detail. In the worst-case scenario, they can lead to serious misunderstanding and communication breakdown.
No interruptions – better for workflow, better for your mood
Without phone calls, and people calling in to ask you things, you have the chance to work in an uninterrupted, focused manner when you choose. You don’t have to get into the office 2 hours before your employees to concentrate on the paperwork that needs doing. Asynchronous means that you can answer communications, and send communications when it suits you. This not only means that you can have an uninterrupted workflow but also that you are in exactly the right frame of mind when you do choose to communicate. Would you believe that interruptions can often make you less polite when answering “urgent” queries – not good for team morale?
Documentation & Record of Communication
Documentation and proof of what has been verbally discussed are vitally important. So much so that even what synchronous communication there is often someone to record what was actually said. From the traditional minutes taking in meetings, to video calls with automated transcriptions there is a need. With asynchronous communication, it’s recorded by default. You have a written record – good for covering yourself and good for checking back. An automatically created record is achieved with no need for extra resources, no need for your own heavily overworked memory to be on top form, and no need to type up an abstract or summary. You can track internal processes or conversations with clients. Whilst this doesn’t cover all your official documentation needs, it is still a huge advantage.
For many of the reasons above, no interruptions, no need for instant replies, etc. asynchronous communications allow for better more accurate planning of your workday. A proactive, organized, and efficient day, rather than a reaction to the other things coming your way.
Disadvantages of Asynchronous Communication – and what can be done.
There are clear advantages of asynchronous communication but it is only fair to address some of the potential disadvantages too.
A commonly held belief is that social isolation is a real issue, especially amongst remote workers. It is right to say that not all remote workers have chosen that form of employment and many miss the interpersonal work relationships that they are used to. The chit-chat in the lift, the small talk during a break, the subconscious team-building of just being around others and feeling part of everything. Whilst it’s true that asynchronous communication lacks that traditional cut and thrust, that doesn’t mean it’s impossible to generate an atmosphere of the team.
Good managers are thinking outside the box are organizing alternative situations to generate the office vibe, or at least compensate for it in some small way. This could include synchronous meetups, and increased use of asynchronous communication doesn’t rule out synchronous. It is also worth pointing out that whilst you may not be able to generate the usual workplace situation you do have more time and flexibility in your personal life.
Time & delayed responses
Sometimes you can do without a delayed response, no matter how well thought through or beautifully written. In a practical context, there are times when you can’t afford to wait for a response, you need a decision or an answer right now. Fair enough. In this situation, synchronous works so use it. The idea of asynchronous is that it has advantages not that it is a universal cure-all for all communicative problems. Choose the best method for that instance, just don’t go synchronous out of habit if it’s not necessary.
Lack of Spontaneity.
Certain businesses value spontaneous communication that brings about fresh ideas, dynamic moments of creation, and minds working together as one huge superbrain…..it works for them. It doesn’t work all the time, often it leads to the same people making the same decisions. The quiet ones take a backseat, the pushy ones dominating. If spontaneity is required even with remote teams there is technology to make it possible. But bear in mind that individuals have the time to reflect, and thinking carefully might get you a better answer in the end.
Lack of the personal touch
Does asynchronous communication give you the same connection when messaging as a face-face conversation? Maybe not, although it’s worth eating in mind that not everyone flourishes with this connectivity. However, putting a face to communication does often help oil the wheels, especially with new or unknown clients or customers. It gives them the feeling that you are human, but it doesn’t have to be every communication. Once they have the image they hold the image, they don’t need to see you every time. And asynchronous can also be the use of recorded video messages, that add that personal touch – it’s not all email.
Asynchronous Best Practices
Using Asynchronous communication to its full potential will require best practice solutions. Good practice will cut down on the disadvantages and embellish the advantages. It’s not just a question of using asynchronous it is about using it well and to its full potential.
1. Choose the correct tool for the job
Not all asynchronous tools do the same job. The key to utilizing asynchronous communication to its full capacity is choosing the right tool for the right purpose. And there are a growing number of tools. Email may be great for generally keeping in touch with people but is it the best tool for sending large files, absolutely not, use Dropbox or something similar.
In a similar way, if you are project managing a large number of projects with different clients, email is not great. You might be better with a specific project communication app like Kitchen, which can organize communications and link with other employees quickly and simply without the need for endless copying in. These kinds of software and apps are specifically set up to do a job, they are not general software. There are great internal communication software programs such as Slack, but it’s not fantastic for client communication. Choose wisely, and choose well it makes all the difference.
2. Compensate for Synchronous
If your team or clients are used to synchronous you might need to compensate for the lack of this usual communication. Over communicating, especially at first, making sure everybody is clear and knows what’s what. Get n touch regularly with remote teams, and make the effort to make them feel part of the team. Organize synchronous events like video meets and try to keep them in the loop regarding the overall business, not just their own position.
3. Guidelines, Expectations & Response Times
Producing a set of guidelines for your internal team on how to use asynchronous systems, including such things as expected response times is a good way of not only regulating communication but also setting standards. You can include things like ways to address people, what system to use for what type of communication, etc.
4. Don’t use Asynchronous when Synchronous is more appropriate
If you need to meet someone face-to-face and you can, then do it. If you desperately need a quick answer, then phone – asynchronous isn’t about making life difficult to fit a certain philosophy, it’s about making life easier.
To sum up
It isn’t simply a matter of substituting the old for the new, in fact, all businesses should use a balance of asynchronous and synchronous. The question is which way does the balance tilt? Asynchronous communication is a valuable tool, but only one of many. The software packages and apps using asynchronous communication are growing to support the growth in popularity, which in turn is making asynchronous even more popular. If you want to really use asynchronous communication to change the nature of your business, to support remote workers and get the most out of them, to spread your global wings and reach out to clients all over the world, then asynchronous communication is a must.