Synchronous and Asynchronous Communication: Which One is Right for You?
Successful businesses rely on communication with clients, team members, and other potential stakeholders. Fortunately, businesses can operate in a global market with employees spread all over the world. It’s all a matter of choosing the most productive and efficient channel. Both synchronous and asynchronous communication channels can provide this, however, which one is right for you? In this article, we will explain the differences, point out the benefits and downsides, and give you tips on how to efficiently use each.
The biggest difference between synchronous and asynchronous communication is that synchronous is instantaneous. You are in direct contact with the person and the communication is conversational. Asynchronous takes place over time, you send the communication when you have time, and it is answered when the recipient has time.
Without a doubt, you use both synchronous and asynchronous communication channels one way or another, but do you use the right type in the right situation?
Here are two questions you can start with:
- Do you take into account the recipient and their needs?
- Is your communication working at its peak efficiency?
Hopefully, this guide will help you sort that out.
1. Synchronous Communication
Synchronous communications are scheduled, real-time interactions by phone, video, or in-person. It’s common in a physical work location where managers can walk up to a team member’s office and ask for a document or question about a process.
Channels for synchronous communication:
- Face-to-face Meeting
- Personal Chit-Chat
- Conversation in passing
- Direct question/answer session with a colleague in the room
- Phone call
- Virtual Meeting/Video conference
The most obvious benefit is that synchronous communication is it is instant – you save time waiting for a response. You can address issues, get opinions or opine, ask or answer questions, be informed or informed and it’s all done at that moment. Not only is this fast but it can be much more active and dynamic, people can feed off the ideas of others, you can negotiate in real-time, and you can feel the energy and read the signs (tone of voice, body language, etc.)
There is also an argument that synchronous communication encourages engagement, is less isolating, and helps build a rapport. It is important that workers get to know each other in order to foster team spirit, and trust, and encourage motivation. Whilst this will happen organically in the workplace, remote workers can be left out of this loop. Synchronous communication helps them feel part of the group and included in the discussions.
Added to this when dealing with clients, synchronous communication helps establish your authenticity, you are who you say you are. It helps them put a face or voice to the business, you become a person, a physical representation of the business – and people like to deal with people.
- Immediate resolutions and responses.
- Building rapport
- Put a face to the Project
- Establish Authenticity
- Informal conversations and catch-ups
- Small group or individual meetings or discussions.
- Deeper discussions
There are four main weaknesses of the synchronous communication channels.
By definition Synchronous communication requires people to be communicating at the same time. This is great when everyone is in one place, and fine when everybody is working the same hours, but…..! More and more colleagues and clients are working in different time zones or working to their own schedule that fits their lifestyle requirements. It’s harder and harder to get that instant, immediate response from an international community. Plus people are on the go, moving, traveling, and simply doing other things.
The second downside is the fact that synchronous communication can be disruptive. Synchronous Communication requires you to drop everything and respond. It’s one thing if you are having a coffee in the break room, but a completely different matter when you are rushing to meet a deadline or right in the middle of some technical conundrum. If you don’t choose the right moment the communication isn’t the highest quality. Your recipient can be annoyed, flustered, or rushing – this does not smooth the path for effective communication. If you haven’t caught the person at the best time, you are unlikely to get the best response.
No Time to Plan Your Response
Furthermore, there is the risk that immediate responses are not as planned or well thought through. Not a problem if is a quick answer to a quick question, or a general catch-up, but potentially a big issue when solving a technical problem or negotiating a deal. If someone is speaking to you, you’ve got to think on your feet. Synchronous communications can also be highly stressful for non-native speakers, whose language skills might not be quite up to the task. Non-native speakers are usually much more comfortable reading and taking time to digest information and talking time to compose a fitting response.
Finally, synchronous communication is not as easy to record, and archive, go back to for clarification, and to refer to if necessary.
1.3. Practical Tips
If you choose to use Synchronous Communication (and it’s unlikely you won’t at least in certain circumstances), here’s how to do it efficiently.
- Identify your objective: even if it is an informal chat, there should be an objective (e.g. to make the person feel comfortable)
- Plan: plan in advance, take into account what you want, what is the desired outcome, and the other person’s point of view. If it’s a meeting set an Agenda
- Be clear: state what you want
- Be personal: one of the reasons for synchronous communication is to forge a personal link, so be natural, be human.
1.4. Common T00ls for Synchronous Communication
There are many tools for synchronous communication, and the number is growing a are the extra features they include. You can use general platforms such as Whatapp, Facebook, facetime, phone services, or more business-centered platforms such as Slack, or Microsoft Teams.
Some widely used systems are:
- Google Meet
- Microsoft Teams
Some of these are purely communication tools, others enjoy extra features for sending documents, sharing screens, recording, etc.
2. Asynchronous Communication
Asynchronous communication means interaction without real-time conversation – it doesn’t require an immediate response. This type of communication also plays a significant role in giving remote employees control over how they communicate with their teammates.
Channels for asynchronous communication:
- Letters or Postal mail
- Project management tools
- Text messaging
- Video recordings (CloudApp, Zoom, etc.)
2.1. The Benefits
Obviously, there are numerous benefits of asynchronous communication in the business world. For a start, it doesn’t need to be planned or scheduled the communication and receipt of the communication happen at the most convenient time for either party. This means that you needn’t worry about different time zones for either clients or remote teams.
Asynchronous communication doesn’t need an instant response, which cuts down the need to drop everything to answer. There should be fewer interruptions to your working day, and you can schedule your own time for answering communication. You don’t need to rush off a response which can be confusing in order to return to your deadline. This is a much more productive way to go about your day.
This type of communication gives you time to read it at your own speed and make sure you understand it. It gives you extra time to plan your response, control your return message, find resources and information you need, research, and be completely sure you have answered to the best of your ability and included everything you need. This is an efficient communication strategy that although it may take longer, should result in overall time savings. This goes for dealing with people who struggle with face-to-face or voice-to-voice situations. Either for language reasons or social abilities.
Asynchronous communication also leaves a trail. It creates a record of your communication which is useful for archiving, record-keeping, referrals to requests, decisions, and agreements.
- Dealing with people in different time zones
- Avoiding distractions
- More formal messaging
- Communicating details
- Summarizing synchronous meetings
- Communication that needs recording
- Dealing with people who are uncomfortable with Synchronous Communication
- Set Deadlines for replies – you might not get an immediate response but deadlines put some sort of time pressure so you can start to plan ahead
- Check – proofread, check attachments are attached, reread for tone and potential misunderstandings, etc.
2.2. The Downsides
There are two main weaknesses that make asynchronous communication imperfect.
The problem is waiting. Sometimes you need a quick response in order to make a decision or move forward. If you are waiting for someone first to pick up the message, then to get around to answering it can be frustrating, but more importantly, it can lead to serious delays. When sometimes a quick yes or no is needed surely you don’t have to go through the rigmarole of an email.
Lack of Personal Touch
The other major issue with asynchronous communication is the lack of a personal touch. This kind of messaging can be impersonal, especially as it is often very task-specific, by nature it is briefer and to the point with clarity being the focus. It is easy to lose the importance of the human relationship in dry, business-like messages. Of course, to a certain extent, this depends on your communication style and there are ways of resolving these potential issues. Your written skills are vitally important, not only in full written reports but also in brief emails. The tone in writing can be misunderstood, misinterpreted, and seem forceful or rude.
2.3. Practical Tips
Like with Synchronous, the key to using asynchronous communication is choosing the right moment, the right situation, and the right style and platform.
- Identify the right tools for the objective: there is a great difference between eh readability of an email and an SMS message.
- Identify the right tools for the person: take into account the recipient, it is likely they prefer certain methods over others, especially clients.
- Choose the tools: if you are dealing with employees internally it is important that you have a standard communications method so they are not wasting time searching for messages, or risk missing them.
- Plan and practice: writing is an important skill that needs to be worked on. Think of not only the clarity of the message but the structure, organization, and tone.
2.4. Common Tools for Asynchronous Communication
Asynchronous Communication is a growing area and communication and collaboration tools are often blending together. Some common platforms are:
- Google Drive
- Microsoft Teams
- Screen Recorders & Capture
Asynchronous tools allow for communication between two or more parties from anywhere but most importantly at different times. The tools often contain further possibilities alongside communication enabling collaboration, especially for businesses. We listed the best tools for asynchronous communication in a separate guide article.
Essentially, this is not a fight between synchronous and asynchronous communication as they are two alternative ways of communicating that each has its moment in the sun. There are times when one or the other is an obvious preference and a clear choice. When you choose between synchronous and asynchronous communication, consider not only the advantages but also the disadvantages. Is your wish for a quick response going to distract or irritate a client or worker?
Your own business will have its own ways, but it’s wise to keep checking on your options. Both are growing and competitive areas and communication is such an important area that it can never be neglected. There are added features and functions and they are all designed to make your life easier. These tools give you the power to communicate in the best way to colleagues and clients wherever and whenever in the most efficient and effective way.
In the meantime, you might be interested to continue with some of the more specialized related articles on the topic of remote work and communication: