Asynchronous communication in remote work and why it matters
Updated 29th April 2022
Remote working has really been catching on over the past few years. This has happened for a number of reasons, from huge tech improvements to global health crises. Remote work is now a fixture for many businesses out there, with asynchronous communication playing a key role.
Yes, the impact of COVID-19 in 2020 propelled into the foreground. And yes it was an enforced change for many. But in 2021, research from LinkedIn showed that 71% of business leaders felt under pressure to change work models. In other words, more employers than ever are making remote positions a permanent fixture in their work culture.
This makes sense, as the benefits are huge. On top of that, the few challenges it presents are generally easily navigatable with a bit of planning and procedure.
The majority of us have had to adapt and learn quickly over the past 12 months. So there are still plenty of bugs to work out. And plenty of room to grow as remote managers and employees. One tool we should all be embracing (if we aren't already) is asynchronous comms.
What is asynchronous communication?
Asynchronous communication is a fancy name for communication and data sharing methods that don't require both (or all) parties to be present simultaneously or to reply immediately. Asynchronous communication is (and should be) going to make up the bulk of communication for the remote workers. Although the obvious exception here is video conferencing, which gives remote staff a vital human connection.
Some examples of asynchronous communication include:
- Messaging via Microsoft Teams or Slack
- Feedback shared within a planned employee check-in
- Ad-hoc feedback sent non-verbally
- Updates to Asana or Trello boards
- Forum posts
Working remotely often means working in environments not built primarily for work. That means they can be unpredictable and lead to a need for employees to balance work with other priorities. For example, maybe you're a parent, or you have some regular social commitment. So as a manager, it's important to get to grips with how asynchronous communication works. But you also need to know how managing remote workers asynchronously differs from managing people directly in the same office.
The problem with micromanaging remote workers
Micromanagement is a dirty word at the best of times. But many employers still struggle to trust their employees to work remotely. So they may find themselves falling back on it out of concern for productivity.
It's important to have clear lines of communication when working remotely. But overdoing it can seriously hamper productivity and work satisfaction. You might feel tempted to replace the level of face-to-face communication that happened in the office by checking up on your remote team as often as possible.
However, too many video calls and direct messages will only hold your remote workers back. Keep pushing, and you'll erode the trust they need to perform effectively. It's the same result as weighing down office workers with constant meetings. Micromanaging is a fast way to convince your remote staff that you don't trust them.
Why use asynchronous communication?
Asynchronus communication is the most flexible approach to exchanging information. Unlike synchronised communication, it doesn't require any prior planning. This is because the data you send can be accessed from anywhere, at any time. It can make discussions more productive, because it's easier to refer back to an email query than it is to remember a question your colleague asked you verbally earlier in the day. This helps conversations proceed more efficiently, despite the fact that they are more spread out over time.
The benefits of asynchronous communication
Some forms of asynchronous communication have been a part of office culture for decades now. When you look at the positives, it's easy to see why. An effective line of asynchronous communication has several benefits that make it vital, even if you're not working remotely. These include:
- There are a lot of different apps and services that support asynchronous communication.
- You'll already be familiar with how it works, in the form of emails and text messages.
- Not having to answer messages immediately, meaning fewer distractions.
- Previous conversations can be referred back to at any time.
- Being able to consider your response makes conversation more efficient.
- Being able to instantly communicate with team members in any location is great for productivity.
The disadvantages of asynchronous communication
While asynchronous communication is an incredibly useful work tool, it isn't without its disadvantages:
- Difficulty keeping track: We've all experienced the pain of checking our email to discover a huge backlog. This can make it easy to miss something if you're being overloaded with messages.
- It's no replacement for direct interaction: Emails and direct messages can be very useful for efficient communication. But they just aren't as socially involved as an actual conversation. This is why, no matter how much you're using asynchronous communication tools, phone calls and video calls are still important for your remote workers.
- They can enable procrastination: The flexibility in response time can be great for employee focus. But it can sometimes result in people taking longer to respond to something than they should, or forgetting outright.
It's important to keep these disadvantages in mind. But keep calm, and remember that you can overcome all of them with the proper organisation and implementation.
How to make the most of asynchronous communication
Efficient asynchronous communication is all about the tools you choose, and how you implement them. For more detail about specific tools and services, you should check out our top tools and tips for remote workers. But in this day and age, we're spoilt for choice. There are more direct messaging apps out there than you've had hot meals.
Applications like Microsoft Teams combine asynchronous messaging with video conferencing and file sharing services. Others, like WhatsApp or Slack, market themselves around things like encrypted security, or integration with third party services. Getting the most out of these apps means making it clear to your team how they should be organised. And you should also make it clear where it's appropriate to post messages, and when.
Teams isn't just defined by its essential core features. There are also plenty of secondary applications that can really help your team stay coordinated no matter where they are. AGILE project management tools like Trello, ProofHub, or Teamwork enable your team to manage tasks effectively. With these app extensions, you can tell at a glance what needs doing and when. Overall, the most important thing to consider when implementing new asynchronous communication tools is what combination of them will be right for your business.
Why Weekly10 is perfect for remote work
People may dislike micromanagement. But that doesn't mean they don't want to be managed at all. In fact, consistent feedback not only helps ensure the quality of your remote staff's work but can also benefit morale by showing employees that you care about their personal development.
Weekly10's employee check-in feature is the perfect asynchronous communication tool to monitor the wellbeing and engagement of your remote workers. They only take a few minutes to complete, and you can set their schedule based on the needs of your team. That means they only check in as often as you need them to.
You can even customise questions on the employee level. In turn, they have the ability to submit ad hoc updates at any time. This means highlight success and raise issues without having to wait for a pre-approved time.