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Asynchronous communication in remote work and why it matters

Reading Time: 5 minutes

Remote working has really been catching on over the past. 5 years, and for a number of reasons (from huge tech improvements to global health crises) is now a fixture for many businesses out there. Yes, the impact of COVID-19 in 2020 has propelled remote working into the foreground, and yes it was an enforced change for many. But recent research from LinkedIn shows that businesses the globe over are looking to make remote working practices a permanent fixture of their company culture once a return to the traditional workplace is possible.

This makes sense, as the benefits are huge and the few challenges are generally easily navigatable with a bit of planning and procedure.

While the majority of us have had to adapt and learn quickly over the past 12 months, there is still 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. With the exception of planned video conferencing, asynchronous communication is (and should be) going to make up the bulk of communication for the remote workers.

Working remotely often means working in environments not built primarily for work, meaning they can be unpredictable and lead to a need for employees to balance work with other priorities (such as childcare). So as a manager, it’s important to get to grips with how asynchronous communication works, and how managing remote workers in this way differs from managing people directly in the same office.

The problem with micromanaging remote workers

Effective async communication makes micromanagement unnecessary.
Photo by Andrea Piacquadio from Pexels

Micromanagement is a dirty word at the best of times. But as many employers still struggle to trust their employees to work remotely, they may find themselves falling back on it out of concern for productivity.

While it’s important to have clear lines of communication when working remotely, 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, just as an excess of meetings can slow down office output, too many video calls and direct messages will only hold your remote workers back and erode the trust they need to perform effectively. While people tend to stereotype remote workers as lazy and unproductive, these things aren’t actually true. But micromanaging is a fast way to convince your remote staff that this is what you think of 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, 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.

You'll already be familiar with asynchronous communication through things like email and text messages.
Photo by Christian Wiediger on Unsplash

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: While emails and direct messages can be very useful for efficient communication, 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: While the flexibility in response time can be great for employee focus, it can sometimes result in people taking longer to respond to something than they should, or forgetting outright.

While it’s important to keep these disadvantages in mind, they can each be overcome 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.

There are plenty of asynchronised communication tools out there, so you can pick the right combination to suit your team.

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, as well as where it’s appropriate to post messages, and when.

There are also plenty of secondary applications that, while not strictly essential, 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, and 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

Just because people dislike micromanagement 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 their schedule can be set based on the needs of your team so that they only check in as often as you need them to. The questions can be customised for each of your employees, and 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.

Interested in learning more about how Weekly10 can help you communicate with remote workers?

Research Associate