Virtual Vocations article on the benefits of asynchronous communication for remote work

Asynchronous Communication & How It Can Improve Your Remote Work

The remote work realm has brought many changes to the modern workplace. ROWE management styles, flexible schedules, and work-life balance are just a few of these revolutionary ideas. However, asynchronous communication is an equally radical idea — at least for old-school approaches to the workplace or freshly minted remote workers. Fortunately, this type of communication doesn’t have to suffer from a lack thereof — it only needs some fine-tuning. Discover ways to make asynchronous communication flow and improve your remote work and operations.

What Is Asynchronous Communication?

Traditional workplaces use synchronous communication. Every worker has a specific schedule. Within this time frame, employers expect them to answer emails, instant messages, and other collaborative efforts while they’re on the clock. Asynchronous communication is the opposite. In a remote workplace that adopts flexible schedules, asynchronous communication means that employers do not require instantaneous communication. Everyone is free to work their own schedule. As such, you only have to return emails or other communication at your leisure.

The idea behind asynchronous communication is that you aren’t tethered to your desk at all hours of the day. This is especially important in companies with distributed teams, where everyone works in different time zones or in different countries altogether. Moreover, asynchronous communication solves the problem of work-schedule differences, as well as technological snafus and glitches. In a broader sense, it’s the only type of communication that works for remote employment while maintaining a work-life balance.

Examples of Asynchronous Communication

The tools of the trade are every bit as important as the communication itself. Knowing what tools to use for specific situations can lead to workflow and operational enhancements. For example, instant messages and collaboration tools are best for synchronous communication. If you’re stuck on a task because you need answers, a direct approach is best, so make sure to use the right tool.

Conversely, you may not need such a direct approach, especially if you’re working odd hours or you don’t need an immediate answer. Recording a video of yourself, sending an email, or creating screenshots are all viable methods of asynchronous communication.

The bottom line: If time is of the essence, synchronous communication is vital. If you don’t need immediate instruction, a passive, asynchronous approach will do just fine.

The Benefits of Asynchronous Communication

Now that you understand the different types of communication and asynchronous vs. synchronous communication, you’re better equipped to understand the benefits. While asynchronous communication may seem counterintuitive to productivity, it certainly has its advantages.

Reduced Chance of Burnout

One of the greatest benefits of asynchronous communication is that it reduces burnout and stress. When an employee feels like they must constantly answer emails or messages regardless of the time, this increases stress and leads to an ever-growing concern that the job is a drain on personal time.

With asynchronous communication, employees can answer emails and messages at their leisure. The work still gets done, but workers don’t feel the overwhelming thought that they’re in trouble for not answering a question at 10 pm on a Sunday. That’s the peace of mind that can go a long way toward the morale and engagement of remote workers.

Improved Transparency

When everyone works at a different time, collaboration can suffer, or at least ostensibly. However, a carefully constructed email, audio clip, or video can limit any drawbacks from asynchronous communication and ultimately lead to improved transparency.

Through a company-wide communication platform — regardless of what it is — employers can lay the foundation for expectations and get everyone on the same page. This, in turn, leads to improved transparency. All employees understand what other people are doing, the scope of the project, and what they need to do to make it a success.

Proactive Approach to Remote Work

Another major advantage of asynchronous communication is that it can lead to proactive approaches to remote work. When you remove the crutch of being able to constantly ask questions, an employee has to learn to fend for themselves. They become a self-starter, have extra initiative, and make decisions that improve their workflow.

In this facet, employers and managers aren’t forced to constantly field minor or inconsequential questions giving them more time for big-picture tasks. The old adage about teaching someone to fish rather than giving them a fish becomes ingrained into the work itself — and strangely enough — all from not being around to answer a question.

Better Productivity

Improved productivity with asynchronous communication may again seem counterintuitive, but it requires pinpoint accuracy in messages and clear-cut expectations. When employers have one shot to reach their employees, care and time go into each video, email, or screenshot. In this sense, there are no gray areas, which can lessen stress, reduce the number of questions, and hopefully, lead to better productivity for each team member or as a cohesive unit.

Fewer Interruptions

Deep work is a modern idea that just might be the greatest soft skill a worker can attain. A worker achieves this zen-like state and pushes their cognitive abilities to the maximum, but it’s only achieved in one way: a distraction-free work environment.

If an employee reaches this level of deep work, everything becomes second nature. Not only do they create better work, but they can also do it more quickly than if they meet constant distraction.

Asynchronous communication is the answer to deep work. Without the constant need to respond to other workers or answer questions in real-time, deep work becomes innate.

Potential Problems of Asynchronous Communication

Despite the upsides of asynchronous communication, it also has its downfalls just like any other type of business or management operation. How you choose to balance asynchronous communication among employees is vital, as well as how employees themselves respond to it. Nevertheless, understanding potential pitfalls can help you avoid them and streamline an asynchronous workplace. Make sure that you’re aware of these problems before you implement the idea of asynchronous communication:

  • Pauses in workflow from a lack of communication or ambiguity in messages
  • Potential onboarding issues with employees who have never worked in an asynchronous environment
  • Less employee engagement and a lack of community or cohesiveness between employees
  • Fewer chances for collaboration, brainstorming, or creative ideation from employees
  • Necessity of new management ideas, expectations, and transparency that may not have existed in a synchronous communication atmosphere

Planning can alleviate many of the problems with asynchronous communication, but employers must be constantly ready to tackle issues as they arise. Anything less can spell trouble.

Communication Is Vital to the Success of a Remote Business

Regardless of whether a company uses synchronous or asynchronous communication, the communication itself is what’s vital to the success of a remote business. In some cases, synchronous communication is paramount; in others, responding when you get a chance is just fine. The idea is to know when each type of communication is integral to your own success, the success of others, and the success of the business.

Like any other type of business operation, tweaks, work styles, and preferences dictate the type of communication you need. From both an employee and an employer’s perspective, expectations are everything. But if employees know what’s expected and the ideas are outlined and concrete, asynchronous communication can be the one idea to streamline productivity in a remote business.

Have you adopted asynchronous communication? How did it help you improve productivity? Connect with Virtual Vocations on FacebookTwitterLinkedInInstagram, and YouTube to share your thoughts. We’d love to hear from you!

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