With an increase in remote work and the busyness each employee faces during the workday, asynchronous communication is more prevalent than ever.
Henrik Jesman Sunde
July 5, 2022
What is asynchronous communication? Asynchronous communication, sometimes called async, is any communication in which there’s a time gap between when a communication is sent and when it reaches the intended recipient, which then gives them time to review the information and respond at their leisure. Unlike real-time communication, the receiver of information has the opportunity to read and form a response on their own time. Similar to texting, asynchronous communications can be sent when it’s most convenient and responded to by the recipient at a later time.
Today’s workplace sees less and less real-time communication. It’s likely that if you stopped by a colleague’s desk with questions about a project or a list of ideas about an upcoming presentation you’d be asked to come back later or send an email. And for those working remotely, sending information over is the only way to communicate.
Asynchronous communication is the new way to engage employees because even team members belonging to the same department rarely move through the workday shoulder to shoulder. Everyone has different meetings to attend, projects to work on, schedules to manage, and obligations to tend to. While it may sound as though working like ships passing in the night is a bad thing, relying on asynchronous communication is actually beneficial when managed well.
Plus, there are times when the work day is cut short, like when staff need to take their kids to practice or pick them up early from school. Asynchronous communication allows you to value home and family time while keeping up to date with workplace happenings and common goals.
The obvious difference between synchronous and asynchronous communication is that synchronous communication happens in real-time. The speaker and listener are in sync, with the sharing, listening, and responding all happening in the moment. This occurs during onsite team meetings, video conferences, face-to-face 1:1s, and any interaction without a gap between the information shared and the response.
There are times when synchronous communication makes the most sense, having multiple minds working together at once can help fuel ideas and solutions and avoid misunderstandings. Synchronous communication isn’t always possible or the best method, however, especially in a work environment where everyone is busy and moving in different directions, or when staff members are out sick and recovering.
Your company likely engages in async communication every day, especially if all or part of your company is remote. When you ask for feedback via email, that’s asynchronous communication. Other common asynchronous communication examples include sending over a list of questions via a Google doc, taking a poll on Slack, sending an update over a chat system, or texting about a project. In all of these cases, the receiver has time to carefully formulate and think through their communication before pressing send in response. With more time to absorb information and form a response, communication is likely to be more efficient and useful.
Zelo’s powerful features allow senders to craft messages on their preferred channel of communication and send them out at the perfect time for each employee. This is ideal for businesses with employees that work different shifts, or if a staff member is away on vacation and can wait to re-engage with news and company updates until they come back.
This unique feature creates efficiencies for both the employee and the HR representative or manager sending out the information. By leveraging asynchronous communication intentionally, HR representatives or managers can quickly send information on individualized schedules that work best for each employee without the added stress of having to schedule that communication manually. One message, sent one time, can be delivered to individuals when it works best for them—increasing the likelihood that they’ll respond and the HR representative or manager will receive the information for which they were looking.
There are actually many benefits to asynchronous communication that enhance the quality of communication and improve workflow. Here are some of the most evident benefits.
Asynchronous communication provides workers the flexibility and autonomy to send and respond at a time that suits them. This is especially helpful to avoid interrupting colleagues when they’re performing complex or time-sensitive work. When sending asynchronous communication, the sender has more control over their workday by communicating when they see fit. You can share information virtually and move on with the day knowing a reply will come later.
When communication happens on a timeline that works best for both parties, there’s a greater work-life balance as senders can structure communication around the workday, instead of sending recipients a barrage of communication they need to deal with all at one once. As most employers hire staff that they trust will get the job done, asynchronous communication reduces micro-managing and improves employee satisfaction.
When employees can focus on work tasks undisturbed, they typically increase productivity and achieve better results. Employees can be head down on a project they’re passionate about or need to meet a looming deadline on, producing more meaningful and on-time work. Many employees find it helpful to simply designate one or two time slots during the day when they manage their inbox to send and respond to incoming communication, which is beneficial for those who require intense focus or are easily distracted.
Many companies include employees who work across a variety of different departments or even different time zones. Having a default policy of asynchronous communication allows team members to not have to worry if they’re missing out on important in-person communication. Sharing information through online tools lets everyone be part of the exchange when they’re available.
Intentionality is one of the biggest benefits of async communication. This communication style gives the sender a chance to communicate when it’s best for them. Likewise, it also gives the receiver a chance to respond once they’re free to focus on the incoming information. This leads to better absorption and understanding of the information, and the receiver has time to think and collect any further information before responding, making their response more purposeful. Zelo allows recipients to customize which channels their responses come through. As some people are more inclined to check certain channels over others, this puts recipients back into the driver’s seat so they can respond when they want via their preferred channels.
While there’s an argument that synchronous communication allows for fewer misunderstandings, there’s one for asynchronous doing the same. This is a benefit that can go both ways. In many situations, communication in the written word can greatly reduce misunderstanding. Some people absorb information better by reading than by hearing, and the written word gives them the chance to reread something until they fully comprehend it. Plus, the sender is not burdened by time constraints and has an opportunity to reread their communication and ensure all of the important information is included from the get-go. And since most virtual communication is automatically saved, there’s a log of each exchange both parties can always go back and refer to.
It’s no secret that virtual communication decreases inhibition. Many people feel comfortable being more open and honest over email and text than they would face to face. This allows for more honest feedback, asking more questions, and a greater chance of pursuing what matters to an employee. Allow workers to open up about their concerns, needs, and other feedback through asynchronous communication.
To make the most of asynchronous communication and ensure it benefits all parties, here are a few things to keep in mind when forming communication.
And possibly the most obvious consideration to make asynchronous communication effective: Don’t expect an immediate response. This goes against the point, and no one appreciates constantly being pinged throughout the day over a question that isn’t urgent.
Zelo streamlines and enhances asynchronous communication by allowing you to communicate with employees (and receive their responses) where and when suits their preferences. Whether it’s over Slack, email, Teams, text, Workplace, or another channel, Zelo’s software helps you reach team members where they’re most likely to be, and at a time when they’re most available and able to respond.
Some workers are morning people, while others need a few cups of coffee before they connect with their team members, which is why asynchronous communication helps employees by working with their needs to never miss a beat. Just let Zelo calculate which channel to send your audience's communication through (based on their preferences) and send out communications at the selected time (including across different time zones). You can even create beautifully branded internal communications in the software and analyze your reach and effectiveness based on your chosen metrics.
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