What’s async communication in remote work?
5 min read

What’s async communication in remote work?

Discover the concept of async communication in remote work, how it works, and why async communication is beneficial to effectively manage remote teams.
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Async communication has become an integral part of remote work. It is a mode of communication that allows employees to send and receive messages at their convenience.

Unlike synchronous communication, asynchronous communication does not require employees to be online at the same time. This makes it an ideal model of communication for remote teams vs sync communication, helping to improve productivity, as they can take their time to reply to a message without having to worry about other people's schedules.

Companies that use synchronous communication are usually remote-first. This means that async communication is sort of a core principle of remote-first companies vs remote-friendly companies.

Async communication is not only applied for mere conversations at work. The purpose of this principle touches different processes in a company, to foster a more productive workforce where remote employees aren’t bound by a single time zone.

Asynchronous communication being a vital aspect of remote work, it’s time we dive into how asynchronous communication works in remote work, and the benefits it offers employees. We will also look at the demerits of synchronous communication in remote work, and how asynchronous communication can lead to better productivity among employees.

How async communication works in remote work

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Asynchronous communication in remote work can take many forms. And recently we covered some of the best collaboration tools in remote work, focusing on async processes.

Most communication tools like Slack or Gmail are asynchronous because people can reply to messages at their own convenience.

Chatbots with companies are also async as they can provide answers to employees' questions without needing a real-time response.

Furthermore, project management software such as Jira or Trello also follows the asynchronous principle because they allow employees to see updates and make comments on tasks without needing to be online at the same time.

The beauty of async communication is that it allows employees to work at their own pace, without having to worry about coordinating with others. This can lead to increased productivity, as employees can take the time to think through their responses, without feeling the need to take an action immediately.

Merits and demerits of async communication in remote work

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There are both merits and demerits to async communication in remote work.

A greater advantage

The superior advantage is that it allows employees to work at their own pace, without having to coordinate with others. This means employees can fully focus on completing longer tasks that demand higher level of focus without interruptions. This ultimately leads to increased productivity.

The challenges

A challenge of asynchronous communication is that it can lead to confusion if people are not clear about goals or blockers.

For example, if an employee sends a message asking for clarification on a task, and the response they receive is not clear, this can lead to confusion and frustration as they’ll have to wait another few hours for clarification. That employee gets blocked, and the whole team’s output is at risk.

It’s very important in async cultures that communication is sharp, objective and complete. Don’t simply answer “yes” or “no”. Ask yourself “what if yes, and what if no”. If you complete your message with replies to expected follow up questions, you save your colleague from waiting another few hours until the colleague several time zones away wakes up to unblock them.

Another challenge of asynchronous communication is that it can be difficult to build rapport and relationships with colleagues when you are not communicating in real-time. This is because asynchronous communication can feel less personal than synchronous communication, making it harder to connect with others.

Despite these challenges, asynchronous communication can be an extremely effective way of communicating in remote work, as long as employees are aware of the potential pitfalls. When used effectively, this will lead to increased productivity and better working relationships.

It’s important that companies that implement async communication are purposeful about it. They need to produce significant documentation on processes, so everyone is on the same page. And they need to produce significant documentation of work items, so that employees are independent to get information, and don’t need to ask colleagues in a different time zone.

How async communication in remote work leads to productivity

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Asynchronous communication allows employees to work at their own pace, without having to align their schedules with their peers. This ultimately leads to increased productivity as employees don’t always have to take immediate action.

This means employees get a great deal of flexibility. They can live wherever on earth they want, regardless of the time zone. And they can chose their own schedule. Employees tend to be much happier living this life style compared to having a fixed 9-5 schedule. And, as the saying goes, happy employees are productive employees.

Besides the flexibility, asynchronous communication also eliminates unnecessary distractions that would result from prompt replying to incoming messages from colleagues. This way, employees can fully focus on completing their tasks, even the large chunks of deep work that demand full focus.

Workers in meeting-heavy sync cultures report inability to to tasks that take several hours of deep focus. Async communication avoids that, and allows people to completer large tasks in a fully immersive focus state. That leads to higher quality output and fewer distractions.

How to effectively utilize async communication in a remote team

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If you want to be productive while working remotely, asynchronous communication is the way to go. Here are a few tips on how you can effectively utilize async communication in remote work:

  • When sending a message, be clear about what you are trying to communicate. This will help avoid miscommunication and frustration.
  • If you need clarification on a task, don't be afraid to ask for it. Asynchronous communication can sometimes feel less personal, but it is still an effective way to communicate.
  • When replying to a message, take the time to think through your response. This will help you avoid making mistakes and will also help you communicate more effectively.
  • Have several tasks in your backlog. In case you’re blocked in one task waiting for a colleague’s input, you can put that task on hold and move on to the next one in the meantime.
  • If you are blocked by a colleague that is several time zones away and is still sleeping, don't hesitate to default to action. Use your best judgement and unblock yourself. Async cultures imply high trust in the individuals.

Async communication is a great way to communicate in remote work. It allows employees to work at their own pace and eliminates distractions compared to communicating in real time. Utilizing async communication responsibly will be the ticket to increased productivity in remote work.

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