Synchronous vs Asynchronous Communication - How Your Team can Benefit from it

As the popularity of the Work-From-Home model spurs on, more teams have to shift their balance towards having more asynchronous communication. In this article, we will discuss how you can embrace a hybrid model with synchronous and asynchronous communication.

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Even before the pandemic, organizations used both synchronous and asynchronous communication in the workplace. 16% of companies in the world are fully remote teams. As the popularity of the Work-From-Home model spurs on, we can expect more workers to run on asynchronous communication.

Relying on different forms of communication is especially important in today’s business context, where teams are increasingly diverse and dispersed. An organization can have employees in different cities, countries and regions, with different demographic characteristics, such as race, religion, gender, family background and social status.

As such, it is crucial for managers to find empowering ways to exchange ideas and information among teams. On that note, simply sticking to one type of communication can limit and stunt productivity. In order to cater to the needs and preferences of every employee, organizations use a hybrid model with synchronous and asynchronous communication.

Synchronous vs. Asynchronous communication

Synchronous communication

This type of communication is live and interactive. For synchronous communication to take place, participants have to be present and having discussion in real-time. Synchronous communication is tied to many traditional workplaces, since it is quite straightforward and runs by a schedule. These interactives are predetermined on agenda and time frame so that participants can set aside a place and time. In synchronous communication – think, in sync – employees can benefit from a wide range of perspective and speaker expertise during real-time dialogue.

Examples of synchronous communication

In the office environment, synchronous communication can take place in many forms. Some examples are physical meetings, brainstorming sessions, over-the-desk conversations with a coworker, or one-to-one meetings in a manager’s office. This could take place in a remote work environment as well, such as over the phone or live video conference.

Asynchronous communication

On the contrary, asynchronous communication is interaction that takes place without being in real-time. There is no constant dialogue and participants can respond in their own time. To facilitate efficient responses, participants will usually set a deadline. Otherwise, an obligation to continue the interaction could be part of workplace etiquette. Still, asynchronous communication usually takes place when situations and responses aren’t time-sensitive, so employees can go at their own pace.  

Examples of asynchronous communication

The most common form of asynchronous communication is email. Asynchronous communication in the office can also take place through pre-recorded tutorials, knowledge banks, company wikis, discussion boards and messaging software. All these channels of communication provide employees with the flexibility of reading and responding when they are available.

What are the benefits of asynchronous communication?

While asynchronous communication is most often associated with remote work environments, the reality is that it can benefit all types of workplaces. One of the major selling points of asynchronous communication is that it empowers organizations through encouraging self-directed employees to handle things within their own timetable. This puts less pressure from upper management on employees to leave time in their schedules.

Here are some of the benefits of asynchronous communication.

Ideal for busy employees

The concept of asynchronous communication is especially pertinent when you consider how vast and fast-shifting the business landscape is. Furthermore, with 72% of people taking work-life balance seriously when searching for a job, it’s important to allow employees their own free time and not overwork them.

Allows more time to go through content

When recipients are given sufficient time to respond, they can go through the material (e.g. tutorials, emails and messages) to think of appropriate responses. Perhaps they may need more time to absorb information or come up with specific questions. Asynchronous communication can promote more productive conversations as it allows time for further reflection.

Accessible at any time and place

With geographically separated teams, or even teams that don’t work during the conventional office hours, there may be some difficulty in finding a shared time for scheduled communication. Asynchronous communication allows for conversations to be easily retrieved at any given time and place. Usually, all it needs is a working internet connection.

Saves on cost and time

Standard working weeks should typically last 38 to 40 hours. However, reports have shown that some workers can hit up to 50 hours a week. Asynchronous communication cuts down on the time to commute to and from scheduled meetings. Responses are also kept short and to-the-point, without the redundant back and forth. Furthermore, asynchronous communication doesn’t require a dedicated space, which can sometimes cost money to book or rent.

When to choose synchronous vs. asynchronous communication

While asynchronous communication has its benefits, there are still situations where synchronous communications works better.

For starters, synchronous communication enables real-time interaction that fosters peer-to-peer collaboration and a constant flow of ideas. Participants can throw out new ideas and receive immediate feedback. This is particularly helpful for brainstorming sessions where teams need to conceptualize ideas on the spot and boost productivity. Dependent learners may also find that synchronous communication is more helpful, since they can get supportive instruction to facilitate development.

Asynchronous communication best practices

If your organization is new to asynchronous communication, or perhaps haven’t found it effective, it can be worth looking at some best practices.

Sync on asynchronization

Before switching over to a new methodology, it is important to align your employees with the new workplace culture. Ensure that everyone is aware of the changes and how to effectively manage communication going forward.

Think in the perspective of other participants

Asynchronous communication can be counterproductive if employees do not communicate in a way that is understandable to the recipient. Encourage employees to send clear and articulate messages, stick to deadlines and be transparent about feedback.

Use the right tools

Proper communication relies heavily on the functionality and usability of an organization's toolset. If channels are constantly malfunctioning or blocking out notifications, it can be detrimental to effective communication.

For more tips on how to improve asynchronous communication, check out our blog post 5 ways to improve communication for remote teams.

The best asynchronous communication tool in 2021

Engaging the right communication channels can ensure that messages are sent, received and stored promptly. Kipwise empowers teams through a centralized platform where they can access all important information and documentation. With integration to popular office software like Slack and OneDrive, Kipwise is a powerful workplace tool for end-to-end knowledge and communication management. Find out more about our solutions today.

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