What is Asynchronous Communication? 

Freelancing and remote work has always lent itself to different ways of going about the working day. With more people moving outside the traditional office setting thanks to Coronavirus, a lot of companies are reassessing the way they communicate.

A lot of companies are now communicating day to day asynchronously – but what does that mean? It can provide great results, especially when it is used alongside synchronous communication. Here is a guide of what asynchronous communication is and how it can be used to get the most out of your newly remote team.

What is asynchronous communication?

So, what is asynchronous communication? How does it work? Is it magic? Not quite. We’ll start off with the technical definition.

According to Merriam-Webster it is communication “in which there is no timing requirement for transmission and in which the start of each character is individually signaled by the transmitting device.”

But what does that actually mean? It is when two or more people communicate without having to be “present” at the same time.

Compared this to having a meeting at work or arranging a Zoom call when everyone has to be there and ready for it at the same moment in time. That is an example of synchronous communication. To get a more in-depth comparison of the two types of communication, we recently did a blog post about the difference between Zoom and Watch and Learn.

What does this look like in the online workspace? Here are few examples of asynchronous communication:

These are all examples where one person can communicate in a manner which doesn’t require the other person to respond immediately or be present. If you send an email, a message on Slack or on Microsoft Teams, you can read it and reply in your own time.

Asynchronous communication has been made possible by the internet and is used more in day to day business than you might think. You probably use asynchronous communication as the main way of getting in touch with clients and colleagues.

Examples of synchronous communication are:

  • A face-to-face meeting
  • Zoom, Skype, other forms of video and audio conferencing
  • Watch and Learn video calling
  • A phone call

For all these types of communication, everyone has to be present at the same moment. You have agreed to talk at 12pm GMT and there is no wriggle room around that, unless someone is on a coffee run.

If someone sends you an email or a Slack message expecting you to respond immediately, this defeats the purpose of asynchronous communication. They are wanting to use it synchronously.

So that’s it. Pretty easy once you get your head around it. But how can get the most out of asynchronous communication? Here are some of the pros of not having to all synch up.

Pros of Asynchronous Communication

  1. It’s Flexible

We’ve said it before but it’s worth saying again, you don’t have to reply immediately. This allows for more flexibility as to when people respond. If you’re busy working on other projects or have conflicting calls, it can be a great alternative to a scheduled meeting.

It gives people time to focus on their primary work, which can fall to the wayside with continuous video calls. This can greatly improve productivity without the pressure to respond right away.

You don’t have to be in the same location or time-zone to talk which lends itself perfectly to remote working.

  1. ­No need to take notes

By its very nature, asynchronous communication has a paper trail. Since you can look at it after it has been created, it automatically makes a record of the conversation. Like an email chain.

When you’re on a phone-call, there usually isn’t a record of what’s been said, unless someone takes notes. If you record a video or an audio message, it is there forever to go back and refer to. Some dictation technology automatically takes down what you are saying, like the transcription tool on Watch and Learn. You can read about how to get the best results for transcriptions over on our transcription page.

It is great to have a record of your communication which you can go back and look at any time. Especially when you are working on a lot of different projects and have a lot on your plate.

  1. It encourages honesty

Different forms of communication allow people to give feedback in their own way. With the option for text based feedback it generally encourages people to be more honest. Some may find it easy to give honest feedback in a group conference call, but others find this intimidating. Removing the face to face element can allow people to let go of their inhibitions and are less likely to hold back what they really think. This is known as the online disinhibition effect.

Asynchronous communication allows for deeper, more considered feedback. Even if someone isn’t afraid to give their honest opinion in a team meeting or a one-on-one, they may feel put on the spot. If their response can come in an asynch manner, they have more time to think and review. You may not get your feedback as quickly but you will get a wider range of voices and more thought out insights that you might otherwise be missing.

Cons of Asynchronous Communication

No form of technology or communication is without its drawbacks. The main downside of asynchronous communication is that it may draw out a conversation that would otherwise be solved in a quick call. It can take a while to wait for your colleagues to respond to your messages in their own time; this is when we would recommend jumping on a call.

Text based communication can also lead to misunderstandings. It can be hard to read someone’s tone in an email or a Slack. Video and audio messaging can inject a much-needed dose of human interaction into the digital workplace.

The Main Takeaway

Using asynchronous communication can enhance the way you conduct your business online. Both types of communication are essential to the remote workspace. Synchronous communication is great when you need to collaborate quickly or get immediate feedback.

Asynchronous communication gives your team the flexibility to review and respond to work in their own time. This can provide deeper and more honest feedback, as they can refer back to messages and fit it around their primary responsibilities. We are all working out this working from home thing, but with asynchronous communication you can balance your workload better between conference calls.