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Asynchronous Communication vs. Synchronous Communication for Remote Teams

Asynchronous Communication vs Synchronous Communication: What Is the Way to Go For Remote Teams?

Be it sitting in an office space along with your work colleagues, attending a zoom meeting, or working from home, without a form of communication, the world of not just remote work, but work itself, would come to a standstill. Communication, the act of sharing and exchanging information, ideas and feelings, is a vital part of any social relationship. However, when it comes to remote work, communication is ‘the’ most important aspect. Through this article, we would like to answer the question of why communication is the most important in any remote work setting and what type of communication should you move forward with.

Communication in remote work

The aspect of communication in a remote work environment is an essential part of building a healthy work culture and it is irreplaceable. Lack of essential communication leads to a myriad of different problems that might harm the workspace and the company in general. For example, if you are working on a project and you require certain information and resources to complete your project comprehensively, what would you do? Would you ask your project manager to provide extra resources and information? Or, would you work on it without letting anybody know that you require some extra information?

In such cases, the significance of communication shines. If you fail to communicate with your project manager about the lack of resources and information, the end product would be incomplete and unsatisfactory. The outcome of lack of communication often leads to major issues within companies and in turn makes them lose a lot more resources. Communication is the key to keeping a workplace up and running and to building a healthy workspace and especially in a remote work setting, it becomes even more important. A remote work setting has its own set of major challenges. One of the major ones is, picking the ideal way to communicate.

Asynchronous vs synchronous communication: A brief overview

Among the different types of communication, the two major types are:

  • Asynchronous communication
  • Synchronous communication

What is asynchronous communication?

When two (or more) persons interact without having to be "present" at the same time, this is known as asynchronous communication, or async.

Due to the onset of COVID-19, almost all the firms and companies were forced to pursue remote work, and due to this sudden rise in companies going remote, the call for a more inclusive yet comprehensive type of communication was much louder. Therefore, asynchronous communication exploded in popularity as it does not take place in real-time and allows participants to respond at their leisure. The duration between sending an asynchronous message and receiving a response might range from minutes to weeks. Some of the popular tools used in asynchronous communication are Email, Google Docs feedback/comments, Asana, etc.

What is synchronous communication?

Synchronous communication, or sync, is defined as communication that takes place in real-time and necessitates a prompt response. Face-to-face chats, Zoom, and Google Meetup calls are examples of synchronous communication. Synchronous communication also utilizes simultaneous messaging applications such as Slack, when everyone is online at the same moment and using the same application (which in this case is Slack).

Synchronous communication is the more traditional form of communication in a workspace. Working inside an office, talking and relaying information directly with your colleagues. However, the closure of office spaces due to COVID-19 led people to a more remote-only setting, practicing asynchronous communication. However, synchronous communication never died off, instead due to the immense success of video chat applications like Zoom, Google Meets, Teams, etc. synchronous communication was still looked after, even in a remote-only setting.

Asynchronous communication: The why and how

Why asynchronous communication?

In just the past 2 to 3 years, asynchronous communication has changed the way of working in many firms and establishments. The idea of asynchronous communication is something that has become extremely popular among various organizations and for very good reasons.

asynchronous communication puts high emphasis on flexibility and understanding each other. It helps in building very good working relationships and also aids in building trust within the organization. asynchronous communication tackles the issue of timezones very effectively, which, in a remote work environment is something a lot of people are worried about. Utilizing many different asynchronous communication tools such as Asana and Google Docs, you can easily add and edit tasks, leave comments, suggest edits, and resolve them if you feel like it.

Asynchronous communication has another important yet unspoken advantage: it reduces work-related stress. There is no expectation that any team member would respond to an inquiry immediately when your whole organization runs under the assumption that any team member might be offline at any moment, for any reason.

Therefore, async creates an atmosphere where your mental health is valued, allowing team members to establish boundaries and liberating them from constant notifications and criticism.

How to implement asynchronous communication?

When you promote a culture of progress over perfection, async becomes easier to embrace. Move a project ahead as much as you can give the resources you have, and if you get stuck, try shipping what you have now through a two-way door.

This allows colleagues to understand where you're going and relieves them of the obligation to respond right away since some progress is better than none.

In an async culture, incremental improvements are valued as much as, if not more than, major launches. Celebrating wins, whether be it big or small, helps to build a very good work culture and pushes your employees to work with satisfaction. After all, it is these small wins, that create a much larger win.

If you have never experienced how async works, you need to first ask yourself this question:

"If no one else on my team (or in my firm) was awake right now, how would I convey this message, present this work, or drive this project forward?"

This puts you right in the async mindset and helps you understand how can you effectively implement asynchronous communication in your team or your organization.

A-synchronous balance

Asynchronous communication will not address all of your communication problems at work. Finding a balance in life, like in most things, is crucial.

For example, there may be instances when you're interacting with your coworkers over Slack and don't feel like you're making any progress. They could have misconstrued what you were trying to communicate, resulting in a dispute. In these cases, starting a video or phone call is the way to go.

Synchronous communication has the advantage of providing you with additional data points to monitor and interpret the message. That's one of the benefits of having a talk.

It's difficult to read body language through email or Slack, for example, although it's simpler to discern in person.

When you need to collaborate fast, synchronous communication is also beneficial (like brainstorming sessions). There are occasions when having a number of individuals there allows for greater insights.

Balancing synchronous and asynchronous is the best way to properly build an effective and efficient remote work system. synchronous and asynchronous complement each other perfectly, as building a pure sync or an async workspace is almost impossible at this stage. Creating a lively and happy environment and cultivating a good and secure work culture would make the weekly 1-on-1s even more interesting and fun to attend. Harboring trust and building good relationships and friendships with your colleagues, will promote a very positive work environment, that everyone would love to work in. Therefore, it is very important to strike a balance. It is never synchronous or asynchronous, or, asynchronous vs synchronous, but always, synchronous and asynchronous. It is together, that they would create the perfect work environment.

Wrapping up

Work and life are never two separate entities, yet they are and never will be the same. To create the perfect remote working environment, you need to follow the many principles of life itself. Maintaining a balance according to your needs, and tailoring your own solution to those needs, will help your organization succeed in creating a safe, sound, and happy remote work environment.

What is the way to go?

The answer is surprisingly simple yet subjective. There is no right way nor is there any wrong way to go. You should be the one to choose your way to go, the path that you choose to push your organization forward, and the path that you pave for others to follow. It is your choice to choose the way you want to move forward with, a path that you build yourself.

Why choose Turing to build your perfect remote team?

Turing.com is a one-of-a-kind platform that allows businesses to recruit remote software developers from a global pool. It's much easier to put up a DEI team for your company when you have such a varied talent pool.

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