Asynchronous communication: What is asynchronous communication and how do you use it?

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The days of stopping by your coworker’s desk to ask a quick question are slowly fading away. Now when you stop by your coworker’s desk, you might get a response like, “I’m a bit busy right now. Mind Slacking me and I’ll get back to you later?”

These days, more teams are using asynchronous communication methods like email and instant messaging to work together. It’s easy to see why. With remote work and hybrid office setups becoming more common, the ability to sync face to face requires more planning and effort. It’s much easier to send your team a message than to plan a meeting or set up a call.

Read on to learn more about asynchronous communication and how you can use it effectively in your workplace.

What is asynchronous communication?

Asynchronous communication occurs when you provide information that doesn’t depend on time and doesn’t require an immediate response. It allows you to communicate with your team without being present at the same time.

For instance, utilizing project management tools, email, and video are all common methods of asynchronous communication in the workplace. Instant messaging and text can also be used asynchronously, but are often used to engage in more immediate discussion.

If you’d prefer to learn by watching a video, watch this quick summary by Prezi’s Editorial Director Lorraine Lee, or keep reading to learn more about the ins and outs of asynchronous communication.

Asynchronous vs. synchronous communication

The difference between asynchronous and synchronous communication is that asynchronous communication doesn’t require any real-time interaction, whereas synchronous communication does. Synchronous communication includes conversations with colleagues, phone calls, and meetings (both in-person and online). You and your listeners are in sync — you say something and your listener listens and responds immediately.

Synchronous communication has its benefits — the best way to stay on top of your work is to respond to issues immediately and quickly take care of them. But it’s also limiting. Imagine if the only way you could talk about work was in person and in the moment — you’d probably take more opportunities to talk about work, even when you’re on a time crunch to finish up a project.  What’s the better use of your time — finishing up your work for a tight deadline, or discussing a lower priority project?

Many businesses are using a mix of both synchronous and asynchronous communication. For example, the hybrid model allows teams to work remotely and across different time zones. There might be big blocks of time where some people are working and others aren’t. This is when they’ll use asynchronous communication to get things done. When they need to brainstorm, give sensitive feedback, or collaborate quickly, they’ll work synchronously.

Examples of asynchronous communication

Modern workplaces use many asynchronous communication tools everyday. Here are a few common examples:

  • Email 

  • Threads and forums in Slack and Miscrosoft Teams

  • Project management and collaboration tools such as Asana, Jira, and Trello

  • Intranet and company wikis

  • Recorded videos

  • Instant messaging like text, Facebook Messenger, Whatsapp, and communication platforms such as Slack and Microsoft Teams

Benefits of asynchronous communication

Asynchronous communication makes it so that employees don’t need to be in the same place at the same time to get things done. In 2017 remote working had risen about 44% over the previous 5 years, a trend which was only exacerbated by the COVID pandemic. People have learned to rely on asynchronous communication methods to get by, and now that businesses and employees have started recognizing the benefits of working from home, many are hesitant to return to the office.

With the ability to shift focus based on need rather than in-the-moment requests, asynchronous communication gives people the ability to stay in the zone and concentrate on the tasks at hand. The ability to prioritize your most pressing work is one of the greatest benefits of asynchronous communication. This allows people to stay in a “flow state” — a state of mind when you’re fully immersed in a task. People who are in a flow state will respond to requests when they’re done or ready to take a break.

Unlocking the flow state is one of the keys to productivity. It gives you the option to manage your schedule around the actual work itself. If you typically meet with your team in the morning, but that clashes with your most productive part of the day, then consider incorporating more asynchronous meetings into your schedule.

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There are many other advantages of asynchronous communication, a few of which include:

  • With more time to respond, you’re able to provide a well-thought-out response, rather than a knee-jerk reaction.

  • Different time zones are able to work together, which improves collaboration and allows your recruitment team to pull from a larger talent pool.

  • Employees have more control over their workdays and schedules.

  • Asynchronous communication creates a living document, one that can be referenced later, unlike in-person discussions.

Challenges of asynchronous communication

Asynchronous communication is incredibly useful in a modern workplace, but there are a few things that businesses should consider in order to promote a happy and productive workplace.

  • The line is blurred between off-duty and on-duty. It’s up to a business to ensure that employees don’t feel the need to respond to messages immediately, especially when it’s after regular working hours.

  • With less face-to-face interaction, asynchronous communication can lead to feelings of isolation and disconnection from the rest of the team.

  • Messages, even with emojis and GIFs, lack the same personal contact as face-to-face conversations and virtual meetings. It can be easy to misread and misinterpret messages from coworkers.

The core challenge of asynchronous communication is that it doesn’t allow as much personal connection as working in real-time, and that can affect your employees’ satisfaction with their jobs. It’s important for businesses to create a sense of community and use tools that allow more personal face-to-face contact for their teams.

We provide a number of asynchronous communication tips in our guide on building a healthy and productive remote work culture.

How to use Prezi for better asynchronous communication

Prezi Video is a great tool for dispersed teams who rely on asynchronous communication to collaborate and stay connected. Where working remotely can lack human connection, Prezi Video helps your team record video messages that are more personal and more interesting than a written message. Video messaging allows you to use gestures, voice inflections, and to speak naturally to get your point across effectively.

This is a great alternative to scheduling a meeting for busy teams. Create a presentation covering the content you’d typically cover in a meeting, then record and share with your would-be attendees. This allows them to cover the material on their own time so that they don’t have to interrupt what they’re working on. We call this an asynchronous meeting.

You can also record a video message as a supplement to a live meeting. Before the start of a meeting, send a Prezi video out to your attendees with useful background info. Just as with the asynchronous meeting, they’ll be able to review the content on their own time and be more prepared for the in-person meeting. Plus, you’ll be able to set a little more time aside for more collaborative work, like discussion and brainstorming.

Prezi Video works with most messaging and collaboration tools, and is easy to incorporate in your remote work toolkit. Find out more about how Prezi can help your business by contacting us.

More info and resources on asynchronous communication

In his Prezi video, Darren Murph, the Head of Remote at Gitlab, walks through the benefits of working remotely and describes how to set asynchronous meetings effectively. Watch his video, Stop the Madness! The Asynchronous Cure to Notification Overload, to learn more about asynchronous communication and how to use it in your workplace.

If your team is working in a hybrid environment, you’re likely using asynchronous communication to reach out to coworkers in different cities and time zones. Mandy Fransz, Owner and Founder of Make the Leap Digital, describes the role of asynchronous communication in three tips for managing a hybrid team.

There are so many ways that you can use asynchronous communication to keep your team aligned, productive, and satisfied with their job. To learn how Prezi can help, watch this short demo or sign up for a free trial get started with Prezi Video today!

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