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HomeRemote WorkWhat is asynchronous communication + how do you use it?

What is asynchronous communication + how do you use it?


With the rise of hybrid and asynchronous work schedules, we’re willing to bet you rarely – if ever – stroll casually over to a coworker’s desk to discuss the details of an upcoming project.

Asynchronous communication is gaining prominence in the modern workplace, facilitating remote work without employees feeling excluded from vital discussions occurring in the office. This shift emphasizes the importance of hybrid meetings, where both remote and in-office participants can engage in collaborative discussions, ensuring that everyone is on the same page regardless of their physical location.

We’re going to explore what asynchronous communication means and how it differs from synchronous communication. Additionally, we’ll provide examples to ensure you truly understand how to implement more forms of asynchronous communication in your workspace.

Asynchronous communication is any type of communication where one person provides information, and then there is a time lag before the recipients take in the information and offer their responses.

Simply put, asynchronous communication doesn’t happen in real-time (e.g. on the phone, in-person, or during a live video conferencing meeting).

For instance, your coworker is busy and can’t properly comprehend the information you’re providing when you visit her desk. Instead, she asks you to segue into some form of asynchronous communication – i.e. Slack, or email – so that she can receive, take in, and respond to your information on her own time.

To further understand working asynchronously, let’s explore the difference between asynchronous communication and its counterpart, synchronous communication.

While asynchronous communication doesn’t happen in real-time, synchronous communication does. Essentially, with synchronous communication, you and your listener are in sync – you deliver your information, and your recipient listens in the moment and responds immediately. There is no time lag in this form of communication.

In certain instances, synchronous communication is a more helpful form of communication. For instance, if you and your team want to brainstorm ideas for an upcoming campaign, it makes sense to do this in real-time – you can bounce ideas off one another and communicate concerns in the moment without fear of any misunderstanding.

However, synchronous communication requires advanced planning to ensure everyone on the team can attend the meeting at a certain time, and it isn’t always necessary. Perhaps you find your team can brainstorm productively via an email chain, Slack channel, or Google Doc. All of these forms of asynchronous communication allow each member of the team to communicate ideas when he or she is willing.

Additionally, working asynchronously can often allow for better, more productive conversations. If a colleague throws an idea at me in the kitchen one morning, I’m likely distracted and unable to provide the most optimal solution to her needs. Alternatively, if I find an email in my inbox regarding the same issue, I have time to consider how I want to approach the situation thoughtfully.

Plus, asynchronous work allows for records of a conversation. If you’re working on a long-term project and want to collect notes on your colleagues’ ongoing feedback, an asynchronous conversation via email chain can help you avoid the difficulties of note-taking in meetings.

Asynchronous communication is often critical for remote workers. For instance, my coworker works remotely in Missouri. I often can’t “stop by her desk” for a quick conversation – instead, we communicate through asynchronous channels, such as email or Slack. These asynchronous conversations are critical since she and I work in different time zones.

In addition to remote workers, hybrid workers rely on asynchronous communication to ensure team cohesion and productivity on the days when they’re not in the office. 

To fully grasp asynchronous work, let’s dive into some examples next.

So, what are asynchronous communication tools? They’re used so people who are distributed across different locations can collaborate with one another. Asynchronous tools are helpful no matter where individuals happen to be located, whether they’re just down the hall or time zones away.

There are multiple forms of asynchronous communication. Popular tools like email and Slack are all easy to use and facilitate asynchronous conversations. If your company publishes updates to an internal wiki or shared messaging board, those updates and ensuing comments are also examples of asynchronous communication.

Additionally, you might use an asynchronous video tool  to communicate with your team. If part of your team is remote and works in different time zones, an asynchronous video tool might be vital for increasing overall productivity and collaboration on your team. An asynchronous video tool lets you record your message and then send it to colleagues to consume on their own time.

There are a few benefits to using an asynchronous video tool – for instance, asynchronous video allows you to avoid the hassles of finding a date and time that works for each meeting’s attendees. If your team works in different time zones, this is particularly important.

Additionally, asynchronous video enables you to craft a well-planned presentation – there are tools that even allow you to split your screen so you can provide visuals while you speak. By recording a message ahead of time, you’re able to ensure it’s the message you want to send. If you were to speak in person, you might forget key points or get distracted by colleagues’ questions.

Best of all, by sending your team a pre-recorded video, you’re giving each coworker the time and space to digest information on their own before providing a response. If the information is dense, coworkers can even re-watch the video for clarity.

Here are some of our favorite tools to use when working asynchronously:

1. Google Drive

Google Drive is a prime example of an asynchronous communication tool. It allows you to work on documents, spreadsheets, presentations, and more at separate times and places. It’s the perfect tool for editing documents and leaving comments for other team members to address at a later time.

2. Slack

Another popular asynchronous communication tool is the messaging app Slack. Slack moves conversations that were traditionally done through email to a messaging service. You can build out different channels for different teams or topics and reply to messages on your own schedule.

3. Loom

Use Loom when a text description doesn’t suffice. Seamless screen recording makes it easier to explain your points and give direction to others who aren’t with you in person. It also integrates with Slack for an even simpler sharing experience.

4. Tettra

Tettra is an internal knowledge base with smart workflows allowing you to answer repetitive questions. It’s a place where you can centralize your team’s resources and effectively search for and find the content you’re looking for. Plus, it integrates with other tools your team uses, like Google Docs, Dropbox, GitHub, and more.

5. Slab

Slab is a knowledge hub where you can find information about your company, teams, and projects. You can search for answers across your company’s tools and integrations and edit files in real-time with other users. Knowledge can be uploaded to specific folders for other teammates to access when they need it, making it an essential tool for asynchronous communication.

6. Asana

Project management systems like Asana are just as useful for asynchronous communication. With Asana, you build out projects and deadlines that are assigned to teammates to work on. Teammates can communicate at their own pace on project boards to get their work done most effectively.

7. Monday.com

Monday.com is a virtual work hub that helps teams communicate asynchronously and collaborate effectively. It provides visibility into all areas of a project, and it integrates with other tools your team uses on a daily basis. Plus, it gives you the ability to automate routine processes so teams can focus on more challenging work. 

8. Microsoft Teams

Microsoft Teams is a versatile collaboration platform designed to enhance communication and productivity for teams of all sizes, particularly well-suited for asynchronous communication and hybrid work environments. With its robust features and seamless integration with other Microsoft Office applications, Teams offers a comprehensive solution for remote and dispersed teams.

9. Owl Labs ecosystem

The Owl Labs ecosystem of devices includes the Meeting Owl 3, Owl Bar, Whiteboard Owl, and Expansion Mic. While not technically asynchronous tools, this cutting-edge hybrid technology ensures employees can make the most out of meetings. The Meeting Owl 3 and Owl Bar work together to create a front-and-center solution that captures every angle of a room to facilitate face-to-face communication and make sure everyone can be clearly seen and heard, even if they can’t be in the same room together. 

This list is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to video collaboration tools that are available to help hybrid teams. Take the time to research the tools that are out there and find the right ones for the specific needs of your organization. 

In a primarily asynchronous work environment, it’s incredibly important that meetings are as productive as possible when schedules are aligned. Luckily, there are some easy ways to help ensure you are getting the most out of your hybrid meetings