What is Asynchronous Communication?

What does Asynchronous Communication mean? What are the Benefits?

The FindAsync Team

Imagine a work culture where timezones don’t matter, meetings are more purposeful, and team members can work remotely on a schedule that fits best for them. A work culture that enables remote work to provide complete freedom in how, where, and when you want to work in the world, while still staying productive.

Many remote companies around the globe, including unicorns such as GitLab, Remote, and Zapier have already adopted this style of work of which we believe is the future: Asynchronous communication.

First, what does Asynchronous Communication mean?

Simply put, asynchronous communication (often shortened: async communication) is any type of interaction which does not require an immediate response and for all team-members to be online simultaneously.
Imagine getting a message from your coworker, but there is no need to rush with your answer. You can finish the task you are working on, and respond whenever it fits to your schedule. In async-first communication, you and your team are free to communicate with each other when it is most productive to do so, and to batch responses when taking a break from your focused work.
While asynchronous communication provides the biggest benefit for remote-first teams, all companies can benefit from the values of async communication. Whether it be hybrid or in-office teams, striving towards the asynchronous culture enriches them as well.

What is the Difference between Asynchronous and Synchronous Communication?

Synchronous communication is up until now the most common way we interact in the workplace. Conversations happen in “real-time”, meaning workers are expected to respond immediately and be on-site or online at the same time as their coworkers throughout the workday.
Working synchronously can either take place on-site in an office, remotely from home, or a hybrid model between these two. Whether a team-member stops by your desk or sends you a message while working remotely, the expectation is the same: to get an immediate response as soon as they reach out.

  Synchronous Communication   Asynchronous Communication  
  Real-time communication   Async communication, async-first communication  
  Communication does require an immediate response and for all team-members to be online simultaneously.   Communication does not require an immediate response and for all team-members to be online simultaneously.  
  Employees are expected to work at the same time as their coworkers throughout the workday to maximize their overlap with each other.   Allows employees to work on their own schedule and communicate when it fits best for them. They have some overlap with each other for essential synchronous communication (1 on 1 calls, emergencies, etc.).  
  Instant messaging, phone and video calls.   Thorough documentation of work flow and progress by text or prerecorded videos. In some situations, synchronous meetings are held.  
  For in-office, hybrid or remote working companies.   Mostly for remote working companies, but hybrid or in-office teams can also learn from it.  
  Real-time conversation, instantaneous feedback, and working only in the same timezone.   Productivity, flexibility, and working together on a global scale.  

What are the Benefits of Asynchronous Communication?

Asynchronous communication provides huge benefits to both remote working employees and companies.

  Benefits for Workers   Benefits for Companies  
  Team-members have the flexibility to work and communicate remotely on their own schedule, as well as choose their preferred hours in which they are available. Team-members are able to work independently, and are trusted with managing their own work schedule and deadlines. They can structure their work schedule around their lifestyles, biorhythms, and responsibilities.   Companies have operational benefits from their employees working flexible hours. Workers are more distributed throughout the day, meaning ideally there is always someone working around the globe.  
  Due to the reduction of scheduled meetings, and lack of constant interruptions from messages or phone calls, employees can focus better and maximize their productivity. Workers are able to block enough time for deep and focused work, as well as have complete control over their tasks, without waiting for others to complete theirs.   Employees that are not interrupted by distracting communication and by unproductive meetings spend more time being productive, leading to a higher quality of work.  
  Workers do not have any boundaries in applying and getting their ideal job, no matter where they live. They can work from anywhere around the world, regardless of their timezone.   When hiring, companies are not limited to specific time zones, rather on the contrary: they are able to choose the right talent from a wider talent pool, and hire their employees globally. They can create a unique work environment around a global and diverse remote working team from anywhere in the world.  
  Due to no expectation of being always online, available, and responsive throughout the workday, team-members are able to set boundaries which support their mental health as well as well-being by reducing tension and stress. Therefore, employees are happier and more engaged. Further, they need to plan in advance, since last-minute conversations and collaborative work is not ideal.   Not only do companies experience lower levels of absence, sickness and stress of their employees, but also become recognized as a business that people want to work for.  
  In order to avoid many back-and-forths, workers have to communicate more clearly, precisely, and thoroughly. Because there is more time to think about their response, workers can focus on the quality of their communication.   With high quality thoughtful responses, firms can experience fewer instances of miscommunication in their team, and as a result, work flows are more optimized.  
  Because team-members communicate mostly in writing or through pre-recorded videos, all work flows and essential information are documented automatically. That makes it easier to share or reference information later on.   Many async companies (Remote, GitLab, Zapier, and more) have benefited from the structured and documented work of their employees: the reviewing, tracking, understanding, or proving of information is much easier, even after a long time. No information gets lost, and all work is transparent at any time.  

Asynchronous Communication is not perfect! When is Synchronous Communication necessary?

Eliminating all types of real-time interactions in an asynchronous work culture is not beneficial. Humans need personal interactions with others, and employees still want to connect in real-time and/or face-to-face.

Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, fostering good connections amongst employees was difficult. In a survey conducted with 223 executives in December 2019 and January 2020, people were already struggling with feelings of social isolation at work:

  • 76% reported that they had difficulty making connections with their work teammates.
  • 58% agreed with the statement “My social relationships are superficial at work.” On top of the difficulties of adjusting to remote work, employees around the world felt even more isolated.

Many async companies are aware of this issue and declare that it is essential to worker’s productivity and health to offer (and in some cases require) synchronous communication.

Doist, the remote async company behind the productivity app Todoist and the only asynchronous first-communication app Twist, experienced this fact as well: At the beginning of their switch to async, they realized employees felt disconnected from their team-members, after eliminating most synchronous interactions. Providing team-members with the potential to build personal connections, they started to implement selective synchronous communication, such as 1-on-1s, weekly team meetings, as well as yearly company-wide and smaller team retreats.

Recently, Docker, the company which automates the deployment of code inside software containers, has made the shift for everyone to work fully remotely and asynchronously. However, they will offer employees who live near to each other the support to meet up and continue to collaborate. They will look for opportunities to do this as a whole company, both online and in-person, in the future.

The goal of an asynchronous work culture is not to eliminate all types of synchronous interactions. But synchronous communication should only be implemented where it provides a benefit for employees and the company.

The Future of Remote work is Asynchronous Communication

We are not robots – to create more flexible, focused, and healthier work environments for everyone, we need to optimize the current way of working. Driven with the belief that asynchronous-first remote communication is the future of work, we created FindAsync: to help workers from all over the world discover their dream job no matter their time zone or schedule, and async companies to find the right talent. We are excited to see this shift evolving, and the work culture become an inclusive, fair, and sustainable environment for workers.

We would love to hear from you: if you have any questions or thoughts on asynchronous-first communication, please feel free to reach out to us at contact@findasync.com or leave us a message within our contact form.

If you would like to post an async remote job, please click here. For browsing through the newest job positions, visit our job board.

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