Asynchronous communication is often seen as the holy grail towards creating a scalable and efficient remote teams, but what does that mean, and why is it so crucial?
"Asynchronous" or short "async" describes all forms of communication where messages aren't transmitted for instant reading. Instead, async communication often runs over a persistent medium and is archived on that medium, in order to be read asynchronously.
A prime example of asynchronous communication is e-mail, or even physical mail: Instead of creating an instant (or synchronous) stream of messages, it saves the messages on a medium (a mail server, or - well - paper) and is only received by the recipient when they decide to read it. Documentation and written-down content is also a great example.
On the other hand, examples for synchronous communication are video calls or instant messaging, where the goal is to always have a continuous and instant stream.
The best all-remote teams run on asynchronous communication. The reason for that is simple: Flexibility, availability and timezones.
When working remotely, you can never be sure whether a person is available, busy or out of "office". If you're relying on quick instant messages, chances are that you're getting disappointed. With team members in other timezones, it can also feel predatory to send messages through a medium that expects instant replies.
Instant messaging, as well as calls and other synchronious ways of communication can also break the flow of work. Being able to set time aside every hour to go through messaging promotes healthier and more productive work.
Instead of sending quickfire messages that create notifications and distractions, or solving all issues live on a video call, a team should resort to using async communication methods. That might be e-mail, an async tool like Twist, or simply using instant messaging more thoughtful and with less notifications.
More than anything, doing async communication is a mindset, and not a tool issue. Employees coming from a fast-paced environment might need to learn the art of not waiting for replies, or expecting them instantly. The power of async communication is that it should not matter much whether a response is coming in a minute, or 10 hours.
That's a different way to think about things, and that often leads to some problems:
To make this work out, you need to actively employ async communication methods and train your team on them. There are a lot of resources out there, that you should definitely read:
Those are a few heavy reads, so if you want to have the quick, boiled-down version, let's get into it:
That's really just the basics, and we'd still recommend you to read some of the pieces above!
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