Remote and hybrid work currently relies on both synchronous and asynchronous communication, but which communication style is better? Read our blog and discover how to use each communication style to the benefit of your business.
The ongoing debate - As hybrid working is widely adopted, the benefits and disadvantages of synchronous and asynchronous communication are being explored.
The difference - The main difference between the two types of communication styles is the expected response time; whilst synchronous is instantaneous, asynchronous is not.
Synchronous communication - Though synchronous communication benefits companies in competitive fields with fast-collaboration, impulse decision-making can have a negative effect.
Asynchronous communication - While asynchronous communication typically produces fewer interpersonal connections, the quality of communication often increases significantly.
The reality - Given the merits of both types of communications, a fostering of both in hybrid working is beneficial depending on what the situation calls for.
Our take - Regardless of which type your company chooses to use, open conversation is at the root of understanding the type of communication that best fits the needs of your team.
Although England is unlocking and ending all COVID-19 related restrictions, it is clear that most businesses will still be adopting a hybrid work policy for the immediate future. This means that teams will continue to be split, with some working in offices and others from home.
Collaboration and communication across these teams have been virtual throughout the pandemic period and relied on applications such as Slack and Zoom. However, not much attention has been paid to the kind of communication that this fosters: whether it be synchronous or asynchronous.
There is a growing debate amongst businesses over the worth of both communication styles, with some arguing that the benefits of asynchronous communication leads to higher productivity than more traditional synchronous communication. But, what do these terms mean and what are their benefits and drawbacks for workers and businesses?
This article will explore the definitions of synchronous and asynchronous communication, analyse their benefits and drawbacks and offer our take on what we think the best communication mode is for the hybrid worker.
The main difference between synchronous and asynchronous communication is about the expected response time for workers.
Synchronous communication is when somebody communicates with a member of their team through any channel and expects to receive a quick response.
Asynchronous communication, on the other hand, is when somebody communicates with a member of their team through any channel and knows that they may have to wait for up to 24 hours to get a response to it.
This is because asynchronous communication relies on workers establishing what periods of time work well for them, rather than having to schedule their day around emails they know they are due to receive or team meetings they know they have to attend.
The kinds of communication channels themselves are actually very similar. Both may use video calls, emails and messages or collaborate across shared documents. However, synchronous communication relies more on meetings and discussing ideas in real-time. Asynchronous communication thrives on apps such as Trello or Slack which allow managers to set tasks but doesn’t require them to gain regular updates.
In this section we will look at the key benefits and drawbacks of synchronous vs. asynchronous communication.
One of the main benefits of synchronous communication is that employees can receive instant feedback on their work and decisions can be made very quickly. Articles show that fast decision-making in businesses can lower risk and drive success in businesses that operate in highly competitive marketplaces.
Another benefit is that it can boost team morale. In a report from April 2020, 47% of surveyed workers wanted frequent communication and 29% wanted emotional and social support from their workplace. With better and more consistent communication across teams, members of staff can get to know each other better and therefore, feel less alone if they are working remotely or with a hybrid schedule.
Asynchronous communication is often criticised for how it drives a lack of human contact. Whilst it may be beneficial for workers to change their day around picking up their children from school, or to times when they feel more productive, this means they will gain less communication across their team and potentially begin to feel isolated.
Finally, it helps employees to have a specific structure for their day. Whilst it may not necessarily be the most productive time for every worker, the traditional 9-5 model allows workers to have a strict boundary between work-time and home-time. This boundary is extremely important if your work office is also where you live.
However, asynchronous communication has many benefits to it as well.
Asynchronous communication allows people to have control over their work-day and produce high quality communication rather than making impulsive decisions. By taking the time to wait for a response, workers are better able to evaluate situations and make decisions that may ultimately be better for the business as a whole.
There is also less stress with asynchronous communication. Workers no longer feel obliged to overwork and go beyond their set hours responding to emails and messages. It can also allow workers to navigate their day around their other responsibilities such as childcare rather than having this as a cause of stress and distraction throughout the day.
Despite the obvious merits of both synchronous and asynchronous communication, how well can they realistically be implemented within remote and hybrid workspaces?
According to research, employees prefer synchronous learning communication styles whilst they are training within a job. They also require more communication when beginning remote work, with more than 1 in 10 of workers in a survey saying that frequent communication was among the most useful ways their company supported their transition to remote work. The BBC also reports that asynchronous communication requires more trust from the employer toward the employee.
It, therefore, may stand to reason that employees that are just beginning with a business or are just beginning a remote or hybrid schedule would need more constant communication. This is because they may need more time to settle well into the team. Also, their project manager may need to ensure that they are on the right track with the work they are producing.
However, for workers comfortable within their business and operating within a hybrid or remote space, other articles suggest that asynchronous communication fosters productivity. Workers are able to work on more tasks productively during the day, as they are less distracted by messages and team meetings that cause interruptions to their schedule.
According to reports, the average employee gets interrupted 50 to 60 times per day and an estimate of 80% of these interruptions are ultimately unimportant to the worker.
Additionally, whilst you may think that higher collaboration across teams would boost productivity, this is actually untrue. According to data, despite there being a 50% rise in collaborative activities within the past two decades, 20% to 35% of value-added collaborations come from only 3% to 5% of employees.
Furthermore, in the hybrid or remote space, depending on one’s experience level and how well they integrated into the company, a mostly asynchronous model may be the future of communication at work.
Ultimately, it seems that the synchronous vs. asynchronous debate may be settled by businesses using a mix of both communication styles.
Whilst it may be productive to work at times that suit you, regular contact with colleagues and feedback on your work can help to ensure that workers remain motivated and feel part of a team.
Newer members of staff and those new to hybrid or remote working will need more synchronous communication as they settle into the new normal style of working which may be asynchronous.
It may also be beneficial for companies that employ workers from around the world to use asynchronous communication. This will allow for all the workers to operate at the same level, as nobody has to work strange hours so they can attend video calls. Asynchronous communication could also be the gateway that allows businesses to employ a global network of workers.
We recommend that companies have open conversations with their workers about which communication style suits them best. Companies such as Doist and Mailerlite operate with asynchronous communication, so it is clear that success can come from this approach.
Which communication style do you use at work and which do you think will be the communication style of the future? Let us know by sending us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org or send us a message on our Twitter or LinkedIn.