What is asynchronous communication?

What is asynchronous communication? We break down the topic so you can understand exactly how to use this type of communication and how it can benefit your business.

Ivor Colson

The modern workplace is changing everyday. Due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the future of the workplace seems unknowable, and this is an issue which is only exacerbated by ongoing factors such as globalisation and climate change.

Businesses now have workers who may be scattered all over the world and are working to different time-zones, which makes the idea of instant communication and the standard 9-5 day tricky to enforce.

And, this is not something that is estimated to change. The trend toward remote or hybrid was beginning before the pandemic, with 3.91 million UK employees working remotely in 2019. By May 2020, 71% of managers reported being happy with the levels of team productivity during remote work, which shows that remote work is certainly here to stay.

With these modern problems comes modern solutions, namely the rise of asynchronous communication. But, what is asynchronous communication, why is it the future of the hybrid workplace and what applications are available to support this kind of communication? Keep reading to find out.

What is asynchronous communication?

Put simply, asynchronous communication is non-instant communication. It is when a member of a team communicates with another member through any channel and does not expect to get an instant response.

This is because workers using asynchronous communication are able to establish what times of the day, or even days of the week, they want to work. It rejects the typical 9-5 day formula and favours a more global approach to communication.

This contrasts with synchronous communication, which is instant-communication, where a member of the team will expect an immediate response during the 9-5 day. You can read more about the specific comparison between synchronous and asynchronous communication here.

The benefits of asynchronous communication

There are many benefits of asynchronous communication, we think these are the key ones:

Quality communication

Asynchronous communication favours quality communication rather than a quick response time. It gives team members the time to really consider what they want to say without having the pressure of needing to provide an instant response to other team members.

It has been reported by the company Doist, one of the biggest supporters of the asynchronous communication model, that quality communication is far more important than fast communication. 

They cite a report from the Harvard Business Review that shows that many employees are actually distracted from doing work when they are forced to provide instant responses. Workers could even spend a full 80% of their workdays responding to emails from other workers. When using asynchronous communication, workers will spend less time responding to messages and more time actually being productive. 

Better workplace inclusivity

Another benefit of asynchronous communication is how it allows workers to have more control over their work day, as they are able to establish what hours they want to work. This leads to better workplace inclusivity. 

When a business uses asynchronous communication, it means that workers can be hired from all around the world. It also means that businesses can hire workers that would need to take time off during the typical 9-5 day such as parents or people with regular healthcare appointments. Giving them the opportunity to work to their own schedule leads to a more inclusive workplace environment.

The drawbacks of asynchronous communication

Although we’ve established that asynchronous communication leads to a better quality of communication, some businesses are not convinced that having a slower response time is a good thing. 

However, there is evidence to suggest that prioritizing quick response times over quality responses can lead to negative impacts on businesses. By asking workers to respond quickly, you may not be able to reach a proper amount of depth in your responses and it can lead to heightened anxiety and stress amongst workers.

One drawback of asynchronous communication that is harder to dispute is how it can lead to loneliness amongst workers, as they miss out on having contact with others during their working day. However, this is something that can be resolved by scheduling optional and regular social meetings, whether these be over applications like Zoom or in-person, and these can go alongside the general asynchronous schedule.

Therefore, whilst there are some drawbacks to asynchronous communication, there isn’t anything that cannot be resolved or overcome through company policy and care for their employees.

Why is asynchronous communication the future of the hybrid workplace?

As established, the pandemic and factors such as globalization and the rise in digital technology has led to more workers wanting to work remotely or through a hybrid model. In August 2020, 50 of the biggest UK employers said they had no plans to return all staff to the office full-time in the near future, and this rang true. In June 2021, 85% of employees who were currently working from home said that they wanted a hybrid approach to both home and office working in the future.

Asynchronous communication lends itself better to hybrid and digital spaces as it allows workers to complete work on their own schedule. Furthermore, as hybrid and remote work is the future of the workplace, so is asynchronous communication.

Another major factor that contributes to how asynchronous communication will be the future of communication within the hybrid workplace is the rise of digital technology which supports an asynchronous communication style.

The top digital tools for asynchronous communication

There are many digital tools which can support an asynchronous communication style, and arguably it is due to the development of these applications that has made asynchronous communication so popular within hybrid work spaces. 

Below is our list of five of the best tools for different aspects of asynchronous work:

  • Todoist: This is a task managing application which allows workers to create their own ‘to do list’ which they can share across teams and edit whenever they complete set tasks. Managers can also set tasks for employees and monitor progress which lends itself to the asynchronous communication style.
  • Calendly: This is a scheduling software which allows teams to schedule meetings professionally and efficiently. By seeing other colleagues’ schedules, it can help workers to understand their own working schedule and find the best times to collaborate if they need to whilst working asynchronously. 
  • Trello: Another great task management software, Trello is an application which allows workers to collaborate on and manage projects together, which once again supports the asynchronous communication style.
  • Google Drive: This is one of the best applications to share documents, powerpoints, spreadsheets and more across teams by using the Cloud. Edits can be made remotely and this leads to collaboration whilst using the asynchronous communication model.
  • Omnifia: Our workplace tool supports asynchronous communication by allowing teams to turn all of their notifications off and coming to the dashboard to see their updates all in one place. Sign up to the open beta to try it out.

For more information about digital workplace applications and tools that can support the use of asynchronous communication within any business, read our list of the 80 workplace apps that lead to success at work. 

Our take

Asynchronous communication is the future of the hybrid workplace and this is a good thing. Asynchronous communication leads to better results as quality communication is ensured. It also leads to a more inclusive and healthier workplace as workers can establish a better quality of life by working when suits them.

However, it is important that companies do listen to their staff and ensure that workers are not left lonely due to the lack of workplace communication. As mentioned, companies can put on regular socials to support a healthy company dynamic. If this is a concern of yours let us know, we have a few features that offer proactive remedies to loneliness. 

The rise in digital tools that we’ve listed are a great place to start if you want to begin establishing an asynchronous communication model within your business. 

Let us know which digital tools you find best when working asynchronously and also let us know which communication style your company uses by messaging us on Twitter or LinkedIn.