Communication is an integral part of any successful team, but what strategies can remote leaders employ to ensure their teams stay engaged without overwhelming them? One way to make communication more effective is through asynchronous communication. This form of communication is flexible, convenient, and gives people autonomy and freedom. We’ve put together a list of advice according to expert remote leaders and insights on how powerful asynchronous communication is and how to leverage it for your team.
Before sharing insights from remote leaders, here's a refresher on the types of asynchronous conversations and tools. Slack is without a doubt the most popular asynchronous tool that remote, distributed, and hybrid teams use. According to TechJury.net, 10 million people use Slack daily, and 1.5 billion messages are sent per month. Email is, of course, another popular tool which most of our tasks revolve around.
What are the most common types of asynchronous communication?
Other asynchronous communication examples are commenting on Google Docs, discussing on Notion pages, and responding on forums like Reddit.
Like with any technology, there are many benefits of asynchronous communication, but it also has its pitfalls. The significant advantage is the convenience and flexibility to connect and communicate with your team. When communicating asynchronously, everyone can plan and collaborate despite the difference in location and time zone. On the other hand, this form of communication can result in over communication since you can literally message anyone anytime. But, here's the kicker, over communication doesn’t mean that you’re truly connected. Because of a lack of face-to-face conversation, some people may feel isolated.
Asynchronous communication is almost like a weapon; it’s only powerful when used the right way. The big question now is, how should it be used? To answer this, we’ve collected insights from top remote leaders who not only believe in the power of asynchronous communication but are expert "wielders" of asynchronous tools.
Sometimes your team members don’t even know how much power they hold, and it takes the right tool to unleash those hidden powers. According to Richard Bretzger, Future of Work Consultant:
“Asynchronous communication unleashed the true power of people’s power, because it enables them to work whenever and wherever they work best.”
As an introvert writer, I could not agree more. I prefer async communication because it allows me to put my best thoughts forward. For example, I can strategize the best response to a question via email. It’s harder to think of a thoughtful response in real-time.
One of the main reasons why people choose to work remotely is to achieve autonomy. Additionally, for remote, distributed, or hybrid teams, autonomy is a critical value because it focuses more on results rather than hours spent. Darcy Boles, director of Culture and Innovation, says it best:
"Asynchronous communication coupled with clear expectations = true autonomy. Done well, it truly gives people the power to design their lives around their work vs. their work around their lives."
Molood Ceccarelli, Founder & CEO of Remote Forever™, echoes the same sentiment about how asynchronous communication provides true autonomy. In our previous interview, she shared:
“Asynchronous communication releases people from obligation or reactiveness to time limits and brings freedom of choice and peace of mind to the collaboration.”
Working remotely involves a lot of “noise.” There’s the day-to-day noise of the household--from barking dogs to crying babies. And if you’re living in an apartment with constant traffic noise as a background, it could hamper your productivity and not to mention your sanity. However, communicating asynchronously can help reduce the “noise” in your mind. Anmol Parashar, Head of Product at Yac, has the best metaphor for asynchronous communication:
“Asynchronous communication will be the “electric vehicle” of the remote-first workspace—helps reduce noise in your day-to-day life and is good for the environment & your health”
What’s the secret sauce of successful and happy distributed teams? According to Andrea Rajić, Head of Marketing at Gable:
"Leveraging asynchronous communication is definitely one of the secrets of successful distributed teams. The power of async lies in flexibility, transparency, and documentation. Those 3 factors alone make teams stronger, more goal-aligned, and ready to tackle challenges that require sync communication with less fatigue :)"
Okay, yes, it seems async is getting all the points in this article. But what does asynchronous communication look like when it’s not used in the best way?
Lily Bruns, startup consultant and experienced remote leader, sums up perfectly when to use asynchronous and synchronous communication:
"Asynchronous is great for communicating about task-based deliverables. You don’t need a meeting to discuss whether the project to-do list is complete and what the delays are—that’s better done with tools and tech."
"Async is not great for problem solving, creativity and connecting. Sometimes a five-minute chat can resolve what would otherwise be a 10+ message long chain of emails/comments/messages spread over several people’s workdays. A brainstorm is better when people can spark off ideas in the moment."
Asynchronous communication is a powerful tool for remote teams, but it can also be misused. To avoid these potential pitfalls, read more on creating an async-first culture for your remote, distributed, or hybrid team. To up-level your async game, you can also discover more asynchronous communication tools that you can add to your remote team’s communication arsenal.