Asynchronous communication isn’t new, but it was never a norm until we left the workplace. It officially usurped the in-person meeting with the rise of remote work.
Today, 12.7% of full-time employees work from home, and 28.2% work a hybrid model. By 2025, 32.6 million Americans will work on remote teams.
That means we’re usually working synchronously in virtual meetings, or working asynchronously (async) in other tools. But virtual meetings can be draining, and many companies have found a way to combine synchronous and asynchronous work for the best remote work environment.
The trick to nailing the balance is knowing when it’s important to get everyone together, and when to implement an asynchronous process. We’ll walk through the pros and cons of both, and how to do asynchronous communication well.
What is asynchronous communication?
Asynchronous communication happens when people aren’t together at the same time. You’ll often be able to tell the difference between working async and working synchronously by the tools you’re using:
Email is asynchronous. You’re sending a message to someone who doesn’t have to read it right away.
A Zoom meeting is not asynchronous. You’re not physically together, but you’re in the same virtual space, at the same time.
Slack messages are either asynchronous or synchronous. Messaging that results in an immediate response is synchronous, but if you’re not online at the same time, it’s async messaging.
Our favorite async communication tool is, of course, video messaging. Instead of sending a long email or rounding people up for a video conference, record your screen and your face at the same time with Loom.
For this form of communication, video messages capture it all—tone, body language, facial expressions, and more. Loom allows you to easily and quickly share your ideas. Once you’ve recorded, copy the shareable link and send! It’s that easy.
Synchronous vs. asynchronous communication
Synchronous communication happens in real-time, whereas asynchronous communication doesn’t require people to be together at the same time to have a conversation. Both are valuable tools, but companies tend to rely too much on synchronous communication.
The magic happens when you use synchronous communication only when it’s really valuable, and pick asynchronous communication tools that still allow your teams to build a personal connection.
Synchronous communication examples
Real-time communication happens when working synchronously, and usually takes place in one of the following ways:
Real-time instant messages
A phone call
A virtual meeting
An in-person meeting or off-site
Conversations with nearby coworkers
Events like webinars and conferences
Asynchronous communication examples
Asynchronous communication requires tools that let you leave messages for someone to read or view on their own time, and usually takes place in one of the following ways:
Loom video messages
Instant messages that don’t happen in real-time
Voicemails or audio messages
Direct messages in social media apps
Comments or workflow status updates in project management tools like Asana, Jira, and more
Comments and track changes in workspace tools like Google Drive, Google Docs or Microsoft
Synchronous vs. asynchronous communication pros and cons
The problem with too much synchronous communication is that it can slow down teamwork. Calendars get stacked with meetings, and projects get delayed until everyone can find time to be together. The risk with too much asynchronous communication is losing a personal connection between co-workers.
Both are valuable tools—but there are pros and cons to each.
Synchronous communication pros and cons
Personal connection with co-workers
Face-to-face means fewer misunderstandings
You’ll know that your message was received
You can have confidence that your work is noticed
Virtual meetings are fatiguing
Waiting to be in-person slows projects
It’s easy to get side-tracked with conversation
Time blocks are filled unnecessarily
There’s no automatic documentation
Asynchronous communication pros and cons
Time is spent more efficiently
Work isn’t interrupted, improving productivity
Employees have control over their time
You can reduce or eliminate fatigue from virtual meetings
Communication is documented
It takes time to craft written messages
You can lose personal connection (with the wrong tools)
Tone can be misunderstood
Writing can be challenging for those who don’t speak the same native language
We’ve made it our mission to bring personal connection back to working async—when you record a Loom video, you record yourself, too. This simple but powerful feature means you can communicate async, but face-to-face, getting the best of both worlds.
5 benefits of asynchronous communication
Synchronous communication has its place, but it can be costly to rely on as your company’s primary method of transmitting information.
Our Modern Work Report found that the average office worker joins up to 12 one-on-one calls per day and wastes one hour and 42 minutes each week on scheduling tasks. In the US, $1.85 billion a week is lost on unnecessary meetings and scheduling tasks.
All that time adds up—async work can help.
1. Asynchronous communication is flexible
More than half of surveyed office workers want more flexibility in planning their day. They want to be able to communicate on their own time. The best part about async messages is that no one has to rearrange their schedule to communicate—you can prioritize your time how you want.
Plus, you’re not up against a multitude of synchronous communication roadblocks—different time zones, busy schedules, hybrid team communications, flexible schedules, and context-switching burnout. No matter how your team or time is organized, you’ll always be able to fit in a quick five-minute Loom.
2. Asynchronous communication makes you a better colleague
Using tools that allow for flexibility will only improve your workplace communication. Synchronous communication is limited, given it’s restricted by work hours, but asynchronous ones are varied and can carry more nuance. Extra nuance can help accommodate different communication styles.
Plus, async methods leave breathing room so participants can consider how and when they want to communicate.
For example, when you can get your thoughts across sufficiently with text, an email or instant message might be appropriate communication channels. If facial expressions, tone of voice, and other nonverbal cues enhance your message, you’ll benefit from sending a video message or jumping on a video call.
3. Asynchronous communication is efficient
Async can be used to save time and accelerate collaboration in the workplace. It reduces the number of meetings on your calendar, increases productivity, and reduces context switching.
Every time you context switch, you lose an average of 20 minutes. If you have 12 meetings per day, that adds up to four hours, which kills any deep work time during the workday.
On top of that, async communication creates better-planned responses that are of higher quality but with less pressure. They encourage the habit of self-editing to get your point across faster. They make collaboration easier, quicker, and more comfortable.
4. Async communication is saved automatically
Asynchronous communication inherently creates a record that can be referenced later on, and is immediately delivered through notifications. By recording your video meeting, you're never left wondering what was said or how something was phrased, reducing back-and-forth and the need for clarification.
These records can be added to knowledge repositories when shared in a central hub. This saves time two-fold—in the first act of communication, and in reducing the need for repetition. It also allows those out of the office or focused on deep work to catch up later.
5. Async video is authentic
Business emails are often stripped of everything that makes you unique: personality, tone of voice, and humor. Humans don't speak out loud the same way we email each other at work. Imagine walking up to your friend and saying, "Hey, I hope this message finds you well."
Video messages allow your authentic self to come through. The rich context in your voice and facial expressions translate to the person watching your video. Even if you hate the sound of your own voice, watching someone on video builds a more natural connection than any written message ever could.
How to use asynchronous communication effectively
Look at you go! At this point, you practically know everything there is to know about async communication, but you may be wondering how you can put this information into practice.
You’re probably already using many of the asynchronous communication tools we mentioned—like email, project management tools, and messaging apps, especially if your team has several remote workers. One of the biggest issues companies face with this tech stack is the lack of face-to-face contact.
Sure, you can communicate asynchronously using these tools, but your tone could be misread, or your message misunderstood if you don’t nail the written word.
At Loom, we work every day to solve this problem. Loom allows you to record and share AI-powered video messages with your teammates and customers. It’s packed with a ton of features to help your team overcome the disconnection that sometimes creeps into asynchronous work—let’s walk through them.
1. Record your face and your screen
It’s a lot easier to build a personal connection with someone when you feel like you’re talking with them face-to-face. Loom allows you to record your screen while also recording yourself.
This makes communication over video much more personal, whether you’re sharing a presentation, walking someone through a process, or explaining a complex topic. Further, it’ll be less likely that tone, messaging, or language barriers will get in your way of being understood.
2. Automatically generate titles, subtitles, chapters, and video summaries
Loom’s AI-powered technology makes it so much easier for your video viewers to understand your message quickly. You can automatically generate titles, subtitles, and chapters throughout longer videos.
You won’t have to worry about wasting time with word fillers or silence removal either, because you can easily trim these from your videos with Loom AI. Plus, Loom can also create a quick video summary for you to drop into an email or Slack channel along with your video for a pre-read beforehand.
3. Add tasks, CTAs, comments, and emojis to your video
Loom also has many more features that transcend just recording videos to help you asynchronously communicate. When someone sends you a video, you can make comments throughout, or create tasks based on the content.
If you’re creating a video, and you want someone to take a specific action once they’ve viewed it, you can also add a call-to-action right in your recording.
4. Share and embed videos into tools where you already work
You don’t have to change the way you work to use Loom or upend your current collaboration tools. Loom already integrates with the most popular asynchronous communication tools like Slack, Google Workspace, Zoom, and many more.
For example, just paste a Loom link into a Slack channel for the video to auto-embed:
Communication works when your asynchronous and synchronous tools work together, especially on a distributed team. If yours is currently bogged down with too many meetings, or you don’t think you’ve nailed asynchronous communication yet, give Loom a try.
The next time you catch yourself spending way too much time crafting the perfect email, send a recording instead with Loom by signing up for a free account.