Asynchronous communication isn’t anything new — think about how handwritten letters were a common form of communication generations ago — but with the proliferation of new tools that support both written and oral communication methods, it’s getting easier, faster, and more interactive than ever before. As a result, more teams are prioritizing asynchronous communication to get the job done.
Here’s what you need to know about how embracing asynchronous communication will make you a more effective and efficient communicator.
What is asynchronous communication?
Asynchronous communication (async communication for short) may sound like a techy buzzword, but it simply refers to any type of communication that occurs when there's a lag between when the sender imparts information and when the recipient digests it.
Most communication in the workplace is real-time, synchronous communication, which is ideal for messages that requires an immediate response.
But there's a disadvantage to synchronous communication: too much of it and your calendar starts looking like a stack of cargo containers full of too many meetings.
15% of a company's time is spent in meetings , and it seems like that number is only increasing over time as more of us adapt to remote work (and the virtual meetings that come with it) due to COVID-19.
Examples of Async Communication
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Here at Loom we're building the async video messaging platform for modern work. Instead of sending a long email or Slack message, record your screen as you talk through your ideas and quickly send it to someone with a shareable link.
Looms help convey the sound, texture, and tone of your voice that is missing from written communication.
Examples of Synchronous Communication
Sync time requires everyone to be at the exact same place at the exact same time when a decision needs to be made in that precise moment.
But too often sync time becomes the default form of communication. Not everything needs to be a meeting.
That meeting could've been a Loom instead.
4 benefits of asynchronous communication
Asynchronous communication often comes up in conversations around remote work , remote teams, and the future of work, but co-located and distributed teams alike can also benefit from it.
Below are four of the top reasons why we at Loom advocate for asynchronous communication at work.
1. Asynchronous communication is flexible
Everyone faces the same dilemma at work: How do you foster collaboration, culture-building, and transparency, but also budget enough focus time during the day to actually get work done? Knowing when to choose synchronous vs asynchronous communication can help you build better relationships with your team.
Most of us try to find balance by squeezing our focus time into those small pockets when our calendars are actually clear. But the constant gear shifting can make it difficult to regain focus it only takes 20 minutes to feel significantly stressed after an interruption at work and time spent in synchronous meetings adds up quickly.
Asynchronous communication can help you keep the conversation going on your own time, which means fewer interruptions in your workday and more time to do deep work. In other words, relying more on asynchronous communication can help you build synchronous meeting time around your focus time, instead of the other way around.
Loom runs async all-hands meetings called Funky Monkey to keep all Loommates on the same page. We also have better one on one meetings by sending a pre-watch Loom ahead of time to set the foundation for what kind of topics and questions we want to discuss.
Your organization doesn't need constant, back to back meetings and Zoom calls across different time zones to stay connected. Sending async team updates is more respectful of everyone's time.
Of course, there are times when real-time, synchronous communication is the best way to deliver your message, such as a brainstorming session.
If you’re unsure which type of communication to use, remember this tip: When you don’t need the recipient’s input right away, then you can (and should) communicate your thoughts or ideas asynchronously.
Similarly, when you would benefit from gathering your thoughts before socializing a response, it's probably best to opt for asynchronous communication.
2. Asynchronous communication makes you a better communicator
Among the major causes of workplace stress is poor social support, lack of participation in decision making, and unclear management , all of which essentially boil down to ineffective communication.
While synchronous communication methods are quite limited given their real-time nature (in-person meetings, video calls, and phone calls), asynchronous communication methods are more varied and can carry more nuance, which can help accommodate different communication styles.
For example, when you can get your thoughts across sufficiently with text, an email or text message might be appropriate communication channels. If facial expressions, tone of voice and other nonverbal cues will enhance your message, you might benefit from sending a video message.
Depending on which medium you choose to deliver your message, asynchronous communication can help you to embrace your vulnerability and build trusting relationships with your teammates in the same way synchronous communication does.
In fact, many of our daily standups and other recurring meetings have been replaced by asynchronous tools, and we've enhanced our workflows with project management tools like Asana and collaboration tools like Notion to keep our work moving forward.
3. Asynchronous communication is efficient
Asynchronous communication produces higher-quality, better planned responses.
As a result, it gets you in the habit of self-editing to get your point across faster, which will serve you well even during synchronous time.
Because you can rely on asynchronous communication for updates that don't require feedback, you can focus your synchronous time on anything that requires more active engagement (e.g., asking and answering questions, advance preparation for future collaborations, working through issues together, and generating ideas), which can lead to higher productivity
As an added bonus, asynchronous communication also creates a record that can be referenced later on, so by recording your video meeting so you're never left wondering what was said or how something was phrased, reducing back-and-forth and need for clarification.
4. Be your authentic self
Business emails are often stripped of all the things that make you unique: personality, tone of voice, humor.
Humans don't speak like how we email each other at work. Imagine walking up to your friend and saying "Hey Karina, I hope this message finds you well".
Video messages allow your authentic self to come through. All of 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.
Loom's VP of Sales, Sam, sends a weekly Loom on Monday's that covers what his family got up to over the weekend, reflections from his past week at work, and his focus areas for this week.
That Loom is shared with his team and published to the entire Loom workspace so anyone can watch it.
As a result, anyone not on Sam's team still gets a glimpse into his life outside of work.
Embracing asynchronous communication leads to better work outcomes overall
Asynchronous communication, be it in the form of text, voice, or video, keeps conversations moving along even when your recipient isn’t present. Defaulting to asynchronous communication whenever possible allows you to spend less time just trying to stay afloat between meetings and more time creating impactful work.