Asynchronous communication isn’t anything new. Handwritten letters were a common form of communication generations ago, and we brought back text messages in 2000. How we use it in the workplace has evolved, though.
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 prioritize asynchronous communication to get the job done. If you’ve ever considered asynchronous communication but weren’t sure how it could work for your team, we’ve got you.
Here’s everything you need to know about how embracing asynchronous communication will make your team more efficient and effective communicators. Read through to the end for four action steps that will help you practically implement asynchronous methods in your workplace.
What is asynchronous communication?
Does it feel hard to pin down what actually counts as asynchronous communication (async communication for short)? You’re not alone. It’s everywhere, but it’s only labeled async when it happens in the workplace. When you send a message in Slack, it’s asynchronous work. When you send a Loom recapping your quarterly marketing results, that’s async too.
Asynchronous communication may sound like a techy buzzword, but it simply refers to any type of communication that occurs when any amount of time elapses between when the sender shares information and when the recipient digests it.
Most information sharing in the work environment is real-time communication, synchronous communication, which is ideal for messages that require an immediate response. But there's a disadvantage to synchronous communication: too much of it, and your calendar looks like a stack of cargo containers full of too many meetings.
Synchronous vs. Asynchronous Communication
Synchronous communication is essentially real-time interactions between two or more people. These can happen online or in person. Async communications are transmissions of information happening at different times – typically digitally.
Neither is better than the other. In some situations, async is the best form of communication. It frees up time, reduces context switching, and allows for higher rates of productivity and engagement.
But synchronous communication can also be useful. Synchronous communication is excellent for ironing out complex problem-solving tasks, designing in remote teams, brainstorming, general teamwork, and creating a sense of community.
Later in this guide, you’ll learn how to implement asynchronous communications in your workplace. Read on to determine which type of communication is best for your company’s processes. First, let’s cover where you’ve seen asynchonrous vs synchronous communications before.
Examples of asynchronous communication
Asynchronous communication includes anything that doesn’t happen simultaneously in real-time. This includes the following.
Instant messaging apps like Slack
Social media posts
Comments and messages in project management tools like Asana, Trello, or Notion
Our favorite form of async communication tool is, of course, video messaging. Instead of sending a long email or Slack message, record your screen and your face at the same time with Loom. Video messages capture it all – tone, body language, facial expressions, and more. Loom allows you to easily share your ideas quickly. Once you’ve recorded, copy the shareable link and send! It’s that easy.
Examples of synchronous communication
Synchronous communication happens in real-time between two or more people. These interactive exchanges include the following.
Video calls like Zoom
On-site team meetings
Conversations with nearby coworkers
5 benefits of asynchronous communication
While synchronous communication has its place, it can be costly to rely on it 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. All that time adds up. In the U.S., $1.85 billion a week are lost on unnecessary meetings and scheduling tasks.
1. Asynchronous communication is flexible
The best part about async messages is that no one has to rearrange their schedule to communicate. They can answer and send messages at their own pace. More than half of surveyed office workers want more flexibility in planning out their day. They want to be able to communicate on their own time.
These days there are a plethora of synchronous communication roadblocks – different time zones, busy schedules, hybrid team communications, flexible schedules, and context-switching fatigue. No matter how your team or time is organized, you’ll always be able to fit in a quick 5-minute Loom.
2. Asynchronous communication makes you a better communicator
Using tools that allow for flexible communication will only improve your workplace communication. Synchronous communication methods are limited, given their real-time nature. On the other hand, asynchronous communication methods are more 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 they want to communicate what they’re trying to say. They might show instead of tell or refine their communication, so it makes the most sense.
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 will enhance your message, you might benefit from sending a video message.
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 youcontext switch, you lose an average of 20 minutes. If you have twelve meetings per day, that adds up to four hours! Everyone needs deep work.
On top of that, async communication creates better-planned responses that are 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. 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 if needed. This saves time two-fold, in the first act of communication and in reducing the need for repetition. It also allows those who were out of the office or focused on deep work to catch up later.
5. Async 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 Sanam, I hope this message finds you well."
Video messages allow your authentic self to come through. All of the rich contexts in your voice and facial expressions translate to the person watching your video. Even if youhate 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 Mondays 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, everyone at Loom feels more connected to Sam – that’s team-building.
How your organization can embrace asynchronous communication
Look at you go! At this point, you practically know everything there is to know about async communication. But you’re probably wondering how you can put this information into practice. If we haven’t yet convinced you that async needs to be a part of your daily life, try just one of these action items, and you’ll probably be surprised.
Here’s a simple step-by-step guide to implementing asynchronous communication company-wide. Whether you’re hybrid, remote, or entirely in the office, your team can reap the benefits of async communication. We promise.
If you’re here, we assume you’re gearing up to add async techniques to your daily workflow. Get out your planner and pen, it’s time to dive into the practical stuff! You might want to add steps one and two to your calendar.
Step 1: Decide when you’ll use asynchronous communication
Implement in: Week 1
The first step to adding asynchronous communication to your company is determining when you want to use async communication. This is a team activity, brainstorm with your team! This might sound daunting, but we’ll keep it simple here. You consult this flow chart or consult our guide to determining async vs. sync.
Here are some scenarios where asynchronous messages might be a good fit.
If the message is for everyone in a company, department, or zone.
If an interaction requires little real-time interaction like a non-actionable update, approving a next step, or training.
If you don’t need an immediate response.
When you’re providing information about nuanced topics such as how to use new software, feedback on a project, or walking through a financial report.
Step 2: Decide how you’ll use asynchronous communication
Implement in: Week 2
Once you’ve brainstormed some general situations when async would be best for your team, it’s time to decide how you’ll implement it. Outlining specific tasks that are best for async communication will help your team follow through with using the methods you brainstormed.
Here are a few instances where asynchronous communication works well.
Share feedback via Loom
Quick daily video messages that don’t need a whole meeting but are easier to explain on video, not text.
Send out announcements
Explain complex topics
Create internal documentation and training content
Customer and partner outreach
Project management like kickoffs, updates, and reviews
Need inspiration? Here are ten ways Loom uses async communication at work.
Step 3: Create a central communication hub
Implement in: Week 3
When you’re using async communication, it’s essential to create a central hub to keep everyone up to date. Many teams choose to use Slack or a project management tool like Notion to keep everything organized.
Once you’ve chosen your central hub, set it up with channels for every team and a directory so that employees can easily navigate it. Then, set up documentation, a Loom walkthrough for example, to make launch day easier.
Once you’ve set up your central hub, guidelines, and documentation, it’s time to launch! Send an announcement to your teams and prepare to save time, money, and energy.
Step 4: Iterate
Implement in: Month 3
After your first few months of using your new communication methods, take some time to re-evaluate. Send a survey to your team members asking for feedback – ask about what they liked, disliked, and want to see in the future.
Sit down with your team leaders and decide how you’ll improve your systems. Maybe a different central hub would be better. Perhaps you need to add another technology to the mix. There might even be some parameters you want to add to your guidelines. You could analyze the time you’re spending in meetings and on async communications to find out where you can optimize.
Be patient. Async methods, like any workplace communication, will likely never be perfect. There’s no substitute for a face-to-face meeting, whether that’s in-person or through remote work.
While async has its place and is certainly a helpful tool, async shouldn’t be considered a substitute for sync time. Async and sync communication styles will always exist side by side.
The important thing to remember when adopting async techniques is that you'll see great results when you do it intentionally. To do it intentionally, you need one person to spearhead the operation, a team to support them, and a plan for how everyone will participate.
Asynchronous communication, when done right, should become a part of company culture. When you implement the proper tools, strategies, and systems, your teams will feel supported and included. Plus, you’ll have more time to focus on the work that counts.