Communication is very important in every aspect of our life and there is a need to communicate effectively as techies.
This article focuses on two major types of communication that can be applied at work. Synchronous and Asynchronous communication is part of our day-to-day life at work so it’s important to know where to apply both of them.
What is Synchronous communication?
Synchronous communication is scheduled and they happen in real-time between two or more people on the phone, via video or in person. This type of communication technique requires both parties to be online at the same time.
Synchronous communication allows us to get an immediate response when messages are sent. It is common in a physical work location where your managers can work in your office to ask questions about what you are working on. Your subordinate can also work in to request real-time approval on what they are working on.
Synchronous communication is useful and productive for interview sessions, project discussions, and team bonding. It can also be used during sprint planning and end-of-week meetings. Some examples of synchronous communication are video conferencing, instant messaging and phone conversation.
What is Asynchronous communication?
Asynchronous communication doesn’t happen in real-time and it increases productivity for remote workers. Think of asynchronous communication as when you send an email to your old-time friend or, you can’t determine or decide when the person replies to your email. This gives the person the flexibility and time to think about your request.
In asynchronous communication, interactions are done without real-time conversation. So the next time you need to get an update from your teammates, you don’t have to pull everyone into a call or meeting. Instead, you can reach out to the responsible people via the communication channel and you patiently wait to get an update since people working in remote teams have the flexibility to choose their working hours.
In my experience working in remote teams, I still see people communicating synchronously which is really time-wasting. Take the conversation in the screenshot below as an example.
From the conversation between John and Frank, you should notice the time difference between the two parties and the fact that John didn’t practice the core of asynchronous communication. John is in Los Angeles, USA (PDT) while Frank is in Lagos, Nigeria (GMT + 1).
Based on the lack of asynchronous communication in their conversation, they might lose about 12hrs of quality work because Frank might be asleep most time John is online due to the fact that PDT is 8hrs behind GMT+1. Let’s say John getting an update from Frank has a domino effect on the entire team it then means that the whole team will lose more than 12hrs of work due to poor communication.
The way we communicate affects our time so it’s important to communicate in a way that it’s clear, specific and actionable. If John had sent “Hey, Frank. I would like to know if you are done designing the mockup for the user onboarding flow” the entire team would have saved a significant amount of time.
Noticed that I removed “How are you doing?” From John’s message but it’s totally fine if you send a greeting while reaching out to your colleague but trust me if Franks isn’t fine he would have reached out in the general channel to let the team know that he will be out of the office that day.
Now that we have a picture of what asynchronous communication is, some of the tools that can be used in asynchronous communication are:
Messaging software: (Slack and Microsoft Team) is useful for employees to communicate and collaborate. They provide receipts to let you know when your teammates are online.
Video recording / Cloud Collaboration: Let’s say you have a team of 3 and you onboard 2 new people every year which can be done manually but when your team grow to the point that you have to onboard 5 – 10 people every month then it’s really important to be lazy so that you don’t the same thing multiple times by automating the process by recording and documenting the flow. You can try tools like Zoom and Loom for video recording and Notion, Google Drive and Office 360 for your documentation and collaboration tools.
Project Management tools: When you have a distributed team having a project management tool is a way to track activities and get insights into what your team/teammates are working on. You can also see details about your team’s pulse in some project management tools like Jira.
Why is Asynchronous communication really important?
Clear and Detailed communication: Although asynchronous communication is slower, but you will get detailed and solid responses from your teammates because it gives people enough time to think about their responses and provide clear responses when they are ready. This eliminates a lot of back and forth in the team.
Transparency: Messages are saved on the cloud and different people can react or leave their comments. Anyone can also reference the message anytime in the future.
Flexibility and Productivity: It allows you to plan your time by splitting your activities into chunks. With this you can determine when to reply to emails, You can block out the time when you want to implement that cutting-edge feature or when you need to do some deep work without disturbance all of this help improves productivity.
The goal is to be productive and the quality of the communication in the organisation determines the productivity of the team.
Both asynchronous and synchronous communications are great styles of communication and it’s important to know which one works for your team. However, if you are working in a remote team then it’s important to communicate asynchronously and to be responsive. In cases where there is a time overlap between you and your teammates, then you might be required to create about 4hrs overlaps where you are required to be online/available for meetings and other synchronous communication with your teammates.