25 July 2019
Posted by: Abi Walker
I’d never heard of Asynchronous working until I started working for the Agile Business Consortium. That is probably because in previous roles, I had typically worked in a more synchronised manner. After giving it some more thought I can see how there are benefits to both methods of working, but asynchronous may be more typical in an agile working environment.
Unlike teams where everyone works the office at the same time, remote communication is often asynchronous. It's evident that remote work is becoming much easier due to technology, and I would say that most of my own working day is spent working asynchronously. But what exactly is Asynchronous working and what are the pros and cons?
What is it?
Asynchronous communication is the relay of information with a time lag. It is when two (or more) people can communicate without needing to be “present” at the same exact moment in time. Discussion tools such as slack or skype, and email are examples of how asynchronous communication is often used in the work environment.
Asynchronous communication is not exactly new news. In fact, it’s been around for quite a while, we were just less equipped to use it in the 1900s!
Synchronous is an immediate response, for example walking over to your colleagues' desk to tell them something. Your colleague will take this information at the same time as you’re giving it.
Whilst Asynchronous communications allows for a delayed response. An example of this is writing and sending an email to your colleague. Your colleague will receive the email, and they will read it. Your colleague has consumed the information in their own time after you have sent it, which frees both parties from the need to be “synced up.”
Asynchronous communication examples:
· Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp, Slack, Microsoft Teams
· Basecamp, Quip, Asana, and other project management tools
· Conducting a daily stand up over Slack
· Intranet (SharePoint, etc)
What are the advantages?
Asynchronous working gives you the freedom to not having to be always “at your desk” in case someone wants to talk to you - it allows us to communicate with higher agility and efficiency.
It is a useful way of communication as it allows plenty of time to formulate thoughts and respond. By communicating this way, you're able to respond in detail to a question or topic that they might have answered incompletely in a real-time conversation.
For me, Asynchronous communication means I can be snowed in at the peak district when visiting my family, yet still feel like I am connected with my colleagues and working from the office as normal. It means that I can use my lunch break to attend Pilates class without worrying, as I can catch up with my emails when I return.
Asynchronous communication also means I can use Microsoft teams to ask a question without having to worry about interrupting their workflow as they’ll get back to me when they are available. So, I would like to put this question out there – how does asynchronous benefit your day-today working life?
What are the disadvantages?
The main disadvantage to asynchronous communication is time lost waiting for a response, as conversations that would take 2 minutes in real-time can take literal days.
When communicating asynchronously, you also need to take in to consideration that the recipient needs more information than you would give in person, because there is the possibility that the sender won’t be available to answer follow-up questions.
As the head of content, when I am nearing a deadline and would like immediate feedback on a piece of content, then this is when asynchronous communication is disadvantageous to me as I am not able to get the immediate feedback that I need.
Also, there have been times for me when I've felt like I had had “email overload” and I would prefer to talk through a task face-to-face rather than go back and forth via email.
When used correctly, I highly believe that Asynchronous communication, can help your company improve. Why? Because with remote working becoming more the norm, communicating this way is much more effective (both for cost and time).
It’s all about finding the right balance between these two forms of communication! I would be really interested in knowing what method of communication you favour and why – email me on email@example.com with your comments.