Technology has changed the way we work: companies no longer need to have all their employees in one physical place to operate. We can now communicate easily across different time zones meaning that remote working is slowly becoming the new norm.
Having access to talent from around the world is an incredible asset, as you can bring in the diverse level of expertise and professionalism that can help you improve your products or services.
However, communicating with remote teams is not without its challenges. When your team members are spread across various time zones, it’s tougher to schedule a group meeting—meaning something that would take two minutes to solve in a typical business setting might take one or two days when working with remote teams.
So, how can you make remote collaborations more effective?
The answer is asynchronous communication.
Free online tools for asynchronous communication:
1. Fluxes.com — Free Project and Task Management Software
2. Status.net — Software for Effective Communication
- Synchronous vs. Asynchronous Communication Part 1
- Why Asynchronous Communication Is the Future Part 2
- Best Tools for Asynchronous Communication Part 3
- Best Practices for Asynchronous Communication Part 4
Synchronous vs. Asynchronous Communication
Synchronous communication means that two or more people exchange information in real-time. In most workplaces communication happens that way and people expect real-time responses. The problem with this approach is that it is , in fact, not very effective.
It sounds counterintuitive. After all, what better way is there to stay on top of your game than addressing issues immediately. However, one survey has shown that over 71% of employees report frequent interruptions when working, which affects their productivity.
Just think about it for a second: you’re working on an important project with a tight deadline when a colleague walks into your office. He wants to see you to discuss the details of an upcoming event. You stop your work and waste 45 minutes talking about a project that is not immediately due.
Asynchronous communication refers to the exchange of data between two or more parties without the requirement for all the recipients to respond immediately.
For example, your colleague can leave you a message in a topic feed on status.net and not worry about disturbing you. You will read the information when ready, consume it, take your time to decide on it, and answer when you’re available. This approach frees both parties from the need to be synchronized.
Why Asynchronous Communication Is the Future
Asynchronous communication makes it possible for people to respond and act on their own terms.
It allows for everyone to be proactive instead of reactive.
Asynchronous communication means that employees no longer need break focus to answer unimportant or tedious requests. It relieves the pressure of reacting immediately for non-urgent items, removes distractions and allows for better focus and less stress.
Here are some of the benefits of asynchronous communication:
- You can focus on your work without being constantly interrupted.
- It provides a chance to think twice—most people don’t make the best decisions when they are pressured to answer on the spot.
- You can decide when to check your messages and when to respond to them.
- You have a record of communication that you can refer to when you need to. Synchronous communication, on the other hand, often requires taking notes while the other party delivers the message. It can be incredibly easy to misplace the notes or not have access to them when you need them the most, such as during an important business meeting or presentation.
- It allows you to communicate effectively with remote teams that are spread across different time zones.
Best Tools for Asynchronous Communication
Communicating with a team can be difficult in general, regardless of whether they’re remote or not. That’s why you need to use a variety of tools that allow your team members to log what they’ve done, what they’re doing, or post any questions or comments that other colleagues can read and reply to when they have the time. Remember, the purpose of asynchronous communication is to allow people to engage in conversations at their own pace. The tools you are using should enable that as well.
Here’s a list of some of the most useful tools that facilitate asynchronous communication:
Status.net is a popular tool to keep teams and supervisors up to date with the latest changes. It allows seamless communication with everyone on your team, even with your remote employees. You can use Status.net to suggest project ideas, ask for your colleagues’ opinions on a topic, gather insights and feedback, collect status reports, provide instructions and updates, and so on.
Fluxes Free Project Management Software
Fluxes is a free project management tool that allows you to create to-do lists, assign tasks to team members and set due dates. Users can leave notes on a task so that anyone can see what’s going on in a matter of seconds, and can discuss each to-do list separately which is useful for organizing project ideas, discussing current and future strategies, etc. It is completely free with unlimited users and unlimited projects.
Most people don’t associate social media channels with work. In fact, some may perceive a Facebook message on a work topic from their colleague as an annoying interruption. That’s why many people just use social media channels for the fun stuff. For example, if the entire team is going to meet in a set location, say London, for work and fun, they could use Facebook Messenger to plan and discuss the details of the trip.
Sending files through email can be annoying, especially when 20 other people are in the CC list and you have to read through an entire chain of messages to reach the document you need.
With Dropbox, you can do more than just share strategy spreadsheets, slide shares, in-progress documents and videos.
No Emails, Please
You may have noticed that we haven’t mentioned email as one of the asynchronous communication tools. In theory, email meets all the requirements: it allows you to respond to messages at your own pace instead of forcing you to interrupt your work to provide an answer in real-time.
The problem with email is that most people use it as a synchronous tool. Managers expect their employees to answer emails as if they were picking up the phone. As a result, a lot of employees waste a big fraction of their time answering emails, and that’s not in line with the basic principles of asynchronous communication.
One way you could avoid the pressure of instantly answering every email that comes your way is to change your approach. For example, you could set aside one hour each day for tackling this task. If you are worried that your colleagues or partners will get upset, you could set an autoresponder that lets them know that due to your high workload you are only checking and responding to emails twice a day, at 9 A.M. and 4 P.M.
Best Practices for Asynchronous Communication
Constant notifications can make you feel like you need to answer every message in real-time. As such, it’s easy for asynchronous communication to become synchronous and consume too much of your time.
That’s why you should keep in mind and employ the best practices of asynchronous communication:
Always Provide Enough Information
Think of all the possible questions your colleagues might have and provide detailed information. That way you can avoid having to answer a chain of follow-up questions.
Set a Deadline
Let your teammates know when you need a response by, how urgent the task is, and if they need to put other projects on the backburner to focus on this one.
Provide Helpful Resources
Send links, articles, images, and other resources you believe that may help your teammates do a great job.
Let your colleagues know when you’re not online, not working or simply don’t want to be disturbed. Let people know when you’re sick, on vacation, or just focusing on the task at hand.
Nowadays, more and more companies are establishing asynchronous communication as the new norm. When people have the freedom to answer questions on their own schedule, they can focus on the tasks at hand and improve their performance and productivity. It’s a win-win situation for everyone!
Here is how status.net helps:
How to use status.net for status updates
- Easily implement daily or weekly status updates for your team members by creating a status feed with questions like “What did you do today?” or “How did you contribute to the team’s goals this week?”.
- Peace of mind: No one forgets to fill in their status updates because status.net sends timely reminders according to the recurrence schedule you chose.
- Guidance and feedback:
Each status update has a separate section for comments, which is used by team members to clarify information and by leaders to provide guidance and feedback in context.
- Use status updates for future reference and decrease time and efforts spent on monthly, quarterly, and yearly reporting thanks to powerful filtering and export features.
- Optionally, enrich reports with the latest updates automatically added from web apps your team uses (such as project management tools, version control systems, support systems, financial applications, CRM, etc.) by connecting these apps to your status feed.
- Spend less time on meetings by making them more productive because everyone is on the same page at all times.
- Sharing: Status updates can be either— exported to files and printed, or sent by email;
— shared with manager online; or
— shared online as company-wide or team-wide status reports, i.e., all team members share their progress with each other.
How to configure status updates:
- Create a “Status Update” feed and set up a recurrence.
- Configure who will write and read status updates by choosing the “Participants” tab and then clicking the “Cog” button near “Feed Participants” title.
- Set the status feed as “Team-wide” if you want all team members to view each other’s status updates.
- Alternatively, you can allow access to status updates for certain participants only (such as yourself if you’re a team lead). In this case, turn “Team-wide” mode OFF and restrict viewing by unchecking “View” properties for other participants. Team members with the “View” checkbox unchecked will only be able to view their own status updates.
- If you’re a manager and you don’t plan to share your status updates with your team, uncheck “Update” for yourself – in this case, you won’t receive reminders.
- The Recurrence setting configures how often participants receive email reminders to fill in their status updates. This feature is optional and can be turned off.
- You can add, remove, and assign new team members at any time.
Step 2: The text of the status update should be added to the “Update” field of status feed.
As soon as a new status update is added, participants with “View” rights can view it in real time when they log in to their accounts. They will also automatically receive emails with the full text of status updates.