Asynchronous communication is any communication “not happening or done at the same time or speed.” For me, it’s a way to alleviate the pressure to give answers to colleagues and customers in two to three minutes. I can give meaningful, thoughtful feedback, in my own time.
Think email before the era of read receipts. You would send an email with the understanding that a reply would be sent at the best time for the recipient.
Over time, asynchronous communication, like email evolved. Email evolved into chat, and now apps like Slack are the primary forms of work communication. The expectation of waiting for a response has diminished over time. This is what’s overwhelming people, including myself, in the workplace today.
In contrast, synchronous communication happens at the same time. During a real-time conversation or video call, you will get an immediate response to your questions or comments because communication is happening in sync. All attendees have set aside the same block of time to meet up and hold a conversation.
Async is different because it is all about communication on your own terms, in your own time, from wherever you need to be.
- Async means both parties don’t need to be talking at the same time
- Async means you can consume the communication whenever you want
- Async means you can respond in your own time
- Async is available for future reference
- Async gives you time to translate, transcribe or study materials
- Async gives you back your calendar
- Async gives you the ability to present better thought out, defined, and edited responses
What are some examples of asynchronous communication?
Async communication may sound like an unfamiliar new term, but more than likely, you communicate this way every day.
Say your co-worker is out sick, but you want her to know about a minor, harmless website bug or typo you found earlier that day. You might send her an email with a screen recording that outlines the error so that she will know about it when she’s back to work. You don’t expect an immediate response from her.
Other types of asynchronous communication include:
- A sticky note on the fridge
- Instant messenger apps like Slack or Teams
- Instructions (like an internal wiki)
- A video or screen recording
- Project management tools
- Virtual whiteboard
Some communication methods can blur the line between synchronous and asynchronous communication. If you and your co-worker are online at the same time and having a quick back-and-forth conversation over an instant messenger app, connecting is much more immediate and in sync.
How does asynchronous communication work?
Asynchronous communication is typically done by sharing messages via email or internal/external forums. The advantages of asynchronous communication are that it’s easy to add people to the discussion, and you don’t need specific people online to respond.
In the workplace, asynchronous communication is typically used to send information that doesn’t need a quick response—or might not require a reply.
For example, you might set up an internal wiki with instructions or explain project tasks in a video recording. Workers can then peruse these instructions on their own time and complete their tasks independently.
Other examples include sending out an email reminder about your upcoming vacation dates or updating the team on a new whitepaper added to the content library. You hope to connect with those on the list, but there’s no real pressure for a response.
We are proclaiming a new movement in the workplace, and that movement is Async. Async isn’t just about communicating; it’s about human connectivity, improving comprehension and understanding between people; and improving the experience of colleagues and customers.