The work-from-home team still relies on Slack messages and Zoom calls? Here’s what you’re missing
Traditional workplaces revolve around the idea that synchronous communication is necessary to do a good job. Team members work from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. in the same time zone. During this time, employees are expected to attend meetings, answer emails, respond to real-time chat messages, and—somehow—make time for actual work. Not to mention that the team members have to put the rest of their lives on hold until the workday is over. No wonder work-life balance feels like an unattainable dream for many. Because of these disadvantages, many remote teams have adopted policies that support asynchronous communication. This grants employees more flexibility while promoting productivity and accountability of the remote team.
The disadvantages of synchronous communication.
In a synchronous work model, employees’ homework days are often interrupted by urgent communication requests. Meetings, chat messages, and emails act as shiny objects that draw team members’ attention away from important projects. What was intended to be a neatly coordinated eight-hour day becomes a chaos of broken schedules.
As distractions reduce the time available for intensive work, team members work overtime to make up the difference. In this case, the risk of dissatisfaction, burnout and fluctuation increases.
Often, remote managers attempt to correct course by reducing meeting time. But all of this slows down the flow of communication, leading to more confusion and frustration – not less. After all, synchronous communication has its advantages. During a productive Zoom call, team members quickly share information and ideas, allowing them to bypass the long email chains required to extract the same knowledge.
The bottom line? What homework teams need is not less communication; it’s a paradigm shift. Remote workers need a way to organize and streamline communication according to their work preferences and needs.
Advantages of asynchronous communication.
Asynchronous work—any type of collaboration that doesn’t happen in real time—frees homeworkers’ work from restrictive schedules while giving them equal opportunities to communicate and share knowledge. In this way, they can overcome time zone differences, utilize their most productive hours and make room for intensive work.
Asynchronous communication allows remote team members to set boundaries that maintain work-life balance. At the end of their day, employees feel empowered to exercise their right to disconnect so they can return to work the next day refreshed and motivated. When done right, creativity and productivity increase.
Asynchronous work can take many forms, including email, chat, project boards, videos, voice messages, and more. Each asynchronous workplace creates its own communication ecosystem. To work properly, this system must be carefully designed to meet your team’s needs, and each team member must embrace the system.
How it works for your team.
Clear, concise communication is the backbone of any successful asynchronous remote workforce. While the tools each team uses will be unique, there are several favorites among seasoned asynchronous workplaces.
Project management software often serves as a hub where all important communication processes take place. Task boards act as a point of truth when information is needed. Not to mention that grouping communications by project keeps conversations focused on meaningful topics. This also provides an easy way to reference historical data when needed.
Although email and chat are extremely popular in most areas of remote work, they are used sparingly by those who prefer asynchronous communication. Our team is committed to restricting email as much as possible. The rule reduces the digital clutter that distracts us from real discussions. Likewise, we mainly use chat messages for urgent matters or private conversations between individuals. Instead, we use project boards to discuss relevant topics.
With a strong asynchronous communication system, home teams stop using meetings as a crutch and focus on making them as productive as possible. Each meeting has a clear purpose, agenda, and preparation needed to keep the time constructive. When meetings are held to a higher standard, there are fewer meetings – which means more time sooner for everyone.
Ultimately, each remote work team must decide how asynchronous communication works best for them. Together with your managers and employees, determine which tools and processes fit your industry, your project goals, your corporate culture and your values.