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Asynchronous Communication and Why It Matters For Remote Work

Communication in a remote setting

Communication in a remote setting

Communication and collaboration are already complex issues, further complicated by remote working.

Team workers sitting in different time zones and work never happens at the same time. Real-time communication like video conferencing is great but cannot be done the whole day. Email is limited in its collaborative features.

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Asynchronous Communication and Why It Matters For Remote Work

Asynchronous Communication and Why It Matters For Remote Work

https://open.buffer.com/asynchronous-communication/

open.buffer.com

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Key Ideas

Communication in a remote setting

Communication and collaboration are already complex issues, further complicated by remote working.

Team workers sitting in different time zones and work never happens at the same time. Real-time communication like video conferencing is great but cannot be done the whole day. Email is limited in its collaborative features.

Best practices for asynchronous communication

  • The setting of clear processes, with clear intentions and less clutter.
  • Most things aren’t urgent, and we need to work by thoughtfully communicating.
  • Making your writing refined, polite, and contextual works wonders.
  • Give all the information at once while in a remote working environment.

Real-Time Vs. Asynchronous Communication

Real-time communication, like a Video chat, works well for casual hangouts, catch-ups, celebrations, urgent situations and one-on-one meetings. Real-time communication is necessary to get things done fast, and for visibility. The lesser, timid employees are at a disadvantage in real-time communication.

Asynchronous communication is inclusive and democratic, as it provides everyone with a chance to communicate in the same way and be heard.

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Asynchronous communication

There are mainly two ways to communicate within a company: synchronous and asynchronous communication. While the second type has always been widely practiced, as face-to-face meetings or any other ...

Real-time communication drawbacks

While real-time communication inside of a team might lead to solving faster some issues, it also has various disadvantages. 

For instance, having your colleagues come to ask you questions to which you feel pressured to answer on the spot leads to you being continuously interrupted, which results in being less productive and feeling stressed or even getting a burnout, as you try to do everything in proper time.

The asynchronous workplace

When the employees are provided with control as to when they are willing to communicate with their co-workers, there are many advantages that emerge. 

For instance, having the freedom to decide exactly how your working day should look like leads to more satisfied employees as well as to better communication within the team. Further benefits vary from feeling less stressed due to better planning to greater transparency and more efficient work.

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A Central Management Tool
A Central Management Tool

Physical presence does play a large part in moving our projects forward. Managing a project remotely requires a diligent and transparent approach to keep track and maintain the various tasks, deadl...

Keep teammates accountable

Creating accountability is a great way to manage the work remotely. Accountability is shifted to the teammates, who are now supposed to be responsible for their own work and decisions.

One way to build accountability in remote teams is to assign groups and let teammates hold each other responsible. Also make teammates share their work experience and any issues they face, publicly (within the team) so that it acts as a ready solution for others, reducing repeat work.

Document Everything

Even if the team is small, document, formalize and map each process, making it scalable and automatic.

Standard Operating Procedures, if used correctly in a remote setting, can act like a central nervous system.

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Faster Isn’t Better
Faster Isn’t Better

Back-to-back video calls, all-day team chats combined with an expectation of immediate response is taking its toll on people trying to work from home.

In the quest to create a real-time ...

Asynchronous Vs Synchronous Communication
  • Asynchronous communication is when we send a message (such as emails) without expecting an immediate response. The recipient can take hours to answer it.

  • Synchronous (or real-time) communication is when you and the other person are engaged in a face-to-face audio or video conversation, like a video call or a phone call. The information discussed is responded immediately.

Instant messaging tools like Slack or Teams are synchronous, and in some companies, email is also used as a real-time communication tool.

Communication Boom

Team communication has increased by 50 percent in the last 20 years. We spend an average of three hours a day working on emails. On an average, Slack users send about 200 messages in a day.

This near constant communication hampers work productivity, with video calls, one-on-one meetings, e-mail and team chat leaving little room for actual work.

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“Be A Strong Writer”
“Be A Strong Writer”

This is one of the first pieces of advice people give to those seeking remote work.

When you work remotely, a few misplaced words can become an occupational hazard. Every w...

Accessible Language
  • Use of caps lock, emojis, italics and tildes (~) to make your language flowery, fun and human is a great idea for remote working. You can also use memes and gif images, provided they are not offensive to anyone.
  • Robot speak is not a good way to freely collaborate with your remote peers. Use simple words, and keep it on the casual side, skipping the inaccessible and stilted language. You can also opt for contractions like writing isn’t instead of is not.
Be Clear And Concise
  • Do not obscure your message by words that are there to decorate the sentence and make it sound wordy while camouflaging what you mean.
  • Make good use of qualifiers ("I think, In my opinion") while not coming across as a perpetually confused person. Don’t use qualifiers while making a strong point.
  • While writing documentation, it is prudent to avoid jargon and acronyms.
  • Use complete words and sentences. Shortcuts and acronyms block any actual communication, acting as roadblocks. On the same lines, avoid cliches, idioms and any idiotic sounding phrase that catches the ear well but doesn’t really do any good to anyone.
  • Remote working is often on a global scale, and certain expressions will not be understood by some participants, or worse, will be misunderstood.
  • Your words and tone should be tailored according to your audience. The words are different when you are writing to a client, and when you are in a small group chat with your peers. More people in chat also means adopting a polished, professional tone.

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How Remote Work Became Possible
How Remote Work Became Possible
  • Computers and the internet have made remote work a common arrangement, and this is a recent phenomenon. PC and internet access changed the shape of work in an unimaginable way, and the techn...
Slow Adoption of Flexible Work

Today, remote and flexible work arrangements are seen as a perk.
In 2018, a survey showed that around 3 percent of Americans worked from home on a regular basis. Due to technological advancements (starting with Blackberry), employees were working from everywhere, the subway, the café, home and during the commute.

But even after we have the technology required for remote working for about fifteen odd years, we have been slow to adopt mainstream remote working. The mass-adoption needed a catalyst, and that was provided in 2020 in the form of a deadly disease.

Remote Work During The Pandemic
  • The 2020 pandemic has shown that all remote working is possible, and bosses are no longer reluctant towards it, a forced change due to the present conditions.
  • Many global giants like Google and Twitter have embraced remote work in a big way, in their bid to protect worker health and to reduce corporate liability.
  • The unpredictable nature of the pandemic and an expectation of the second wave of infections can hamper any chance to return to offices.

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Asynchronous Communication
Asynchronous Communication

.. .is defined as working with tools that don’t demand an immediate response.

Remote work has its own set of challenges (like different time zones) and is filled with distractions....

Well Thought Out Actions

Asynchronous communication allows you to think and reflect before taking action. 

While real-time communication is all-important, the global crisis and work-from-home culture have made us realize the productivity benefits of non-real time communication.

Asynchronous Video

Constant video interaction is great to look as if you are working but isn’t the best use of your time. Rather than being on the video call for everything, it’s better to make a video recording of the particular action (in your own time) and let others see it when they can.

Use asynchronous video to be able to show your face and expressions when needed, getting in touch the real way in a remote setting. This leaves time for your 'deep work' activities.

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Remote Working

It’s almost hard to imagine now that people would commute 2 hours each way, from home to office and back, hopping buses and trains. Remote working, as discovered by millions recently, has plenty of...

Challenges In Remote Working

Remote working is not without its challenges, with many feeling isolated and unmotivated, being left on their own.

Communication is trickier with colleagues and bosses, and there is a general lack of transparency and chances of overworking.

Tools Of A Good Remote Worker
  • Being Tech Savvy: A Good PC/Laptop, the latest tools and software for the job, and a reliable internet connection are a must for most remote working profiles.
  • Good Communication Skills: Most of the communication will be written, and one should be able to articulate complex concepts and subtleties while being concise. This link provides a handy guide.

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Remote-first Mindset

Accept that you have to put in place remote work systems, even if more than half of your employees ultimately revert to office-based work.

  • If done right, a remote-first infrastructu...
Build a socially-connected culture

Intentionally design for the same interactions that would otherwise happen if people were in the office.

  • Culture is what naturally happens when a group of people gets together for any period.
  • A great culture happens with intentional design and influence. It's the reason you should make your company's mission, vision, values, operating principles, standards, and agreements visible. 
  • Culture is experienced through emotions, including how your employees feel about the company, you, other leaders, and peers. That feeling is developed through human interaction at the water cooler, kitchen, or hallway conversations.
Your leadership presence

Your people need to feel your presence as a leader as they will have fewer opportunities to see you face to face when they work remotely.

  • Regularly show up in a variety of forms that can include weekly video meetings, periodic company-wide emails, or presence in public channels.
  • Err on the side of more communication rather than less.

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Building Rapport Remotely

To better build rapport and counter isolation do the following:

  • smile, tilt your chin lower so you're not looking down on them, and slow down your speech during your vid...
Relying On Text The Right Way

Voice and video calls can help you feel more in touch with your team and avoid the issues of asynchronous communication like time lags or misunderstandings.

However, you'll likely spend a lot of your day communicating via text as it’s a good way to interact without interrupting their work. So you need to be able to get your point across clearly and simply, show empathy and understanding, and be efficient to avoid wasted time.

Staying Up To Date

Remote workers can feel overwhelmed by the amount of text they have to process. So finding ways to keep on top of what's going on is imperative for communicating efficiently with others.

Create archive lists and CC irrelevant emails to them, so you can save and share them without flooding non-involved people. 

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Balancing shallow and deep work
Balancing shallow and deep work
  • What should be done when your team's "shallow work" is just as important as their "deep work"?
  • How do you empower your team to find a balance between small improvements and general m...
The Hero Role
  • Each month one person on each product team becomes the "Hero." Their primary responsibilities are to communicate with their support team and take care of smaller improvements.
  • The Hero should be able to focus entirely on their support duties. They're not assigned to any other product development work during that month.
  • Being attentive to the support team and users means the Hero is unlikely to block off 4 hours or more of deep work, but it will enable everyone else on the team to do so.
  • Being so close to user's requests and feedback gives the Hero a unique perspective into their problems and struggles.
Housekeeping Days

Each member of the team (except the Hero) spends one day per week on Housekeeping. It gives them time to focus on small but important tasks.

Housekeeping is a personal day. If the Hero hasn't explicitly asked for help on an issue, people can choose which tasks they want to work on. Sometimes this time is used to learn something new related to current or upcoming work.

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