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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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 interaction of the office, we are cutting the remote workers' ability to get things done.

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.

The overhead of real-time communication leads to:

  1. An inability to focus and make any meaningful progress in work.
  2. The constant interruptions, and context-switching draining mental resources.
  3. A constant FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out) due to connectivity being made a priority over productivity.
  4. More stress, high frustration and time pressure, which can lead to burnout
  5. Lower quality discussions due to lack of time to think and reflect.
  6. No offline time, which leads to a constant connection with work, disrupting the work-life balance.
  1. More control over the workday, and on how we structure our lifestyle due to flexible work hours.
  2. High-quality responses due to workers having the time to think, reflect, and provide insightful ideas.
  3. Better coordination and planning, leading to less stressful teamwork.
  4. Employees can block their hours for uninterrupted ‘Deep Work’ time.
  5. All conversations are automatically documented in email and chat.
  6. Easy to disconnect at the end of the day, leading to better work-life balance.

This requires managers to:

  1. Focus on the output rather than the number of hours worked.
  2. Trust their employees and give them space and freedom.
  3. Understand that 24/7 connectivity isn’t good for employees wellbeing.
  4. Get rid of unnecessary meetings.
  5. Encourage ‘Deep Work’ by disconnecting from communication tools periodically.
  6. Ensure communication is only within office hours.

While face-to-face connections are important, make sure that zoom meetings, phone calls and other real-time communication are not the rule, but an exception.

Personal and real-time interaction is good for team building, but we need to provide flexibility to the remote team in both work hours and location, and make it okay for them to disconnect when required.

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RELATED IDEAS

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 in-person communication, the second type is just slowly being discovered. 

In fact, asynchronous communication enables team members to respond to their colleagues whenever they can, without putting pressure on them that the answer should be provided immediately.

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On Your Own Time

Asynchronous communication is when the exchanges of information among colleagues, clients or businesses do not happen in real-time, but whenever the other person is able to communicate. Our workdays are already filled with async communication (like email) but the pandemic has forced a lot more people to leave their shared workspaces and sit at their homes.

Zoom and even instant messaging is synchronous communication, and async communication is actually slow and less collaborative among team members, something which leads to confusion and even isolation.

"Async first does not mean async-only."

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