Working Remotely: Synchronous Vs. Asynchronous Communication

With the current threat of the novel coronavirus, also known as COVID-19, globally, not only people’s health is at risk, but also their livelihoods and businesses. In the news, there are already talks about how the current pandemic will soon result in another global recession, causing a lot of companies to file bankruptcy, people losing jobs and a dark future for all the ones who will be affected by it.

Right now, most cities have declared lockdowns and strict curfews, to prevent further transmission of the virus, as there are a lot of cases where the person who is a carrier, does not exhibit any kind of symptoms of COVID-19. With this, the World Health Organization have also declared that social distancing is a must, to help avoid contagion. A lot of companies have also declared a temporary suspension of work, to protect their employees from being exposed to the virus.

As a business owner, you might be wondering about ways to keep your company running, not just for you, but for your employees, too, so that everyone would still be able to put food on their table during these trying times. And yes, the best idea is to work remotely or to work from home, which is totally possible if you have the types of equipment needed and a good internet connection. Your next question would probably be, ‘How do we communicate if everyone is working from home and if their homes are in different locations and timezones? What’s the most efficient way to be on the same page with everyone when it comes to understanding and executing tasks?’. So here, we’ll talk about synchronous and asynchronous communication, the best tools to use, and how you can make remote work for everyone.

Synchronous vs Asynchronous Communication

Synchronous communication usually applies to a co-located and office-based setting. As every member of the team is in the same place at the same time, they can focus on a task together there and in real-time – or synchronously. With this kind of environmental setting, people can set up or share the same time for meetings, discussions or brainstorming, and other interactions.

Asynchronous communication on the other hand usually applies to teams who work in different locations and timezones. Most work tasks are coordinated online, and during each person’s convenient time, and independently of each other.

In other words, asynchronous means that there are delays when it comes to sending a message and receiving a response, while synchronous means real-time or immediate.

Now that you know what synchronous and asynchronous communication is, you’re probably wondering which one works best? And the answer is actually, both. Time differences affect team communication in a lot of ways. There may be tasks at hand that need immediate responses, and some that can wait. To be able to successfully finish a team task, communication is key, so managing the team’s time is a must. Here’s how you can make use of both types of communication, now that you are working remotely.

Choose a common tool for communication

To be able to communicate better, choose a common tool for your team which you will use to contact each other. For discussions that need immediate responses, group chats such as Microsoft Teams or Skype are the popular choice. For meetings that need show and tells or PowerPoint presentations, Zoom is the most popular application you can utilize for your work meetings.

For things that are needed to be discussed but have less importance than the other tasks at hand, emailing is the best way to go.

Set a common time

If your team happens to be scattered in several different locations with different time zones, what you can do is set up a common time to be online for discussions that need immediate responses. To find the best common time, check which time works best for all, and where the different time zones overlap, then come to an agreement with the team to have that time scheduled for brainstorming and discussions, and checking on issues in real-time.

Manage independent time wisely

Once you are able to set and schedule a time for a synchronized meeting, manage your independent time wisely. You can do this by creating a list of tasks that you need to finish in a day, and by removing any distractions that can keep you from accomplishing them.

There are no rules on which type of communication is better than the other. For a lot of businesses with remote teams, both are important, and in reality, it always boils down to how well you manage your team’s time.

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