An endless amount of studies have concluded that remote workers are more productive than traditional workers. But have you ever wondered why?

Yes, remote workers don’t have to deal with annoying commutes or distractions from other colleagues. The flexibility of working according to their comfort is something that their other counterparts are quite jealous of.

But all these benefits aren’t just due to the independence of location, but instead a repercussion of asynchronous communication.

A what? Let’s figure out what this complicated sounding term actually means.

The best way to understand it, is to know it’s opposite,  what synchronous communication is. Synchronous is when you send a message and the recipient undertakes that information and responds immediately, an in-person meeting is an obvious example.

Now since that is cleared, asynchronous communication is when you send a message without the expectation of an immediate reply. It does not require the two parties to be present at the same exact time, such as an email or a slack message, you might see it as soon as it’s delivered, but usually almost only reply to it when you’re free.

Why do we need it?

Many leaders are often confused if they should embrace remote work, but the real question they should be asking is if they’ll be able to embrace an asynchronous style first.

Again to understand the benefits of asynchronous, let’s dive into the downsides of synchronous communication first.

Harvard Business Review’s article on Collaborative Overload found that workers spent a full 80% of their workdays communicating in the form of email, meeting and other messaging platforms.

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  1. Constant interruptions- a worker is expected to organise their work in the middle of multiple meetings with remaining time spent doing work half distracted with eyes on emails regularly. This split in attention makes it difficult to make work progress especially with cognitively demanding tasks like coding, writing or problem solving that require long periods of focus.
  2. Fear of missing out- prioritising the need to be connected at all times over being productive is fuelled by the fear of missing out on discussions of major discussions or meetings. Thus, people try to be present in as many meetings, draining their mental wellbeing and productivity.
  3. High amounts of stress- being available anytime for employees creates a loss of control of their own schedules and agenda. A study suggests that employees compensate for time lost by doing work faster, causing more stress, frustration, pressure and effort, all leading to intense work burnout.
  4. Lower quality solution and poor ideas- responding immediately might not result in enough time to think of the best, most well thought ideas, your initial responses aren’t the best solutions.

Now, that the downsides of synchronous are aside, let’s focus on the core benefits that come with embracing asynchronous communication in a remote environment:

  1. More control and flexibility- perfect for when your team consists of both early rises and night owls. No set work hours allow for more flexibility over how to structure their day depending on their preferences and responsibilities(especially with kids). Leads to more productivity and happier employees!
  2. High quality communication- although slower, discussions are of the best quality. Time to think through allows for better more thoughtful, worthy responses and fewer thoughtless outbursts.
  3. Better quality work- the need to no longer stay on top of each message as they arrive blocks of large amounts of uninterrupted time that you can utilise to do more valuable work. Ideal for writers and coders that need to have their thinking caps on for prolonged times!
  4. Efficient documentation- with more communication happening in well thought, analysed drafted messages through writing, that information is automatically documented and easily shared. Asynchronous communication avoids FOMO of not being able to attend a meeting, need to make aggressive notes during video calls or the fear of missing out what someone said on a work call. A proper history of exchanges that can be referenced over time serves as a way of communication redundancy. Say goodbye to information loss!
  5. Equality over time zones- hiring remote workers often means a diverse team from varying countries of differing time zones, one of the major reasons why remote work is the hiring trend for startups. Now with that comes the struggle of fixing a common time for meeting that’s convenient time for all! Well, asynchronous communication is perfect for that and allows everyone to be updated and on the same page.

Like all things in life, both types have their pros and cons. Yes, adopting asynchronous is the way ahead especially for remote teams but don’t neglect synchronous. Without synchronous communication, building relationships and rapport would be impossible, remember we’re all humans after all! Coupling asynchronous forms and having a mix of traditional methods will give you the ultimate form to help unlock the code for productive teams.

Communication Skills entrepreneurship future of work Productivity Remote Employee work-life balance