With workplaces increasingly switching to remote work, the scenario of working from anywhere, which was once a dream, became a reality for many.
Remote work has enabled employees to do their jobs and holding a meeting from multiple locations, maintain a better work-life balance, and increase their overall job satisfaction.
After the switch to remote or hybrid work models, companies started to focus on the results rather than the actual hours.
The truth is that we have changed the way we do and perceive work. And this is why every organization in the world had to change the way it communicates. The development of using asynchronous and synchronous communication interchangeably led to adapting to the new way of working.
We wanted to examine how we communicate today, review the advantages of synchronous vs. asynchronous communication in the workplace, and help you skyrocket your productivity and allow you to do less while achieving more.
What is Synchronous Communication?
The simplest explanation of synchronous communication is that it's communication that happens only in real-time. It can be via video or phone calls, chat messages, or in-person meetings, but it's important to note that all parties involved are present simultaneously.
Asynchronous communication, unlike its synchronous counterpart, can be defined as exchanging information at different moments.
We've done a thorough analysis of synchronous communication. Read about its definition, advantages and disadvantages, but most importantly, when to use it. Learn through examples and types what way of communicating is best for your team's success.
Benefits of synchronous communication
Now that we explained what synchronous communication is let's see what benefits it brings to the workplace.
- Brings people together.
As they say, "out of sight, out of mind", remote employees might feel disconnected and alone since they're physically away from their team. The loneliness can become even more significant if they work in different time zones from the rest of the team.
Synchronous communication can help remote teams close the gap remote work has brought, as it helps them feel more connected and part of the team. Synchronous communication is also more informal since people usually take little time to craft a message - it's dynamic and fast and mimics spoken conversation. Due to its relaxed nature, remote workers perceive it as more friendly.
- Helps in problem resolution.
Written words can be interpreted in a million ways, while spoken communication leaves little room for ambiguity. Synchronous communication mimics spoken words, as it is dynamic and fast, and it's best when it comes to dealing with sensitive topics, as the person can correct themselves or explain the subject more closely since they type in real-time.
Real-time online communication (using tools such as Slack) enables developers to address different issues on the spot. You don't have to wait to get the most pressing problems fixed. Production can keep moving forward because you don't need to wait for someone else's response.
- Improves collaborative spirit.
Some projects require immediate reaction and brainstorming sessions. In this case, it's always nice to have a way to talk about the project or clear out every doubt in one meeting, without waiting for anyone. This way, team members can have instant feedback and move on to problem resolution.
- Increases employee engagement.
Since the COVID-19 pandemic, virtual team building has become a thing. Spending time with your coworkers (even online) can help your business build a solid and engaged team of people working towards a common goal.
- Makes the feedback process much easier.
Proper feedback is crucial for creating a healthy and engaging environment, as it helps businesses to achieve better results and increase productivity. Helpful feedback helps the team avoid major mistakes since it secures a proper and undisturbed flow of communication. It keeps everyone on track and motivates team members to perform at their best.
Since many businesses operate remotely, giving and receiving feedback has become more complex. Luckily, by using video-conferencing tools like Google Meet or Zoom, managers and employees can stay on track and ensure they're always on the same page.
Challenges of Synchronous Communication for Remote Teams and How To Overcome Them
Even though it comes with plenty of benefits, synchronous communication has its set of drawbacks too. We'll share what some of them are to help you use the potential of this type of communication to the maximum.
- Differences in time zones.
Remote teams that hire people from around the globe might find synchronous communication tiring. With people scattered around different time zones, finding overlapping times that work for each team member is hard. When some team members have to constantly sacrifice their non-working hours to be there when their coworkers need them, it affects their work-life balance, job satisfaction, productivity, and motivation.
A way to solve this issue is to schedule regular weekly meetings that involve entire teams. The key is to schedule them at a time that suits everyone and prepare an agenda that covers all the tasks that need clarification. All the other interactions should happen asynchronously.
- It can be distracting.
Synchronous communication can damage productivity, as the constant notifications from different chats might damage employees' focus and concentration. Furthermore, when they hear they got the message, many people feel like they need to respond instantly. And when we know how long people usually take to recover from a distraction, we know how damaging real-time chats might be.
People will learn to wait for a response with enough patience and understanding. The first step to avoid chat distractions is to turn the sound notifications off. You can explain to your team that you'll respond when you get the chance or let them understand on their own that you'll take your time with the replies.
- Decreased productivity, increased stress.
As we've already said, instant chats instill a sense of urgency, and people might get anxious about responding to messages in real time. However, if the messages constantly reappear, their focus gets disrupted, and productivity suffers. Furthermore, while using the chat at work, employees might feel pressured to be present at all times, which adds stress to their regular work priorities.
Managers should allow their employees to work flexible hours whenever possible and place value on their work based on their performance. This way, they'll focus more on their tasks and productivity than their presence and how quickly they respond to messages. The anxiety about incoming messages should lessen over time, and the team's productivity will increase.