Organizations continue to tackle remote and hybrid work challenges like overwork, Zoom fatigue, burnout, disconnection, and interruptions. Leaders, managers, and their teams recognize that finding the right balance between effective async and sync communication is critical. But coming from a work context where decision-making, creative thinking, and connection all take place in a co-located office environment, professionals often struggle to shift to this new paradigm of async-first work.
Before you start to learn how to implement effective asynchronous communication and collaboration, it’s critical to understand both:
- what is asynchronous vs synchronous communication
- why asynchronous communication is beneficial to teams
7+ Steps of Effective Async Communication
But HOW can teams implement impactful async communication? Here are the seven fundamental steps to implementing effective asynchronous workflows, collaboration, and communication:
1. Establish a Placeless Mindset
Effective asynchronous communication requires a Placeless Mindset; they are inextricably linked. Each element of the Placeless Mindset points to how async communication can be leveraged on remote and hybrid teams and yield business outcomes like increased performance and engagement. A Placeless Mindset requires teams to:
- Embrace location independence over physical presence.
- Empower autonomous work with flexible schedules.
- Impact productivity with asynchronous communication and collaboration.
- Be open and transparent.
- Trust your colleagues and employees.
2. Reduce the Amount of Time Spent in Synchronous Meetings
Days spent in virtual meetings are tiring and frustrating. It’s draining to be “on” without the benefit of real human connection. Meetings that take up time you’d rather devote to working on projects or being with family can lead to working later hours and increased frustration. Limit the length and number of meetings you schedule and attend in a week. Then set and communicate those boundaries with your colleagues.
3. Increase the Amount and Quality of Uninterrupted Work Time
With fewer unplanned phone calls, meetings, messages, and interruptions, you’ll have more ownership of your time and can work more productively at your own pace. Use your tools to your advantage in supporting uninterrupted deep work time. Plan ahead by blocking time on your calendar for projects that require focused work. Block distractions like email notifications, and pings to limit interruptions. Inform your colleagues, via Slack status updates or calendar blocking, so they can manage their own expectations about how and when you will be available.
4. Reduce the Number of Interruptions by Setting Clear Expectations
When you establish and document clear limits for others regarding your schedule, responsiveness, and availability, you manage everyone’s expectations and improve communication. Setting boundaries at work is supported by a team boundaries agreement that clearly outlines both individual and group availability is a great start. Ongoing reminders, such as signaling via Slack status updates, and referring individuals to documentation will decrease reactivity.
5. Reduce Reliance on Other People’s Time to Gain Access to Information
Accessible and transparent information means that you don’t have to rely on other people’s time to get the information you need and vice versa. Document decisions, resolutions, and processes proactively in shared handbooks, documents and folders, recorded videos, and written meeting summaries.
6. Convert Synchronous Meetings to Asynchronous Work Processes
Meetings are familiar, and have unfortunately become the default for team communication. By replacing familiar and routine practices with a new asynchronous process, you’ll create new habits with your team that save time and create more inclusivity. Start by swapping out work tasks that are relatively easy to complete async, like sharing information, collaborating, and problem-solving.
7. Improve the Quality of Synchronous and Blended Meetings
Rather than scheduling meetings out of habit, use sync time strategically. Be selective with who attends and proactive in adopting blended meeting formats by setting up channels where prework and postwork can be completed async, which will free up time for everyone involved so you can be more efficient with your time together. Optimize this blended meeting format by leveraging collaboration tools like Loom, MURAL, and Google Docs.
8. Experiment and Optimize
The journey to effective async communication isn’t a straight line. Depending upon the size, work type, and cultural dynamics of your team, some tools or processes will work and others won’t. Isn’t important to understand the fundamental principles or async communication. But it’s just as important to experiment and learn from those trials.
Knowing these effective async fundamentals is essential, but translating these concepts and recommendations into action and embedding them in habits is where it gets tricky. Professionals understand they need to work asynchronously, but don’t know how, and don’t know how to get others to embrace it.