Next-level collaboration: Asynchronous vs Synchronous

Next-level collaboration: Asynchronous vs Synchronous

As modern work environments continue to evolve, effective collaboration is more crucial than ever. With teams operating from diverse locations, the significance of a collaborative approach known as asynchronous collaboration has come to the forefront.

This article is here to clear up what synchronous and asynchronous collaboration means, show how they're used, and explain why online tools such as whiteboards are so useful. Choosing between them depends on what your team likes and needs, giving organizations the flexibility to work the way they want.

What is Asynchronous collaboration?

Asynchronous collaboration, or async collaboration for short, is all about people working together but not necessarily at the same time. Each person does their thing, checks in when they can, and uses tools to keep the teamwork flowing.

It's the go-to when you're working remotely or in a mix of office and home. With team members contributing on their own schedules, it's a win for getting stuff done, especially when traditional collaboration methods might not be the best fit.

You're probably already doing some form of asynchronous communication - think emails or leaving comments on shared docs or webpages. This kind of collaboration is a game-changer because it reduces the need for endless meetings. Teammates can jump in whenever it fits their schedule, working separately but still connected through various tools.

A Stanford study of 16,000 employees revealed that remote workers are 13% more productive. In another review, a company that switched to remote work recorded an increased $1.3 billion annual value.

Just remember, even with all this async efficiency, there's still room for a bit of good old face-to-face or screen-to-screen interaction to keep things humming along smoothly.

Asynchronous communication examples

Messaging software: Think of tools like Microsoft Teams or Slack as your go-to for chatting and working together. You drop a message, and your teammate replies when they hop online.

Email: No rush to answer work emails ASAP. Platforms like Gmail or Outlook let you respond when it suits you.

Video guides: For showing the ropes, use Zoom or Loom to create videos or demos explaining processes.

Cloud collaboration: Tools like Google Workspace and Microsoft Teams let you and your team collaborate on docs, make changes, and leave comments to tackle when it fits your schedule.

Video library: Imagine a bunch of training videos your team can watch whenever they need a refresher. Platforms like Guru can team up with learning tools such as Lessonly and Skilljar for self-paced learning.

Project tools: To keep everyone on the same page about projects, try Asana, Notion, or Trello. They're like digital command centers for collaboration.

Webpage collaboration: Imagine marketers diving into online research daily, digging up valuable info for the team. Now, picture a handy tool like Collabwriting making it a breeze to work together on standout pages.

Everyone can drop comments in real time, and guess what? You can also team up on PDFs for seamless collaboration. It's like having a supercharged hub for sharing ideas and insights.

Benefits of asynchronous collaboration

Doing stuff asynchronously doesn't just save us from meeting overload. It's basically the secret sauce that keeps the whole organization running smoothly and boosts the bottom line. It's a game-changer for making things work better overall.

And the coolest part? There's data to back it up! 

Increases efficiency

Asana’s recent Anatomy of Work Index revealed that workers are spending 58% of their time on “work about work” and 129 hours in unnecessary meetings each year.

Billy Blau, head of corporate and business development at Asana said:

By enabling employees to review and respond to actions and messages in their own time, you’re giving them the flexibility and space to focus on skilled, high-impact work.

Accommodates all collaboration styles

Lucid’s research shows that 56% of people feel that the loudest, most active voices dominate meetings.

Async work lets the big thinkers, planners, and organizers flex their skills. They get to carefully plan and organize their thoughts before a deadline, doing it when their brainpower is at its best.

Connects dispersed teams

Employee demand for flexible working arrangements is at an all-time high: 65% of professionals would prefer an entirely remote work environment and 32% would prefer a hybrid workplace.

However, fostering effective collaboration among a dispersed workforce isn’t always easy. With asynchronous collaboration, teams can work together from where they want, when they want - without losing productivity

Increases innovation

By removing location and time barriers, async collaboration allows organizations to capture more diverse perspectives and as a result, accelerate innovation.

In fact, a Boston Consulting Group survey found that organizations with above-average diversity earned a whopping 45% of their revenue through innovation.

Promotes transparency

Meetings often create a knowledge gap and force you to have duplicate conversations to bring everyone up to speed. Asynchronous communication enables the company to capture that knowledge in a documented and easily scalable format. - Anique Drumright, COO at Loom

Improves team morale

When an employee's schedule isn’t dictated by meetings, they have more control over when they get their work done. And research shows that when employees feel trusted and have autonomy, they’re happier.

According to Harvard Business Review, a 40% reduction in meetings not only made employees more productive but also increased satisfaction by 52%. 

Straight-up communication

Asynchronous communication might take a bit more time, but it's like the VIP section for thoughtful responses. You get to mull over your ideas, gather your thoughts, and hit back when you're totally ready.

This not only makes your message crystal clear but also saves everyone from going back and forth unnecessarily.

What’s synchronous collaboration?

Synchronous collaboration means teams working together in real time, whether in person, through video calls, or using messaging platforms. It assumes that team members share the same work hours and schedule. In the past, before the internet, this was the usual way of working, often in a physical office with similar hours.

Some organizations still find this method effective for promoting teamwork and creativity. It involves quick responses to messages, reliance on meetings for information exchange, and everyone working during the same hours. Meetings, both one-on-one and group sessions, play a crucial role, especially for managers.

While synchronous collaboration tools facilitate rapid responses, they can also lead to interruptions, providing quick feedback within a coordinated timeframe.

Keeping synchronous and asynchronous communication in balance

Balancing synchronous and asynchronous communication is key.

Let's be clear - we're not saying ditch real-time chat completely. There are times when it just makes sense.

Take remote work, for instance. It can get pretty lonely, right? Synchronous communication helps you connect with your team, build relationships, and collaborate better.

It's handy for important stuff too, like discussing sensitive topics, giving feedback, doing performance reviews, or brainstorming a bunch of ideas at once. When a project is moving fast, a Zoom meeting can get everyone on the same page. And in a crisis, you gotta act fast, so synchronous communication is a lifesaver.

But here's the thing - it can be a bit of a time-drain when:

  • You're stuck waiting for everyone to show up to a meeting.
  • Your morning routine is all about tackling work emails and Slack messages.
  • Your entire day is spent in an endless email chain instead of finishing your task.

The trick?

Keep real-time chats to a minimum. Let your team do their thing but set some rules to keep everyone on the same page. Don't hover, but be there when they need a hand.

Oh, and mix it up! Throw in some team bonding events to tackle loneliness, and you've got a winning combo of both real-time and flexible communication.

Your team stays happy, and everyone keeps that work-life balance in check.