Let's all take a quick moment of silence for the dearly departed — the in-person team meeting.
Okay, now that's over with, let's get to the point. With the rise of remote work, many teams are finding that the old ways of doing business (i.e., communicating in real time) are going the way of the dinosaur. So if synchronous communication is extinct, what does that leave?
Asynchronous communication (or async). Async communication is on the rise, as Buffer's State of Remote Work 2022 report shows, with close to 40 percent of remote teams adopting an async-first policy.
Even more telling, the same report shows that over half of the workers who answered "no" to the first question said they would like their company to make the shift to async.
Async is here to stay, which is good news for fully distributed teams. While it takes a period of adjusting, overall, async communication is shown to be more efficient and leads to greater productivity. And in this day and age, it doesn't lead to feelings of disconnect and loneliness as often as you might think.
Why Async Communication?
There are many benefits of getting out of sync with your remote team, including:
- Better communication across different locations and time zones
- More efficient use of time during individual team members' workdays
- Ability to block off time for deep focus
- Increased productivity
- Greater collaboration
- Increased autonomy and flexibility for team members
Sounds great, right? In the early stages, it doesn't come quite as easy as it seems. But with the right attitude, the right processes, and the right tools, async communication can be a huge success for your team.
At FPS, we've been async pretty much since our inception, and we've definitely learned a thing or two along the way. And since we're givers, we wanted to share those lessons with you.
Top Tips for Effective Async Communication
Whether you're just getting started with async or are fumbling your way through the early days, we've been where you are now. Here are our tried-and-true tips for making async put your team in perfect harmony.
Don't Think Every Meeting Should Be Async
Okay, our moment of silence at the start of this blog might have been a little premature (and a little tongue-in-cheek). While fully remote teams won't be concerned with in-office meetings, some real-time conversations still need to occur.
For example, 1:1s should always be held synchronously. They're critical for building rapport and tackling any big issues or concerns in the moment.
We can't say how often you'll need to plan for synchronous communications, as it varies from team to team. But what we can say is that you should be open to real-time communication as needs arise.
At FPS, our 1:1s are always synchronous, as are our monthly all-hands calls. These meetings, whether large or small, give our team members a chance to connect on a more personal level. Business needs are met, but also, our culture is strengthened.
Encourage Your Team to Use Status Updates to Protect Their Time
Remote workers are susceptible to feeling that they're "always on." Especially if they're, well...always on. To address this issue, we set up a few universal statuses that our team can use to let colleagues know when they can be reached and when they can't.
This helps manage expectations as to when a response is likely to come and protects the time of the user setting the status. We use Slack statuses to indicate when we're out of the office, traveling, in an area with unreliable Wi-Fi, in meetings, or focused on work and do not wish to be disturbed.
Create a Plan for Putting Out Fires
There is no marketing emergency that's life or death (it's not brain surgery, people), but there will still be times when a problem needs to be addressed urgently. Rather than be reactive when a situation arises, it's far better to be proactive and have a plan in place before a crisis.
You should build a chain of command within your team so employees know who to go to when they need help or information fast. They should then be able to move down that chain if the person at the top isn't available.
Make sure to plan well in advance for expected absences, but have a backup plan for any unforeseen circumstances (and we promise you, there will be unforeseen circumstances).
Manage Calendars Wisely
In conjunction with the previous tip, it's much easier to employ a chain of command when you have clear visibility into everyone's schedule. Use a team-wide calendar to track time out of the office, and ensure every team member can see it.
This helps with planning the occasional synchronous meeting or call and also helps team members know who will be around if and when they need support.
Ensure Employees Are Onboarded and Trained on All Async Tools
As a tech-forward company, we love testing out the latest tools and apps on the market. But it's critical to ensure that every team member has access to all the tools they'll need to use, plus proper onboarding for new employees and scheduled training when a new tool is added.
4 Async Communication Tools
Speaking of tools, there are an overwhelming number of async communication tools on the market today. It can be overwhelming to choose from the many options out there, so we're going to give you a rundown on the ones we use the most and the ones we know will meet your async needs.
The great thing about Slack is that it's equally effective for both synchronous and async communication. This instant messaging platform helps our team feel connected but also protects their valuable time. Messages can be sent and responded to immediately, but when needed, can also be delayed and scheduled for later delivery.
Slack has a huddle capability, so you can pull available team members in for a quick chat, but it also has audio and video functions so you can create a recording that the recipient can watch or listen to when it's convenient for them.
Loom is a robust but easy-to-use video platform that — since we adopted it — makes async communication simple and extremely effective. Loom videos are best for any instance in which screen sharing plays a major role. You can use it to send quick messages or create training videos, how-tos, and much more.
ClickUp is a relatively new project management platform for the FPS team, but it's already become absolutely invaluable. It's highly customizable and has a vast wealth of functions and features that make managing projects and communicating asynchronously a breeze.
Best of all, because ClickUp can store so much information, it creates a paper trail for every action you or anyone on your team takes. You can create resource centers and databases and even your own custom dashboards, making information management simple and reliable.
It also comes equipped with recording functions so you don't have to type out every single note to colleagues.
An oldie but a goodie. We rely on Google to store and manage pretty much everything we do. Our team drive contains all of our documents, spreadsheets, images, and basically every internal asset we create.
This makes sharing, commenting, and collaborating super simple, and it allows us to work cohesively with partners and clients outside the organization.
Learn from Our Experience and Make Async Work for Your Remote Team
Async communication is here to stay. And once you understand why it's important and how to utilize it for your team, we know you'll see all the benefits we've seen.