Asynchronous and synchronous communication have been trending phrases in remote work communities recently. Many promote asynchronous communication as the best option for distributed teams. i.e. I ping you a message, and you respond at some later time when available. Some believe remote tools should be made with this in mind, and should even promote this behavior. We believe a picture is worth a thousand words: by using a digital office (a visual communication tool), most of the issues with asynchronous and synchronous communication are resolved for you, with no extra effort on your part.
Problem: Someone did not respond.
See: They are busy doing a task. You can click on their Avatar to see!
Problem: Where is team member ZZZZZZ?
See: He is in the Rec Room having a standup.
Problem: A contractor only responds to you when something is complete.
See: Have them work in a shared office, during contracted hours, and see if they are in.
Asynchronous communication is a result after the fact, and not something that was purposefully made as a feature of remote teams. For example, if I message you and you’re mobile, you can only message back when you have internet access again. Or you could be in a different timezone all together, you can only respond when you wake up. We have become used to this as a common part of messaging in our modern world. However, while working with a remote team asynchronous communication can promote bad behaviors that spin out of control.
Responding late on purpose to extend a deadline.
A loss of task ownership. Who is doing what and when?
Leaving certain people out of the loop with asymmetric communication.
Communication is all about maintaining meaningful human connections. In a real office we communicate together instantly and in multiple ways: text, speech, visual queues, and much more! Tools should be aimed at promoting these exact same communication behaviors in a virtual space, so we can keep those meaningful connections intact.
December 15th, 2019