Asynchronous vs synchronous communication

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.

Maintaining Meaningful Human Connections

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.


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December 15th, 2019