Modern technology has changed the corporate landscape in more ways than one. Tools like remote employee time tracking, instant messaging apps, various collaboration platforms and others have enabled the spread of remote work, which is a huge step towards better work-life balance for employees and an expanded talent pool for companies to potentially hire from.
It’s also led to the possibility of instant real-time communication between coworkers from different countries and time zones. This has completely transformed the way employers manage their remote workforce and it’s also significantly altered managers’ expectations and teams’ workflows. But not all of these changes are for the best.
Long-distance communication is cited as one of the biggest challenges of remote work. The reason for this is because communication with remote teams is largely asynchronous - in other words, there’s a time lag between the time when you send them a message and the moment when they read it and respond. This lag is generally considered an issue and many managers are trying to make it as short as possible.
However, as we’re about to see, embracing asynchronous communication with distributed teams not only doesn’t have to be a problem, but it can actually be beneficial to remote employees’ productivity.
Why Non-Real-Time Communication Can (But Shouldn’t) Be Considered a Problem
Simply put, in the majority of cases, asynchronous communication is seen as an issue only because it doesn’t fit with your expectations. You expect your remote employees to be available and responsive right away. You expect them to reply to every message in under 5 minutes. This is just the norm. But there are no real reasons why your expectations should be leaning towards more synchronous communication all the time.
One possible concern about letting employees respond to you in their own time is the fact that you’ll have to loosen the leash. In other words, you might not be able to stay on top of things by asking remote workers what they’re working on. But this kind of micromanagement isn’t good to begin with and you should aim to tone it down anyway. It’s all about the trust - if your employees finish their tasks on time and their work is up to your standards, then you don’t have a problem. Alternatively, you can use remote employee time tracking software to see which task each employee is working on at any moment without having to contact them.
Another thing about having near real-time communication that many employers appreciate is the open possibility of assigning urgent last-minute tasks. While this is certainly inevitable in some situations, making it possible to just open up new tasks at any given time, no matter how insignificant or ‘small’ they might be, and expecting your employees to do them as soon as you tell them to is a bad practice. First, it creates a lot of stress among employees, and secondly, it encourages lazy planning.
But allowing remote employees to postpone responding to messages in combination with using remote employee time tracking software to keep up to date on what’s happening can fix these issues and make your team more productive.
How to Make Asynchronous Communication Work
In order to adopt this way of working and communicating with your remote workforce, the first thing to do is adjust your attitude to it. Instead of seeing asynchronous communication as a bottleneck, try to look at it as the opportunity for employees to focus on their work. The thing is - deep concentrated work on meaningful tasks, even if just for a couple of hours, is way better than a whole day of being distracted by messages and emails. Deep work makes employees more productive, their output more high quality and their minds more creative. So, the first step is to allow employees to focus on their work and respond to your messages later.
The next thing you might want to consider is implementing remote employee time tracking so that you can monitor your workers without disrupting their flow with texts, calls or meetings. Remote employee time tracking will tell you everything you need to know - who’s active, what they’re working on, which tools they’re using and much more.
Of course, asynchronous doesn’t mean disorganized or non-existent. Some rules have to be in place so that your teams can still function and collaborate smoothly. For instance, set a requirement that all messages have to be responded to within 24 hours. This is plenty of time for employees to find the right moment to focus on communication, and yet not too long that the issue becomes irrelevant or that failing to do a task results in irreparable damage. Also, you have to keep in mind that your messages have to be as clear and detailed as possible because every need for clarification can end up spanning a couple of days.
At the end of the day, asynchronous communication requires a drastic change in your planning process and company culture. So make sure you have a clear set of guidelines and policies on what is expected both of you and of your employees, and of course, don’t forget to properly onboard your remote workers.
When done right, this system of internal communication is extremely effective and beneficial, not just as a part of remote team management strategy but possibly also for in-office staff.
What Are the Benefits?
If your employees are allowed to keep their focus on the task they’re working on for as long as they need, and then dedicate an hour or two every day just for catching up on the mail and messages, they’re going to increase their overall productivity. This is the most important benefit of asynchronous communication - removing distractions and concentrating on deep work.
Not being required to respond to every message instantaneously will also reduce the stress they face while working. They’ll be able to organize their own time - work while they’re in the zone, and respond to messages when they need a bit of a break from demanding cognitive tasks.
But this way of communicating isn’t beneficial to your employees only. It’s also good for you. For one, it forces better planning - you can’t rely on employees being able to take on an assignment 3 hours before its due, so you’ll need to organize your workflow in the most optimal way possible and learn how to prioritize.
And finally, another great thing about letting go of the need to get an instant response to every message is the fact that it solves time zone issues and opens up the possibility for you to employ top talent from halfway across the world without requiring them to work at 11pm.
Asynchronous way of communication is far from standard in today’s fast-paced corporate world. But, as we’ve demonstrated, it’s not impossible, especially with good policies, onboarding and possibly even remote employee time tracking. And once you succeed in implementing this way of communication, you’ll find yourself with a stress-free and productive remote workforce.