Asynchronous Messaging: Improve Your Workplace Productivity Today
As we start to take remote work and digital transformation seriously, there’s a new form of communication that has become a hot topic: asynchronous communication.
While creating an offline video and sending it to peers isn’t new, asynchronous messaging is also becoming a crucial part of enterprise communications strategies.
We might know what it is. It’s just sending messages to each other and not expecting an immediate reply, right?
Well, what if there was more to it than that? And how does a business use asynchronous messaging to its advantage?
Read on for the history of asynchronous messaging and how you can squeeze every last inch of productivity out of this new way of working.
What is asynchronous messaging?
Asynchronous messaging involves sending a message without expecting an immediate response. It’s a workplace culture that encourages employees to do their work when it best suits them – within reason of course.
As a result of the lockdown in 2020, video conferencing and instant-messaging tools became a part of people’s professional lives.
As working from home became the norm, so did a lack of work-life balance.
A culture of asynchronous chat corrects that by allowing employees to schedule their work around their most productive times.
Research shows 41% of interrupted tasks are not returned to immediately. Async messaging solves this by allowing people to focus on deep work and respond when it suits them.
It also allows companies to work with diverse talents globally, without the limitation of time zones.
Ire Aderinokun, the COO at Helicarier, talks about how operating an asynchronous work structure has helped their team maximize remote work.
“Having an asynchronous work structure only works when you have trust in the team, and enabling our team with tools has helped us do just that.
We’re not particular about when people get things done. As long as you’re achieving the set goals, you can work on your own time.”
You can use the terms asynchronous messaging and asynchronous chat interchangeably. There is no difference between the two. Some people call the process of sending messages “messaging” and others call it “chat”.
So what is meant by synchronous messaging?
Synchronous chat means getting responses in real-time and without delay. Everyone works simultaneously, and tasks or comments are responded to immediately.
Remember the old days of MSN Messenger or AOL’s AIM service? MSN Messenger was a form of synchronous chat; from those annoying nudges to staying up to see if your crush was online.
Skype for Business is the workplace version most people know. It has different features– IM, call, video chat, or schedule a meeting – all designed to receive responses in real-time from employees.
While a lot of companies still adopt synchronous messaging, companies like Atlassian, Asana, and Doist are shifting away from it. They encourage their employees to respond to messages and communicate on their own time so they can focus on deep work.
Asynchronous messaging vs synchronous messaging
The table below shows key differences between asynchronous and synchronous messaging.
|Asynchronous messaging||Synchronous messaging|
|Responses in your own time||Immediate responses|
|Focused work||Interrupted work|
|Work across time zones||Limited time zones|
|Contextual features like messages threads||Limited text-based features|
|Allows for deep work and productivity||Promotes always-on culture|
What is an example of asynchronous communication?
Asynchronous comes in two main forms: messaging and video.
In the business world, there are four major players when it comes to asynchronous messaging tools.
Asynchronous messaging tools
Slack is often viewed as the pioneer of asynchronous chat. With Slack, employees stay connected with other teammates while still focusing on tasks.
Slack channels encourage focused work. Employees can pin important messages at the top of their channels for others to see regardless of the time they are online.
The status feature also helps to notify team members of your availability to respond to messages and inform them if you need to take time off to do some focus work.
Temi Babalola, a data infrastructure engineer, talks about how he uses the status update feature to get work done.
“Whenever I have to do deep work, I set my status to “busy”, inform my team what time I’ll respond, and turn off Slack notifications.
This allows me to get things done with laser focus and also enables my team members to trust me more, because they know I will respond at the time I say I will.
A simple feature like status update can make a huge difference in productivity.”
Slack has always had a core focus on asynchronous communications. But it also understands the need for spontaneous communication. In 2021, Slack Huddles rolled out as a Clubhouse-type chat where people can drop into ongoing audio conversations.
Since Microsoft introduced asynchronous messaging, there has been a battle with regards to Slack vs Microsoft Teams. Its features: teams and channels, chat, audio calls, online video calls, and screen sharing, make it similar to Slack.
However, there are differences – such as the Planner app, whiteboard feature, and deep integration with the rest of the Microsoft suite (SharePoint, OneDrive, etc.).
Microsoft Teams also allows users to record meetings and go back to listen later. If there’s a decision to be made, polls can be raised and teammates respond to it in their own time.
This is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to Microsoft Teams.
Formerly Cisco Spark then Webex Teams, Webex is now a single app for meetings, messaging, and collaboration. International organizations rely on Webex as an all-in-one solution that allows asynchronous messaging and enterprise-level audio and video meeting experiences.
Webex uses its file sharing, video meetings, and integrations with other tools to encourage people to do their best work.
No longer thought of as just a video conferencing app, Abhay Kulkarni, SVP and GM for Webex, said in an interview with Mio that the single app was crucial for user experience.
“We did it for the end users. We wanted to make sure end users got the continuous collaboration experience between messaging, calling, and meetings that they were craving.”
Everybody knows Zoom for its video conferencing capabilities. But have you heard of Zoom Chat?
Zoom initially started as a tool for real-time video calls but launched a chat feature in October 2019. All within the same app.
Like Slack, Zoom Chat offers the status and presence feature along with chat message history with manageable time limits, screen capture, file transfer, and image uploads.
It also offers the option to edit and delete messages sent in the Zoom Chat app.
With Zoom, calls can also be recorded to allow your employees to go back to it in their own time.
Asynchronous video tools
It would be wrong to share asynchronous communication examples without mentioning video.
The remote work culture heavily relies on video conferencing. However, the use of video in remote work is shifting towards pre-recorded videos.
This encourages you to listen when it is convenient and when you can consume information best. Asynchronous video tools allow you to pause, skip, or rewind to understand a particular point.
Loom is an asynchronous video messaging tool that helps you get pre-recorded messages to colleagues or customers.
You can use it for your weekly stand-ups and record short video messages about what you worked on, the challenges faced, and what’s up next.
Independent creators also love Loom for creating video courses. Check out this example of an online course module filmed using only Loom.
As we’ve become accustomed to using Loom, we have naturally craved more features and functionality. The asynchronous video market is just as hot as the chat market.
There are over 20 Loom alternatives without leaving page 1 of Google. Let’s take a look at Tella, for example.
Tella is also a video messaging tool, but unlike Loom, it has custom layouts, slides import, video clips, and call to action buttons.
It is a useful tool for employee onboarding or training with features that allow for creating training videos.
Use Tella to pre-record your presentation on video and employees will watch the video presentation in their own time.
Asynchronous audio tools
We’ve been on a lot of video calls over the last few years. So asynchronous video might not be what you’re after.
Using an asynchronous audio tool like Yac helps reduce time in meetings and gives your team the flexibility to do their best work.
Using Yac, aysnc audio messages let you communicate without being derailed by a meeting. There’s no pressure to create a video or join an online meeting.
Do you want to comment on a design, ask a question, or explain how something works?
Yac is an asynchronous meeting platform perfect for all those. You can record a Yac message and share your screen to illustrate your point instead of starting another video meeting.
Best practices for asynchronous communication
While asynchronous communication is still fairly new, it’s important to communicate how you’ll use chat and video.
You don’t need to force your teams to be async in a uniform way (there will always be room for the personal touch) but you do need to set some guiding principles so new users aren’t behind from day one.
1 – Use your async tools for training
Asynchronous video tools will help you record presentations, teach a skill upgrade, or even onboard new employees.
After recruiting the right person, training them properly is almost as crucial as the hiring process.
This can be difficult to do using live videos, especially when you have a diverse team across continents. Async video tools come to the rescue.
The video below shows how to use Loom to record videos for distance learning.
2 – Communicate how you’re going to use async communication
If nobody knows you work in a certain way, it sets the ground for miscommunication. So have ground rules about your async practices.
For example, you can pin important messages in your Slack channels like the image shown below.
Other rules you can set include:
- No abbreviations or acronyms.
- Link to earlier messages when necessary.
- Use emojis to communicate the tone of your message – especially when addressing a sensitive topic.
- Do not assume meaning. Ask for clarifications where necessary.
Consider documenting your Slack etiquette (or Teams, or Webex, or Zoom Chat).
3 – Give access to necessary documentation
If you’ve ever received a document you need without access to view or edit, then you understand how frustrating this can be.
This is even more true when you can’t expect an immediate reply.
Prevent this back and forth by confirming people who need access have it.
And always double-check 🙂
4 – Set a reply window
Adopting asynchronous messaging doesn’t mean people can reply at just anytime.
Since the goal is to allow employees to plan their work around the times they are most productive, delayed responses from other teammates can prevent that.
So have internal rules about acceptable response times. You can set different rules for urgent and non-urgent messages.
When sending messages, you can use the scheduled send feature on Slack too. If you know somebody is asleep, don’t risk the chance they have their notifications on.
5 – Embrace interoperability
91% of businesses already use at least two messaging apps. This means there’s a chance of missing out on important messages on either of the apps.
Say those apps are Slack and Microsoft Teams. If half your business is on Slack, how do your Teams users stay in touch with your Slack users?
Do they only use email? Do they have to log out of Teams and into Slack every time they don’t get a response? Maybe they just don’t collaborate with those people.
That’s how workplace silos form.
Instead, you can use Mio’s message interop tool to connect your two platforms in the background.
Once connected, you can send cross-platform messages between Slack and Microsoft Teams. That’s message interoperability!
When your channels and/or users are synced, you can send everything contained in a message cross-platform.
- Message edits
- Message deletions
- Channel messages
- Group messages
- GIFs and emojis
- File uploads
- Rich text formatting
This allows you to focus on the work that matters without missing important notifications.
With remote work being the norm, many companies are looking for new ways to improve productivity without jeopardizing employee wellbeing.
Asynchronous work is a win for both parties. It allows employees to plan their workday based on their own most productive times – and around their private life.
Mio helps you get the best from your async chat tools. You can stay in Microsoft Teams and send messages to your contractors, freelancers, or clients who use Slack.