5 Asynchronous Communication Tools and Tips for Remote Teams
How can we meaningfully connect in a remote environment? Hybrid, remote-first or all-remote - many models describe the different types of location-independent work. New ways of working are driving the creation of new technology to support it. While technology isn’t the solution for everything, it plays a vital role in helping us communicate, achieve company goals and shape our experiences at work.
1. Encourage asynchronous communication
Slack, Teams, Google Chat - thanks to countless chat tools we are more connected than ever. Many leaders use these inherently asynchronous communication tools to replicate synchronous communication in the office, where workers can approach someone for an immediate response. But as companies work globally and across time zones, we need new ways of working. In remote organizations, leaders should be careful not to glorify the always-on responsiveness that leads to burnout. By encouraging asynchronous communication, HR leaders can give people more control over when and how they work - boosting productivity by protecting focus time and leading to a better employee experience.
- Slackbot lets you automatically respond to messages using pre-specified phrases as triggers.
- Standuply can take the pressure off daily standups.
- BlockSite or Freedom can fight against email overload by blocking email for certain times of the day.
- Loom reduces meetings by enabling asynchronous video communication instead.
- YAC eliminates meetings with an audio-first, async meeting platform for teams.
2. Create a single source of truth
To relieve the pressure on individual workers and foster a transparent and collaborative environment, leaders must move away from real-time communication and one-on-one information sharing towards a single source of truth. Task boards reduce the amount of information hidden away in emails or direct messages to relieve pressure on individuals responsible for status updates and act as a single source of information for all team members.
- Trello is a project management tool for asynchronous collaboration.
- Asana keeps remote and distributed teams focused on their goals and projects.
- Monday is an open platform where anyone can create the tools they need to run every aspect of their work.
- Basecamp is an all-in-one project management platform
3. Protect focus time
Have you ever been to a meeting that could have been an email? The average person spends as much as 50% of their time in meetings. Many meetings are inefficient, interrupt workflow, and eat into focus time. Organizations must encourage workers to operate asynchronously to be more effective, making it OK to decline meetings if it interrupts deep work.
Tips and recommended tools:
- Make 30-minute meetings standard.
- Encourage workers to set ‘office hours’, a time in the day when colleagues can book meetings with each other.
- Calendly lets you schedule and book meetings more efficiently.
- Hugo makes meetings more productive with a calendar, notes and tasks to drive outcomes.
4. Use shared documents
Shared documents mean colleagues can work on the same task asynchronously without worrying about version control. Whiteboards and visual collaboration platforms can support synchronous collaboration, too - aiding strategy work and brainstorming regardless of whether team members are in the room.
- Google Docs lets you create and collaborate on online documents.
- Dropbox Paper is a new asynchronous collaboration document designed for creative work.
- Figma connects everyone in the design process so teams can deliver better products.
- InVision is a whiteboard and productivity tool.
- Miro is a visual collaboration tool to connect and co-create in one space, no matter where you are.
5. Document first, implement second
In the past, leaders have used brick-and-mortar spaces to personify company values. With the distributed team, leaders can no longer leverage designer furniture, office snacks, Friday drinks or water cooler chats to reinforce company culture. According to GitHub - a world leader in remote work - your culture is the values you write down and what you do to strengthen those values. There should be no unwritten rules. Maintaining a handbook that accurately documents your company culture, working methods, and values keeps everyone on the same page. Encouraging everyone to keep documentation up-to-date promotes inclusion and makes the company culture everyone’s responsibility.
- Notion is an all-in-one workspace and hub for async communication.
- Almanac.io is a modern collaboration platform designed to streamline projects and automate manual tasks.
Technology and tools can make or break the employee experience. “Employees are 230% more engaged and 85% more likely to stay beyond three years in their jobs if they feel they have the technology that supports them at work” 1. As more companies work with remote workers who are online at different times, leaders must find new ways to support asynchronous methods of communication. When used correctly, these tools can help organizations be more adaptable, foster inclusion, balance workloads, and help retain top talent. Tools are our new workplace. To support the remote team, employers should continue to listen to the needs of the remote employee - and be ready to adjust as they engage with different tools.
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- In a Hybrid World, Your Tech Defines Employee Experience by Brad Anderson and Seth Patton, Harvard Business Review, February 18, 2022
- Photo by Morgan Housel on Unsplash