Asynchronous Communication: The Real Reason for Better Productivity with Remote Work?

Now that we’re all working from home, we’re seeing a ton of research into the impact of remote work on productivity and the results are clear: remote workers are more productive.
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How Asynchronous Communication Enables Better Productivity with Remote Work

Since remote work became the norm, a ton of research has been published about the benefits of working remotely in terms of productivity. Take a look at some of the following interesting findings:

  • 77% of remote employees believe they’re more productive when they’re working from home.
  • 76% of workers would prefer to avoid the office completely when they need to concentrate during an important project.
  • 23% of remote workers say they work longer hours when they’re at home compared to the office.

Productivity isn’t the only benefit of remote work. 81% of employees say the ability to work remotely would make them more likely to recommend their place of employment to other job candidates.

Why are remote workers more productive?

In modern workplaces that embrace remote work, asynchronous communication is more common. What does this mean? Essentially, when you’re interacting or communicating with a colleague, client, or vendor, you don’t expect an immediate response. This is a concept that’s becoming more popular now that we’re all working from home. Think about it: when email was introduced, it was intended to be an asynchronous mode of communication.

Meetings, on the other hand, were synchronous because they happen in real-time. However, email wasn’t supposed to happen in real-time. You would wait for a few hours, or even days, for a reply. But as technology evolved, we’ve been introduced to multiple devices and applications that can be brought with you anywhere, and suddenly, even asynchronous forms of communication like email became real-time.

We’re used to responding within minutes. Although email isn’t quite real-time because there’s some degree of delay, it’s become fairly close to real-time. But with working remotely, we’re all more understanding of time constraints that result in delays. Everyone is working at different times, so we wait for a response instead of expecting it right away. Naturally, this means email is being used the way it was intended to.

How does asynchronous communication impact productivity?

When we’re in the office and using synchronous communication methods, we’re left without a lot of time to focus on our work. Consider this: we spend a lot of time in meetings – bouncing from one meeting to the next throughout the day. We’re answering emails, sending instant messages, and overall, expecting to communicate quickly with those around us. In turn, we’re spending much of our time doing shallow work:

  • Responding to emails
  • Following up via phone
  • Sending updates to others

Asynchronous communication leaves us with more time available to do what’s known as deep work:

  • Programming
  • Strategizing
  • Planning

People can work more productively, as long as they’re not using asynchronous forms of communication and forcing them to be synchronous. This often happens when we integrate our real-time communication tools with project management tools. You’re eliminating barriers, which is great, but you’re also introducing several distractions.

How can you avoid confusion surrounding expectations?

The biggest challenge with asynchronous communication revolves around expectations. It’s proven that asynchronous communication is the most effective. Organizations are starting to look at ways to empower productivity, and one way to do this is by looking at tools for asynchronous working. But it’s important to set expectations from the start. In our poll, 67% of people said they have different expectations in terms of response from remote vs. in-office workers.

We would suggest considering the form of communication – not the model of how they’re working – when setting expectations. Remote workers shouldn’t be held to a lower standard in terms of response times, but different tools certainly should. If you start creating different standards or inequality of expectations, it’s not quite fair, and it can create a situation, inadvertently, where people choose to work one or the other way because of this.

Instead, define your expectations in terms of communication channels. There’s nothing wrong with expecting instant messaging to be real-time regardless of where the employee is working. But email and other tools can continue to be asynchronous, and in turn, your employees will have more time available to get deep work done.

Need help embracing an asynchronous communication culture that boosts productivity? Get in touch with us via the chatbox.