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The difference between asynchronous and synchronous communication

Benefits of synchronous communication

Disadvantages of synchronous communication

Best practice for synchronous communication

What is synchronous communication

Synchronous communication is a form of communication where all participants interact in real-time.

When you communicate synchronously, you immediately exchange information with another person. You can communicate synchronously in person or online, making it an effective method of communication for traditional workplaces and remote teams. Examples of synchronous communication include:

  • Phone calls

  • Video calls and team meetings on Zoom, Microsoft Teams, and Google Meet

  • Instant messaging on apps like Slack (when the other person is online at the same time)

  • In-person meetings

  • Live webinars

The difference between asynchronous and synchronous communication

While synchronous communication methods require real-time communication and availability, asynchronous communication (async) doesn’t.

Instead, async teams work independently—often dispersed across countries and continents—and use various apps and collaboration tools to communicate and complete their work. This type of communication works well for remote workers and organizations with team members in different time zones.

Asynchronous teams use project management tools like Trello and Asana to communicate their progress and track projects. They also use async communication tools, such as video recording apps like Loom, to share video messages and presentations.

Benefits of synchronous communication

Real-time communication enables teams to boost productivity, communicate effectively, build a strong team culture, and more.

  • Increased productivity: Your team can receive immediate responses about pressing issues and come to solutions quickly. Synchronous communication is ideal for brainstorming sessions where colleagues can bounce ideas off each other in an organic manner, talk through potential outcomes, and make decisions without waiting for a reply

  • Clearer communication: Fewer things get lost in translation when speaking to colleagues in real time. You can get a better sense of what a person is trying to say in a video call or in-person meeting because you can see their body language and facial expressions. When you have a phone call, you can hear the tone of someone’s voice when they’re speaking, which doesn’t always translate in writing

  • Team bonding: Real-time interactions during one-on-one meetings and team video conferences help colleagues connect on a deeper level and build a strong company culture, as there are more opportunities for casual, non-work-related conversations

Disadvantages of synchronous communication

The logistics of synchronous communication can cause disruptions for teams who hold meetings regularly or rely on technology to communicate in real-time.

  • Scheduling conflicts: Scheduling a meeting or call involving multiple people isn’t always easy, especially as a team scales. This task becomes increasingly difficult when a remote team has employees in several different time zones

  • Tech issues: During the pandemic, almost everyone experienced the frustration of lagging video calls, platform login errors, and weak internet signals. With the rise of remote work, your team should have a backup plan for when employees can’t participate in a meeting due to tech issues. Consider recording all video meetings and phone calls so employees who can’t join the conversation can listen to it afterward

  • Workflow disruptions: Too many real-time meetings will disrupt an employee’s workflow, prohibiting them from being as productive as possible. If your team relies on instant messaging to communicate during the work day, consider that constant notifications can break a worker’s focus and be just as disruptive

Best practice for synchronous communication

Synchronous communication has its time and place. How your organization uses this method of communication will depend on your team, location(s), and scope of work. But as a general rule, just because you can work synchronously with your team doesn’t mean you need to.

Instead, use synchronous communication strategically. Synchronous meetings are best used to accomplish a specific goal or to improve the relationship between the participants. Examples include:

  • One-on-one meetings

  • Remote team stand-ups

  • Employee onboarding sessions

  • Complex project discussions

  • Crisis communications

If you’re a remote team, test new communication tools on a regular basis to make real-time collaboration feel seamless. Try out various video conferencing platforms, messaging apps, and productivity tools to find the best solutions for your team. If you’re looking for more insights and advice on remote work, read our collection of articles about remote team management.

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