Synchronous vs. Asynchronous Communication

Technology has changed the way we work. Especially in a pandemic. Teams no longer need to have their peers in person to hit their goals. Now, we can seamlessly communicate with one another easily across different time zones —making remote work the new norm.

Here is your guide to synchronous and asynchronous communication with pros cons, definitions, and tips.

What is synchronous communication

Synchronous communication happen when multiple people come together (in-person or virtually) to exchange information in real time.  The main idea with synchronous communication is that these individuals are communicating at the same time. Many times, synchronous communication can be abrupt but is usually scheduled.

Examples of synchronous communications include:

  • In-person meetings
  • Phone calls
  • Facetime
  • Zoom, Google Hangouts, and Slack video
  • Stopping by a peer's desk
  • Impromptu syncs

What is asynchronous communication

Comparing to asynchronous, this type of communication has a delay in response time. From the time the message is sent to when the recipient understands and responds, that creates a lag. Unlikes synchronous communication, this type of communication isn't always scheduled.

Examples of asynchronous communications include:

  • Email
  • Texting
  • Slack messaging
  • Letters / Sticky notes

Difference between synchronous and asynchronous

While the main difference between synchronous and asynchronous communication is timing there are other contrasting differences. For example, asynchronous communication works seamlessly with individuals in other time zones. It leaves a paper trail of brainstorming ideas, major decisions, and discussions among the team.

As for synchronous communications, the benefit of real-time allows teams to make quick decisions, exchange ideas, and clarify everything in a moments notice. Sometimes individuals under deadline can reach their goals quicker.

Pros and cons of synchronous communication

✅ Real-time interactions.  One pro of synchronous communication is  having real-time interactions and team collaboration. To be specific, when you're in a meeting you can have live discussions to brainstorm or solve problems. This makes explaining big, complicated ideas easier.

❌  More distractions: Sometimes talking in real-time can cause distractions. Since many of us are communicating over Zoom or Google Hangouts, and it's no secret that sometimes we get caught up in the conversation and go off track. If you have upcoming deliverables, hopping on a quick call may not be so quick.

✅  Finding quick solutions. Using real-time online communication is going to save your team time waiting for a response. Essentially skyrocketing your productivity since you won’t have to wait for a team member to get back to you.

❌  Working around time zones. Now that many of us working from all parts of the world, it's difficult to just hop on a Zoom call. Chatting in real-time can be challenging and even frustrating for that person who has to take a call at 9:00 p.m. on a Friday.

Pros and cons of asynchronous communication

✅  Flexibility. One key advantage of asynchronous communication is that it enables flexibility because there’s less pressure to answer immediately. This allows team members to focus on their work and give a thoughtful response.

❌  No immediacy.  On the other hand, a lack of immediacy can negatively impact productivity and your workflow. Because the conversation isn’t in real-time, it can impede on your deliverables, leave you confused, and eat away at your valuable time.

✅  Time-zone friendly. Another advantage of asynchronous communication is that you don’t have to consider time zones and coordinating meeting times. You can message your co-workers that are across the world without needing an immediate response.

❌  Cause for confusion. Many times, your Slack messages aren't always detailed or clear. And it can cause some confusion on both ends using collaborative tools since there's not real-time interaction. What would be quicker and faster to clarify over a phone or video call, may take longer over Slack or email.‌

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