Keeping team collaboration alive during the rollercoaster of the pandemic has been a challenge for many organisations.
For some, the switch to working remotely was a shock that required years’ worth of digital transformation to be crammed into just a few weeks. These companies had to rapidly adapt and learn how to lead a team of newly remote workers, all whilst getting their business tech up to speed.
Even businesses who were well acquainted with remote working couldn’t escape the negative impact that the pandemic had on their staff. Our Remote Work in the UK Report found that 35% missed their colleagues, 30% felt disconnected to their team, and 25% had fewer opportunities for interesting conversations.
All of these hurdles can negatively impact your remote team’s ability to collaborate effectively. Thankfully, there is hope, in the form of easy-to-use team collaboration software that makes it simple for staff to share ideas and feel connected.
Much has been reported about the benefits of synchronous communication – which include tools such as instant messaging and video calls – but these only solve part of the online team collaboration problem. Constant synchronous meetings and notification pings can make staff feel overwhelmed and on constant alert, which can actually stifle effective team collaboration and focussed work.
The flipside of this is asynchronous communication. Traditionally, this space was reserved for email, but technology has – happily – moved on since then. Async communication tools of today include corporate social media, virtual “staff rooms” or team spaces, and discussion forums.
Let’s take a deeper look into how team collaboration via asynchronous comms works:
What is asynchronous collaboration?
In a nutshell, to communicate asynchronously means that you don’t require a response immediately. In other words, it’s communication that doesn’t happen in real time (which is exactly what synchronous communication tools are for).
Instead, teams can send their coworkers a message, add a comment to a social media post, or share an update on a project space, and receive a response a few hours or even days later.
Corporate social media is a good example of async communication software
The danger, however, is treating asynchronous team collaboration tools as if they were synchronous, and vice versa. For example, sending an instant message to ask a question that could have waited will disrupt team members’ workflow, whilst adding a social media post on your intranet to raise an urgent concern will probably get missed.
Why is asynchronous communication important?
Asynchronous communication is important for improving team collaboration, because it gives staff an arena to communicate without the pressure of expecting a reply straight away.
Here are the main benefits of asynchronous communication:
Staff can take time to respond thoughtfully
Phoning a colleague or sending them an instant message gives the impression that they need to provide an immediate response, even if that’s not the reality. In turn, your employees will likely feel under pressure and provide a knee-jerk response that may or may not be the best resolution.
Successful collaboration means communicating with staff effectively and in a way that suits the context. When a well-thought out response – and not a rushed reaction – is required, staff need time to reflect, and this is where async communication tools come into play.
Project management software is a prime example of an asynchronous communication tool that encourages effective team collaboration in the workplace. Built-in discussion spaces enable teams to post thorough feedback, answer any questions thoughtfully, and even share full project proposals. These simply couldn’t be done via instant messaging, at least not in a coherent way.
Use async communication tools to share more detailed posts
Teams can collaborate across time zones
One of the many benefits of remote work is the ability for teams to collaborate from any location. Without the restriction of real-time or in-person collaboration, teams from across the world and in multiple time zones can communicate and collaborate asynchronously via team collaboration software.
This opens the door for global hiring too; if teams can work together online, businesses can hire from anywhere. Not only will this improve talent acquisition, it also fulfils the demand for more flexible and hybrid working.
Team members can concentrate on focussed work
Back-to-back meetings and constant notification pings make for a very exhausting day, and leaves very little time for staff to focus on real, meaningful work that requires concentration.
Asynchronous team collaboration allows staff to retain some autonomy over their schedule, because they can dedicate time to responding to any messages or feedback when it suits them, rather than when it’s being demanded.