Asynchronous communication seems to be the talk of the business world, as of late. Many people believe that this method of communicating boosts both productivity and efficiency because it allows team members to go at their own pace, without as many disruptions. Asynchronous communications happen over a period of time, so people love the fact that there’s no need to schedule anything into their hectic calendars. It’s also better for working with multiple time zones and individuals who don’t work the same hours as you.
In order to equip you with everything you need to know about asynchronous meetings, Fellow has created a comprehensive guide that outlines what asynchronous meetings are, their benefit, how to run effective asynchronous meetings, and a couple downsides of this style of communication.
What is an asynchronous meeting?
The intent of asynchronous communication is to help your team work more efficiently and give individuals flexibility to get their best work done.
Asynchronous communication is communication that has a lag between when a message (or means of communication) is sent and when the person receiving it interprets it. This type of communication isn’t generally conducted in person, nor is it planned for or scheduled. As Joe Martin, VP of Marketing at Cloudapp, further explains:
With this definition in mind, we can say that an asynchronous meeting is a discussion about a specific topic that happens asynchronously (not in real-time).
Just like an in-person meeting, asynchronous meetings should have a clear meeting purpose, a list of attendees, and a meeting agenda. However, instead of scheduling a specific time to attend the discussion, participants can add talking points and comments at the most convenient time for them.
One of the main benefits of asynchronous meetings is that nobody needs to jump on a video call or schedule a specific time slot in their calendar to participate and share their status updates. Since they don’t happen in real-time, they are a great option for teams that want to free up some time in their calendars.
How to run a productive asynchronous meeting
Step 1: Explain the benefits of asynchronous communication to your team
It’s important to explain the difference between synchronous and asynchronous communication to your team and the reason why you’ve decided to implement this new style of communication.
If your team members know that these changes to current processes are to give them more flexibility and more time to tackle their responsibilities, they’ll be much more excited to adopt this new way of communicating.
Most importantly, ask people for their opinion about this new approach and make sure to apply their suggestions.
Step 2 Keep track of talking points and decisions
Think about using a meeting notes app such as Fellow, so that you can type and store notes in the same place, keeping as organized as possible. You can refer back to your meeting notes to remind yourself of important deadlines, decisions or topics that you’d like to speak to at the next meeting.
One example of how we use Fellow to run asynchronous meetings are our daily asynchronous stand-up meetings, where different members of the team add talking points to the agenda to keep each other updated about their daily priorities. We realized it wasn’t necessary to have a video call every single morning, so we replaced our daily standup meetings with asynchronous check-ins instead. Here’s a sneak peek of the meeting agenda we use to run them:
Step 3: Set a deadline to review the agenda and add notes
One of the main benefits of asynchronous communication is higher flexibility (and fewer meetings on your calendar). However, even though asynchronous meetings don’t happen in real-time, it’s important to set clear expectations with your teammates about when the meeting agenda should be populated.
For the example above (daily asynchronous stand-ups), everyone is expected to populate their section of the meeting agenda by 10 AM every morning. This helps us ensure that everyone on the team stays up to date about each other’s priorities. The meeting notes on our agenda then become a historical record of the team’s work. That way, when we meet for our weekly team meetings, most people will already be caught up to speed and time will be used way more effectively.
Similarly, we use Fellow to run a weekly summary meeting, which everyone in the company is expected to populate with updates by 4 PM every Friday. Since our weekly summary notes are connected, we can look back at our updates and milestones from week to week.
Benefits of asynchronous meetings
Reduce time zone constrictions
One of the most noteworthy advantages of asynchronous communication is that you don’t have to consider time zones and coordinating meeting times. This idea is reinforced in Arc’s article about asynchronous communication:
A great advantage to supporting work in different timezones is having a diverse talent pool from anywhere around the globe. When no one has any kind of a disadvantage based on where they live, communication between different time zones runs much more smoothly.
Allow attendees to consume content when it’s convenient for them
Another key advantage of asynchronous communication is that it enables flexibility because there’s less pressure to answer immediately. When there isn’t this huge pressure on team members to respond as quickly as possible, they can turn their focus to producing high quality responses and giving their full attention to messages, when it suits them best.
Less pressure and stress means happier and more responsive employees. Joe Martin, VP of Marketing at Cloudapp makes another valuable point on this, sharing:
Create a record of notes for current and future employees
Asynchronous meetings also create a record of notes, which is going to be super valuable to you and your team. Whether it’s through email, Slack, Fellow or any other platform, this style of communication creates a system of record for current and future employees. With this record, employees can then go back to review any relevant content in a much more organized manner. The record is automatically digitized and stored, versus synchronous meetings which usually require note-taking while listening to the facilitator.
It’s easy to forget the discussions, decisions, and action items that happen across your many meetings. With Fellow, you can have one source of truth for every meeting, boost transparency and accountability, and never forget what was discussed.
Downsides of asynchronous meetings
Less facetime among your teammates
One of the downsides of asynchronous meetings is that you get a lot less facetime with your teammates. In fact, a virtual meeting is often the closest we come to face to face interaction while working from home.
When you’re working remotely, and don’t have a lot of interaction with your team members, it can definitely start to feel lonely. That’s why it’s important, even if you work primarily with an asynchronous approach, that you make it known to your team that you’re all there to support and encourage one another. Once in a while, it’s a good idea to throw in a synchronous meeting for those available to interact in real-time.
No back-and-forth communication
With asynchronous communications, you need to be extremely clear and detailed with your message because the conversation isn’t happening in real-time and is much slower in nature. With this style of communication, you don’t engage in back-and-forth conversation, which is often helpful when it comes to making decisions. Because the interaction isn’t in real-time, actions can’t be made immediately and require some time. This can be a huge disadvantage in remote work when decisions need to be made then and there because a less immediate interaction can leave you hanging.
According to Buffer’s 2020 State of Remote Work, 20 percent of remote workers struggle with collaboration and communication. Implementing regular asynchronous meetings (such as the daily asynchronous stand-ups mentioned above!) can help your team overcome this challenge and ensure that everyone is on the same page.
Refer back to this guide anytime you need a refresher on what an asynchronous meeting is, what the benefits and downfalls may be, and how to run an effective asynchronous meeting with your remote team!
P.S. We’d love to hear your thoughts and questions about asynchronous (and synchronous) communication. Find us on Twitter (@Fellowapp)!