According to Upwork, the remote workforce in the United States will be around 22% by 2025. This estimate also means an 87% increase in remote working compared to pre-pandemic levels.
The State of Remote Work Report from Owl Labs (2021) found the following from people working from home:
In early 2022, quite some time after the peak of COVID, Americans continue to choose to work from home. According to the Pew Research Center, 60% of American workers with jobs that can be WFH say they would like to continue working from home all or most of the time.
The preference for WFH appears like it will continue to rise, and many companies are moving quickly to adapt. In most cases, doing so simply boils down to reorganizing workflows, reinforcing new modes of collaboration, and finding better ways to communicate.
The communication piece is essential. In a remote work environment, face-to-face communication obviously drops, but so does real-time, synchronous communication in general. Asynchronous communication must then naturally rise as a supplement.
Speaking in real time is the gold standard of communication, but it still has its downsides. This is especially true in a remote work environment.
When synchronous meetings are planned, aligning on a time is often problematic. This is especially true when collaborating across time zones, and even more so when working internationally. Planning real-time calls or video meetings can force some participants to have to dramatically adjust their work schedules.
During work hours, when touchpoints are unplanned, synchronous communication is commonly a major source of distraction. A phone call is an obviously abrupt disruption, but tools like direct messaging platforms now make it very easy to interfere with a coworker’s concentration throughout the day - not to mention their potential to blur the boundaries between working and non-working hours.
A significant, but often overlooked, downside of synchronous communication is the potential loss of the information shared. Unless you’re recording your calls and video conferences, or taking detailed notes, the content of those conversations may be easily forgotten.
The size of a group places natural limits on the effectiveness of synchronous communication. Once you get beyond a handful of people, it can be very difficult to carry on a conversation in real time. Certain people will tend to dominate the discussion, and others may feel that their voices are not heard.
There is obviously great value in real-time communication, and it certainly has its place in business. For example, when acting quickly is essential, or when highly sensitive topics need to be discussed, there may be no better option than synchronous communication. In many other circumstances, it presents significant drawbacks.
Asynchronous communication is often a great alternative, and it is especially well-suited to remote work, but it can present its own set of challenges.
When voicemail, SMS text, and email were the only ways to communicate asynchronously, there were serious limits to what you could accomplish.
If there was a lot of information to share, specific data points to discuss, or important issues to address, async was not the way to go. With the rise of video tools, asynchronous communication has largely overcome those challenges - and at this point, there are far more pros than cons.
Not having to respond instantly allows employees to focus on what’s in front of them and saves less urgent business for a better time.
Be it written or in video form, asynchronous communication can be easily documented, stored, shared, and revisited at will.
By creating a library of shared content, a message only needs to be generated a single time, that identical information can reach a very large group over time, and everyone is able to access it whenever it is most convenient.
With the rise of asynchronous video communication, workers are now able to discuss complex ideas without meeting in real time. A recorded discussion with a screen-share backdrop that provides the relevant information opens up a whole new world of asynchronous possibilities.
We don’t work the same way we did even ten years ago. Recently, remote work and remote tech have become significantly more central for many of us. As this reorientation of work continues, companies that want to be successful must embrace new developments and be willing to adapt in whatever ways produce the desired results.
Whether using text, audio, or video, asynchronous communication methods are now an essential supplement to real-time communication - whether a company is co-located or not. As remote, hybrid, and distributed working arrangements continue to become more commonplace, expect to see asynchronous communication technology, and its use, expand even farther.