The past two years’ transition to remote work has forever changed the workplace. Work is increasingly distributed – to meet new demands to attract talent, enterprises are offering flexible schedules. Distributed team equates to more variance in the overlapping hours between us and our teammates, due to time zones and personal responsibilities.

As the future of the workplace evolves, the “that meeting could have been an email” sentiment has become widely used – and for good reason. The current working conditions aren’t sustainable. We spend too long on video calls, with little time left over to get our actual work done. Whatever best practices are used to minimize meetings, the end result is often the same.

Collaboration needs to be less about getting on hour-long calls and more about using provided tools, like Slack and other asynchronous communication tools, to work together at a distance.

Moving forward, it’s becoming more and more clear that the success of a remote or hybrid workplace relies on asynchronous communication.

What is Asynchronous Communication?

Asynchronous communication is when employees work when they are available, as opposed to synchronous communication which is done simultaneously, in real-time.

Many companies use asynchronous communication methods when they use Google Docs to collaborate, email different edits of a slide deck, or send assignment briefs for others to work on when they are available to do so. It’s the collaboration that happens outside of meetings, outside video conferencing, and much more of it happens today than it did when most people worked together in an office.

Asynchronous collaboration requires a lot of self-serve knowledge, meaning we have to rely on what’s been left behind by our co-workers in places like Slack, Asana, Click Up, email, Google Docs, and other communication tools to pick up when we’re ready.

An asynchronous workflow is gradually becoming the norm. Unless companies force their remote employees to come back to the office (as some have started doing), it won’t be going away anytime soon.

Representation of remote workers connected through asynchronous communication in a digital workplace.

Benefits of Asynchronous Communication

There are some companies and managers that have reservations about fully embracing remote or hybrid work culture. This is understandable, as many organizations went from fully in-person to fully remote overnight, and they simply weren’t prepared to do it effectively.

However, rather than throwing away the idea of remote and hybrid work altogether, it’s important to consider changing how we do remote work. And that also means, reinventing or changing your communication style.

While some synchronous communication remains important – for example, when there’s urgency around a project or need for an immediate response – there are many benefits to ‘async communication’ that suggest it should be embraced within our organizations.

  1. Remote employees work on their own time – this allows them to be more focused and engage in deep work. Oftentimes this leads to better decision-making, clearer communication, and more productivity due to the time we’re allowed to reflect, rest, or brainstorm solutions.
  2. Asynchronous work also promotes work-life balance for employees. Naturally, that helps employees improve productivity along with an increase in engagement and retention.
  3. An often overlooked benefit of async communication is that it gives employees a greater sense of ownership of their work. This helps develop a sense of trust between coworkers – remote workers in particular.

How Can Asynchronous Communication Be Improved?

Access to Self-Service Knowledge 

Empowering employees – your remote workers in particular – to work when they’re available can help optimize workflows and enable organizations to reach their goals faster. The key to asynchronous messaging is preparation. Introducing tools that make knowledge available for employees across the organization at any given time can be considered to be one of the best practices for async communication.

Working across different time zones makes it extremely challenging to have frequent real time communication with some of your colleagues. This means it’s vital to provide everyone with better access to self-service knowledge . If we can efficiently find what we need by ourselves, then project management becomes easier. We can keep projects moving forward while our teammates are away, rather than waiting for any form of written communication to go ahead. This allows individuals to contribute to projects during their working hours – whether their teammates are available or not. Better self-service access can also increase employee satisfaction. If knowledge is more readily available, employees spend less time chasing down answers, and more time actually working. This not only supports their proficiency growth, but it also frees up their time, improves team communication, and supports a healthier work-life balance.

Pictorial representation of what self-service can look like.

Effective Knowledge Management in the Digital Workplace

Self-service knowledge only becomes available to employees when there is an effective knowledge management system. The first step to creating an effective knowledge management system is capturing knowledge. Doing this across an organization can be challenging, but there are evolving AI tools that can help improve knowledge management by extracting unstructured data and pulling it together to become retrievable. 

With today’s advancements in machine learning, AI can easily bring knowledge together and simplify knowledge discovery. This requires creating an intelligent connection between project management tools, intranet portals, and other knowledge hubs within our organizations to allow for knowledge sharing across teams. Only then can self-service knowledge truly become accessible for all and allow for successful asynchronous communication.

However, in order for these tools to do their job, there needs to be a top-down commitment to creating a knowledge-sharing culture — which includes digitally documenting processes and moving any information that lives on paper into the digital space. Then, organizations must become accustomed to seeking out the information in the digital spaces provided rather than hopping on a call with a coworker to transfer knowledge. 

This kind of commitment means more time spent in tools like Slack, which increases the need for knowledge to be retrievable in these siloed platforms. 

How To Set Up Asynchronous Meetings in the Workplace

Meetings with no context or agenda are dreaded by all employees – remote workers and in-office workers. Believe it or not, an async meeting might be the solution that you’ve been searching for all over the internet – but in vain.

Below we list its benefits, followed by a detailed step-by-step breakdown of one way to set up async meetings at your workplace.

Benefits of Async Collaboration:

  1. People who might need more time to reflect and would normally be a bit quieter during the meeting will have a chance to share their thoughts.
  2. Everyone can have a look and share their insights on their time without having to interrupt a deep work session.
  3. Many questions are asked and answered prior to the meeting directly in the document.
  4. Everything is documented automatically.
  5. Sometimes, we get all the answers prior to the meeting and it can even be canceled.

Step-By-Step Process

  1. Create a Google doc with the “What”, the “Why” of this discussion/meeting, and the “Who” for stakeholders.
  2. Add a “How” and “When” section which will most probably be filled along the way while we discuss/meet.
  3. A section with the date of the meeting contains the following sections:
    1. Who participates
    2. The agenda
    3. Action items and next steps
  4. Share the document with the people mentioned in the “Who” prior to the meeting and mention they can read / comment/ask / suggest in preparation for the meeting.
  5. Create a meeting invite with a link to the document.

Support Asynchronous Communication by Indexing Knowledge Inside Slack

As we continue to move toward a more asynchronous workplace, it will be important to optimize the digital channels our organization currently uses.

If your organization uses Slack – like over 40% of fortune 100 businesses do – there’s an increasing need to facilitate better collaboration by serving knowledge within these conversational tools to make it easily retrievable and shareable within channels and conversations.

Rather than expecting everyone to dig through conversations to find necessary information, Coveo Slack Connector makes it easy to find and share knowledge across the platform.

Learn more about bringing Slack content into search
Product Sheet: Coveo Slack Connector