Should you message them or call them? – One of the most common projects management challenges that the team faces is choosing the right way of communicating. Knowing the advantages and disadvantages of synchronous and asynchronous communication will help you improve your interpersonal and team skills in project management.
Synchronous communication is happening in the exact moment, while asynchronous communication goes over a period of time. In other words, synchronous communicating is fast, while asynchronous is slow. The right implementation of both of them affects team productivity and sprint velocity.
If you are wondering what are advantages and disadvantages of both synchronous and asynchronous communication are, you came to the right spot. We explained the specifications, differences, and pros and cons of both.
What is synchronous communication?
Synchronous communication is a way of communication that happens in real-time. When two or more included people are exchanging information, they require immediate attention and response.
That doesn’t mean that you need to be looking at the person and communicating in the same space. Synchronized communication can also be virtual, scheduled, or a little more impromptu.
Examples of synchronous communication
- In-person meetings
- Phone call
- Video conferencing (Zoom, Microsoft Teams, Google Meets)
- Asking your colleagues across the desk a quick question
- Coffee break conversations
Advantages of synchronous communication
The main advantage of synchronous communication is that it enables immediate reaction between the sender and receiver. It can be both advantage and disadvantage, but in this part, we are going to explain how it affects your performance positively.
An advantage of synchronous communication is that it is inherently human. It makes it easier and intuitive to use it. When you want to discuss sensitive topics, you will want to show your human voice, facial expression and provide feedback.
Useful in crisis situations
Some things, like critics, require immediate reaction and response. For that, you will need to include your team members in real-time communication and make a conclusion quickly.
Makes brainstorming easier
When there is a lot of new information and things going on, and you need a solution, brainstorming is a way to go. However, for good brainstorming, all the parts should be included in real-time. Hearing different opinions and ideas makes the better idea and creation.
Disadvantages of synchronous communication
Even though there are occasions when it can be useful, synchronous communicating can influence productivity in a negative way.
Difficult to arrange
Since synchronous communication requires the presence of participants, if you want to have a long discussion, you need to schedule it that it works for everyone. In a group of busy people where everyone has their own agenda and responsibilities, it is hard to find a date that works for everyone. Eventually, even after you set the date, meetings progress can go slowly.
Constant interruption with synchronous communication makes you multitask between providing an answer and keeping up with your daily tasks. Now, even if it seems like a superpower, actually multitasking is not that good thing to practice. A recent study found out that 97,5% of people are not able to multitask effectively.
“When we think we’re multitasking, most often we aren’t really doing two things at once, but instead, we’re doing individual actions in rapid succession or task-switching,” Cynthia Kubu, PhD
Dragging the focus
Now, if multitasking doesn’t work what you really do to your colleagues when synchronously communicating is dragging their attention. Even if your little conversation lasts one minute, it takes approximately 23 minutes for them to regain focus on the tasks.
If you ever thought “This meeting should have been an email”, you know what are we talking about. Too many meetings are a sign that your project is off track.
What is asynchronous communication?
Another way of communicating is asynchronous communication. That term stands for “out of sync” or in other words not in real-time. It is contrary to synchronous communication that takes place simultaneously between included parties.
It is a type of communication that includes a lag between when a message is sent and when it is received. Generally, it happens when included parties are not in the person. Or, in person, if you are really slow. 😛
This kind of communication usually is not scheduled. Exceptions of unsaddling can be email marketing campaigns.
Examples of asynchronous communication
- Letters or other direct mail (Some organizations, like IRS, don’t use other methods of messaging except traditional mailing system)
- Project management tools (JadeALM, Trello, or Asana)
- Company workspaces such as Confluence or Notion
- Text messages via mobile devices, co-called SMS or MMS
- Direct messages via tools like WhatsApp, Twitter, or Facebook
- Video messaging with tools like Loom
Advantages of asynchronous communication
Asynchronous communication is a perfect choice when the message is not urgent. The recipient can process the information at their own pace, when and how they want. There are some positive sides of asynchronous communication:
One of the key benefits is flexibility. There is less pressure and stress on individual information and a recipient doesn’t have to answer immediately. The recipient can focus on creating a response when it suits them and eventually sends a better response. Enabling employees to work at their own pace helps to respect Maslow’s hierarchy of needs in business.
Respects recipients time
The tools for communication that enables postponed answer respects recipients’ time. You can also insert different kinds of data inside of the response. JadeALM enables you discussion about products features. You can also see the history of changes and discussions, like comments in GoogleDocs.
This is especially useful when it comes to multifunctional teams that work in different time zones. You don’t want to disturb them with a direct message at 3 in the night. That’s where asynchronous communication and tools that enable it comes in handy.
Provides a context
If you write them well, asynchronous messages provide a context so it should be easier to see the big picture. People have enough time to check the context for themselves, find additional information, and learn more about the topic.
No need to scheduling
This way of communication doesn’t require the presence of parties. That means that you don’t have to struggle with finding the date that works for everyone. Since some of the team members can work from home or live far away, this kind of sending a message also can be time and money-saving.
Disadvantages of asynchronous communication
Since there are no facial expressions and other human interactions, it is easy to misinterpret the tone of the asynchronous message. People understand different messages they are receiving from what the sender wanted to send.
Recent studies show that people interpret emojis differently as well. To avoid misunderstandings, you should provide a clear and detailed message.
For some uncomfortable situations, less personal communication might be a good way to go. For all the others, it can affect motivation. Employees are motivated when they are seen and treated as humans, not as a number.
Discussions and collaborations increase motivation and engagement. Because of the lack of these personal points, overall communication can have a general sense of being isolated and “disconnected”.
No sense for emergency
Interaction is not in real-time and it makes it feel less emergent. That causes slower reactions and can leave your managers hanging and waiting for a necessary response.
In many project management teams, real-time interactions are very common. In fact, agile implies scrum meetings and many other kinds of meetings about product details.
However, too much real-time and synchronous communication is contra-productive. Therefore, it should be an exception, not a rule. In all the other cases, it is better to use helpful communication tools to make asynchronous communication more intuitive. With knowing the advantages and disadvantages of synchronous and asynchronous communication, you will know when to implement them.
One more approach is to use a project management tool that enables you easily communicate within its features. That way, more information will be kept in one place and not spread across multiple sources. Just like JadeALM does – provides a single source of truth where all your information can be easy to access.