Synchronous Communication and Your Remote Team

Synchronous Communication and Your Remote Team
In this article, we will take a look at the potential problems that may arise when using synchronous communication rather than asynchronous communication; the importance of asynchronous tools being in sync; and the benefits of synchronous communication for you, your remote team and even your clients.

Email, Slack, and Skype – thanks to these technological advances, members of your staff can now work remotely. And they can do so while bringing the same – if not more – value as an in-house employee. With this surge of a new way of working, communication is as crucial as ever. Communication is the gateway to maintaining balance, stability, and success within your remote team.

At DistantJob, we know the building block of creating a well-functioning remote team. No surprise: it begins and ends with excellent communication. Excellent communication between you, and between each employee as well. A crack in how everyone interacts is a crack in the foundation. 

The added stress that comes from the need to communicate asynchronously in remote teams threatens this foundation. But good communication is still possible. From PMI:

“The challenge is to address the issues that arise when people communicate via the Web, work on multiple projects simultaneously, never or rarely meet face-to-face and often work for a variety of organizations, using electronic tools and meet synchronously (present at the same time) and asynchronously (not present simultaneously).”

You’ll need the right tools to ensure remote success. And you’ll also need to have an awareness of the timezone and locations your team is spread over.  In this article, we will take a look at:

  • The potential problems that may arise when using synchronous communication rather than asynchronous communication.
  • The importance of asynchronous tools being in sync.
  • And the benefits of synchronous communication for you, your remote team and even your clients.


The Struggle For Synchronous Communication

Unlike asynchronous communication, synchronous communication can be difficult for those employees working remotely. It’s arguably the hardest challenge facing remote workers. Asynchronous work allows workers the freedom of responding when it’s convenient. And it may even be a benefit because it provides a time frame for a thought out response.

With so many workers in different time zones (a blessing and a curse), managers have a harder time. Being able to sort out a time that allows everyone to be present for conference calls and office meetings is hard. More often than not, remote employees are made to “share the burden of inconvenience.” 

The expression is management-speech for taking turns meeting when it’s inconvenient. This approach allows for the burden of a late night or early morning to not fall too often to one group of people. 

This solution is not perfect. But making sure that each member isn’t sacrificing personal time too much is one way to help ease the burden. Another is to make sure each meeting is important, and not something that could be discussed over email. Keep in mind that synchronous communication also includes chat rooms as well.

The willingness for all involved to be flexible and make allowances to accommodate others is also key. If only a few time zones are involved, look for an overlap when everyone is working. This narrow band of time is where meeting times (whether video/audio or chat) should fall, thus minimizing interruptions outside work time. 

Luckily, asynchronous communication will be the norm for most remote workers. To make sure you’re taking advantage of it, check out our case study on asynchronous chatting.

Synchronous Communication and Your Remote Team

App Synchronization For Remote Teams

In order for all team members to be able to speak synchronously with each other, they need to be using the same apps. Take the time to make sure that overseas and statewide remote workers are in sync. You should be primarily focused on the tools which are being used company-wide. OpenSource suggests:

“the first thing you need to enable asynchronous decision-making is a central asynchronous communications channel. The technology you use must enable all team members to get the same information and hold threaded discussions…”

This will make communication easier for remote members who are in different time zones. Those employees will feel like they’re absorbing all the right information and are on the same page as everyone else in the company. Team harmony and success will follow.

Likewise, DistantJob has put together four other tips about how to handle remote workers in different time zones in an article here. In it, author Maria Rainelli provides tips likes recording live meetings (remote members can’t always attend) and an outline of what sort of etiquette one should use during a live call.


Reaping The Benefits Of Synchronous Communication

Like the keystone in a building, communication is the starting point for a a remote company’s communication. When a well structured set up is in place, the employer is not the only one who benefits – remote employees will also have the confidence they need.  

They’ll know that they are up-to-date with critical information each time they sit down to work, whether they’re working from a far off island in New Zealand or sitting in a high rise in New York. Synchronous and Asynchronous Collaboration Technology Use in Teamwork, author Thanaporn Sundaravej reiterates that. When people (especially managers and employers) understand synchronous and asynchronous communication it can lead to “improved adoption”. Along with “utilization of collaboration technologies in organizations.” Thus allowing employees to collaborate better with their colleagues, without suffering from the distance and time difference.

Video and/or audio meetings also allow remote workers to have rare interactions with fellow workers. These interactions are good for building trust, repertoire, and professional relationships. One final advantage to synchronous communication is the increased manpower behind the work. If there is a particularly troublesome task, you can discuss it with all your remote employees. Once you call it a day, you’ll have a handful (or small army) working on a solution while you sleep. As the saying goes, two heads are better than one… But what about many heads? With employees in different time zones, you have this distinct advantage. Your company may never sleep. When one team hits a snag, they can communicate with the other team – who then will work on it once the first team retires for the day.  

This approach leads to one big advantage for your clients. Using global manpower you can offer work 24/7. That’s a thrilling concept for most customers.

We know that keeping timezone challenged workers in the loop can be difficult. By taking advantage of the many ways to communicate synchronously, you’ll never leave anyone in the dust. For more information on communication skills with remote employees, check out our article here. If you’re ready to start your own remote powerhouse team, give us a shout here and let us help you get started today.


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Casey Shull

Casey Shull

Casey Shull is a freelance writer who works with DistantJob to research and synthesise the best remote work related content into practical, accurate and actionable guides and articles on how to improve remote leadership and better manage your teams.

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