Synchronous and asynchronous communication

It is important to select the best mode of communication for what you are trying to accomplish. 

Workplace communication is either synchronous or asynchronous. Select each type of communication to learn more about it.

Team of four colleagues video conferencing

Synchronous communication means that two or more people exchange information in real-time. This is how communication happens in most workplaces and people expect real-time responses. Use polite language when you speak or write.

Benefits
  • Quick responses to questions and issues
  • Ability to easily clarify communication and identify gaps in understanding
  • Easy to move forward with tasks particularly when co-workers are in the same time zone or space
Challenges
  • Scheduling meeting times which fit with all team members’ schedules
  • Often does not allow for deep reflection and thinking
  • Technology can be more challenging to manage to ensure everyone can communicate effectively
Tools

Video conferencing, telephone, chat

Example

An example of synchronous communication, when working remotely from a workplace, is the use of video conferencing software to bring a team together to discuss the project, provide updates, or brainstorm solutions.

man working on shared document

Asynchronous communication refers to the exchange of data between two or more parties without the requirement for all the recipients to respond immediately.

Benefits
  • You can remain focused on tasks without being constantly interrupted
  • It allows the opportunity to reflect on responses and give deeper consideration to a response
  • You can decide when to review communication and manage your time better
  • You have a record of communication that can be easily referred to
  • It allows effective communication across multiple time zones and locations
Challenges
  • Delays in getting responses which may mean that tasks cannot be completed
  • The need for better planning of communication to ensure details are covered
  • More difficult to create a sense of connection to a team or organisation
  • Difficult to predict when responses may be received
Tools

Email, document sharing software, project management tools

Example

Asynchronous communication may occur in document sharing software, where a team member develops a document and others are able to provide comments and feedback.

lightbulb

Choose the right kind of communication

Whilst we are often used to communicating with people in the workplace in real time, for example when having a conversation, this is not always the most effective or productive way to get good results. Immediate, synchronous communication often does not allow people the time to consider their responses, search for other ideas or solutions, or reflect on the context of what is happening. On the other hand sometimes urgency and speed are important, and therefore waiting for a response can create delays in achieving outcomes for projects.

Undertaking WIL in an Online Environment

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