The balance between asynchronous and synchronous communication in hybrid teams is an important dynamic to consider as a leader or manager. The two types of communication require different standards, supporting structures and expectations laid out by leadership in order to remain effective and meaningful as your hybrid team works together into the future.
The distinction between asynchronous and synchronous communication is especially important for those hybrid teams operating from varied time zones and locations across the world.
Let’s explore the differences between each approach to communication so that you can operationalise the approach in your hybrid teams.
Asynchronous communication in hybrid teams
In a hybrid team made up of many remote working employees, asynchronous communication can quickly become the dominant communication method. And it makes sense – asynchronous communication methods enable individuals on the team to share information, send requests and communicate ideas without being bound by whether or not someone else is available for a discussion at the exact same time.
Teams that work across multiple time zones lean on asynchronous communication heavily for all areas of work from collaboration through to ideating and delivery on shared projects.
Common asynchronous communication tools include:
- Loom (for video messages)
It’s important to note that asynchronous communication has been a part of our workplaces long before hybrid work became a common workplace structure – we’ve all sent and received emails. Email is the original asynchronous communication method (okay, maybe it was carrier pigeon, who’s counting?) and it continues to be an important tool for hybrid and remote working teams.
Overall asynchronous communication tools can level the playing field in a hybrid work environment, giving everyone ample opportunity to contribute to conversations regardless of whether they’re working from the office or working from home.
Synchronous communication in hybrid teams
For hybrid teams, synchronous communication may be less frequent, but it is largely more powerful, engaging and personable than asynchronous communication. This is the type of communication that enables active group discussions, fast-paced ideation and planning. Synchronous communication is particularly useful for important announcements that involve or impact the entire organisation.
Common synchronous communications tools include:
- Microsoft Teams
- Google Meet
- Phone (Call)
It’s important for hybrid teams to have regularly scheduled meetings to facilitate valuable team discussions and connection opportunities. They may not always include the entire organisation but these synchronous gatherings play a critical role in maintaining a sense of team culture when team members are working from different locations.
Synchronous communication should be encouraged and enabled across your entire hybrid team rather than having your team rely on managers and leaders to set up meeting times or initiate synchronous group discussions.
Every team member should have access to these tools and know when it’s appropriate to switch from asynchronous communication to synchronous virtual meetings or phone calls to facilitate conversations and impactful collaboration.
Communication tips for hybrid teams
Summarise, summarise, summarise.
After long, threaded discussions in your asynchronous communication channels, or after big brainstorming sessions that only a portion of the team can attend, make a point to create a final update or message summarising the key points of the discussion.
This should be a clear, well-written message with dot points to allow anyone to quickly understand the discussion that took place and refer to the key points in the future.
To allow for someone to easily understand the final decision or outcome, either update the main post with a summary or send a new message in the same channel to the team finalising the details. That way your people who are viewing the discussion at a later date, asynchronously, can quickly understand the key information. This creates an inclusive environment for all team members, regardless of distance or mode of work.
Team connection channels.
For hybrid teams to truly feel connected and engaged there needs to be places for them to connect as individuals, outside of work. This means a messaging channel where team members are encouraged to share conversation about water-cooler type topics.
You may find it helpful to tie these to your cultural rhythms and rituals or you may even find it helpful to involve your team in brainstorming some options.
In a hybrid work environment, it’s very easy for project milestones to be overlooked and individual team contributions to go unnoticed. When we don’t see our team members in the office day to day we often lose the opportunity to celebrate and acknowledge the small wins. But it doesn’t have to be this way.
For example, you may have a team that is 6 hours behind in timezone from your main team. They may be working on a big project and coming up to a significant milestone. While they could very easily celebrate as a small group offline, it’s far more impactful if there’s a digital space where they can share a photo and message about what they’ve accomplished as a team and what some of the highlights so far have been asynchronously. That way the rest of the team, when online, can see the update and celebrate the team and feel more connected to the work they’re doing and also have the chance to celebrate the individuals that have worked hard to bring the project to fruition.
Overall, hybrid teams that perform at a high level and succeed in the areas of team communication and collaboration are the ones that master their communication channels. In these high performing hybrid teams, there’s clear standards and expectations, cultural rhythms to take part in, and a commitment to engaging in conversations that are important to the team regardless of whether they take place asynchronously or synchronously.
If you want to take your hybrid team leadership to the next level, get yourself a copy of our recently published book, Work From Anywhere. It’s the essential guide to becoming a world-class hybrid team, brimming with leadership approaches and team management techniques to set you up for long-term hybrid work success.