Communication in Remote Work: Synchronous and Asynchronous
With the pandemic, many software teams have transitioned to remote work, either full-time or in a hybrid model. In this article, I will focus on team communication in remote work, rather than dwelling on the pros and cons of this transition.
Remote work has led to a transformation in how teams organize and communicate, compared to the traditional office model:
Face-to-face meetings have been replaced by online meetings.
Communication tools like Slack, Zoom, and Google Meet have become essential.
Documentation has gained importance in tracking work progress.
Synchronous communication is when communication happens in real-time, and immediate responses are expected from all participants. It resembles the question-answer interaction that occurs in face-to-face communication.
Examples of synchronous communication methods used in software teams include:
Daily Stand-Up Meetings: Short but effective meetings where teams discuss current progress, questions, or obstacles.
Project Planning Meetings: Meetings where the team discusses the project’s future and plans tasks accordingly, with everyone participating.
Retrospective Meetings: Meetings where progress is evaluated, and the team discusses what went right or wrong in tasks or methods.
Pair Programming: Collaborative work on a project or task by team members.
Onboarding Meetings for New Team Members: Ensuring a smooth integration process for new team members.
Evaluation Meetings: Meetings to assess performance.
One-on-One Meetings: Individual meetings.
Meetings for Sharing Important Company Updates: Meetings where significant company developments are shared.
Increasing Efficiency in Synchronous Communication
Plan Meetings in Advance: Planning meetings a few days in advance, after checking your team members’ availability, allows them to make time for it. This fosters respect among team members.
Define Meeting Objectives: A crucial aspect of an efficient meeting is conveying its purpose and the problem to be discussed beforehand. This helps participants prepare and keeps the meeting focused.
Limit Meeting Duration: Meetings can easily go off-topic. To prevent this, set a time limit for meetings and communicate it to participants.
Indicate Availability and Show Respect: Synchronous communication, by nature, can disrupt the other party. To avoid this, keep your availability status up to date and show respect for others’ schedules. It also helps determine if your message is genuinely urgent.
Enhance Your Working Environment: Since the quality of internet infrastructure may not always meet expectations in remote work, take measures to avoid connection issues during team meetings. Address problems like audio quality and malfunctioning microphones.
Although synchronous communication may seem essential for quickly resolving urgent issues, asynchronous communication is preferred for healthy project management and employee satisfaction.
In asynchronous communication, unlike synchronous communication, real-time responses are not expected. People are given time to respond when it suits them, ensuring that no unnecessary pressure is placed on them.
Examples of asynchronous communication methods used in software teams include:
- Non-urgent questions that don’t require immediate attention.
- Pull Requests
- Code Reviews and Edits
- Introducing New Team Members.
- Sharing Major Company or Project Updates.
Increasing Efficiency in Asynchronous Communication
Be Clear in Your Expectations: Since asynchronous communication isn’t instant, clarity in your message is essential. Use clear language and provide additional information or documents if necessary.
Practice Patience When Waiting for Responses: Asynchronous communication requires patience when awaiting responses. It’s crucial not to rush others and to wait for them to respond at their convenience.
Document Everything: Don’t hesitate to document planned or ongoing tasks, even if they seem trivial. These documents serve as guides for your team and future colleagues.
In situations where everything seems urgent, nothing is truly urgent. It’s essential to question what’s genuinely urgent and what isn’t. Sending a private message to someone and then saying, “It’s not urgent; can you look at it when you have time?” is counterproductive. Instead, for non-urgent matters, consider using asynchronous communication by posting in a shared group. Making this a team-wide culture contributes to a more efficient and focused team.