‘I’ll get to it when it suits me.’
This is the nature of asynchronous communication.
The reality is that most things don’t require an immediate response. For most things, a one-way email or instant message should do the job, with the recipient responding when it suits them.
The benefits of asynchronous communication are obvious:
But today’s organizations set counter-productive expectations on availability, responsiveness, and meeting attendance. In a world of push notifications, email, instant messaging, and shrinking office space, we’re becoming increasingly distracted at work.
The average employee is getting interrupted 50 to 60 times per day, and about 80% of these interruptions are unimportant. As a result, people are spending little time in what psychologists call “the flow state,” a space where people are up to five times more productive, according to research from McKinsey.
Employees are in a constant state of distraction and hyper-responsiveness.
Jason Fried, co-founder of Basecamp and author of It Doesn’t Have to Be Crazy at Work, said on my podcast, Future Squared, that for creative jobs such as programming and writing, people need time to truly think about the work that they’re doing. “If you asked them when the last time they had a chance to really think at work was, most people would tell you they haven’t had a chance to think in quite a long time, which is really unfortunate.”
Today, the typical employee day is characterized by:
Aside from the obvious and massive benefit of giving knowledge workers time to think, create and get into the flow state, asynchronous communication predisposes people to making better decisions.
As Robert Greene says, if you want to cut emotion out of the equation, increase your response time. Giving people time to think between question and response, rather than fall victim to blurting out the first thing that comes to mind in a meeting or when tapped on the shoulders, delivers a compound benefit to the organisation over time.
Effective written communication becomes critical the more companies embrace asynchronous communication. With an aversion to ‘jumping on calls’ at a whim, most communication is text-based, and so articulate and timely articulation becomes key.
In order to avoid tennis games and duplication of effort, ensure that asynchronous messages:
Attached is the incorporation document for our new spin-off company.
Please sign the document where requested and send it back to me by 4 pm this Friday.
If you have any concerns, give me a call on 555 1983.
Companies that truly practice asynchronous communication have stepped off the factory room floor to which dated practices harken back to, and no longer conflate presence with productivity, or hours with output.
To help you avoid stepping into these all too common pitfalls, we’ve reflected on our five years as an organization working on corporate innovation programs across the globe, and have prepared 100 DOs and DON’Ts.