Get real life examples of asynchronous communication, how to use them, and which tools you need for more effective, productive async work.
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Millennia ago, under the watchful eyes of the Sphinx, a sophisticated example of async communication flourished. Written on temple walls, majestic obelisks, and papyrus scrolls, hieroglyphics were how people communicated stories, news, and laws.
Just as hieroglyphics connected the Ancient Egyptians, today’s asynchronous communication connects us with people in different time zones and places. And it’s on the rise: 72% of knowledge workers report communicating more async this year, while 80% say it makes for a more flexible, inclusive, and productive work environment.*
However, just as interpreting hieroglyphics was an art in ancient times, effectively using asynchronous communication takes skill. It’s all about balance: you need to know when an email could be a meeting, when to hop on a call, and when to combine the two. This lets you have fewer, better team meetings and more time for deep work.
Leaders need to understand what makes a good example of asynchronous communication and to train their teams in them. That’s why, in this post, you’ll get seven examples of asynchronous communication and learn when and how to use them. You’ll also discover how Switchboard’s visual collaboration platform lets you stay aligned and collaborate more productively async.
Have fewer, more productive meetings.
Switchboard’s persistent rooms let you get more done async and in real time.
What is asynchronous communication?
Asynchronous communication is when you share information without expecting a real-time response or immediate interaction. It’s a particularly valuable form of team communication when people work in different time zones or, for whatever reason, getting them together for a meeting isn’t practical.
When should you use asynchronous communication?
There’s a time and a place for asynchronous communication. Several times, in fact. Let’s take a look at six examples now.
When schedules don’t overlap
One of the benefits of asynchronous work is that you can keep team members updated and collaborating even when schedules don't overlap. For example, if they’re in different time zones or just too busy to make a meeting.
Creating an asynchronous work culture lets everyone stay in the loop and contribute equally to discussions and decisions, wherever–and whenever–they are.
For example, your UI team lead could share a pre-recorded video in your persistent Switchboard room briefing people on a new design project. Team members can hop into the host-free room to view it on their own schedule and leave feedback in sticky notes or the Open Questions app.
Sharing status updates, meeting outcomes, and FYIs
Async is ideal for internal communications like sharing mass or non-urgent updates, meeting outcomes, or FYIs. Basically, anytime you don’t need an immediate response or interactions. This allows team members to absorb and respond at their own pace without constant meetings.
Let’s say your product manager shared weekly project updates in a shared doc in Google Drive. Team members can catch up and add comments or questions when it suits them.
Non-urgent feedback or input
Assuming it’s not a sensitive topic, says Startup Marketing Consultant Elliott Brown, “a lot of feedback can be given asynchronously.” You can also combine this with real-time meetings, for example, by reviewing feedback async before meeting to make decisions.
Async input also gives team members time to consider all the information and their responses, which can lead to more thoughtful insights—especially when they’re not swayed by others in a meeting.
Imagine your product team is brainstorming in a discussion thread on your collaboration tool. Everyone’s posting and commenting on other people’s ideas. If you’re doing that in a persistent Switchboard room, you then use the AI assistant to summarize all the comments. This saves you a ton of time drawing conclusions.
Tasks that require preparation or consideration
Some tasks require preparation, so asynchronous communication lets team members take the time to fully understand issues, do research, and contribute thoughtful solutions.
For example, if an engineer is working on a complex architectural problem, they can share a problem statement in Google Docs and invite team members to contribute solutions via comments. Alternatively, they might use a forum like GitHub Community to learn from others in the field.
Reviews and approvals
Async approvals let people review things at their convenience. They also sidestep the bottlenecks you get when it takes days–or weeks–to get everyone in a real-time meeting.
For example, your UX designer can upload designs for a layout to your persistent Switchboard room. Then, still in Switchboard, they trigger a notification in your project management software to alert stakeholders to hop into the room and approve the designs.
Sharing new processes
Asynchronous forms of communication let people absorb system changes or learn new processes at their own pace. Assuming these are straightforward or non-urgent, this ensures all team members are on the same page before implementation.
For example, your software development team leader can share guidelines and timelines for the transition to a new version control system via your company intranet or wiki. They can also record video instructions and set up a Q&A page to let people learn visually and get answers to questions.
7 examples of asynchronous communication
Now you know when to use async communication, let’s explore which tools you can use. It’s all about matching the medium to the message—and the task.
1. Visual collaboration platforms
Switchboard is an async-first collaboration platform that allows you to organize all your apps and tools into persistent rooms that save your work and make everything multiplayer. This improves async collaboration and real-time meetings by eliminating silos, context switching, and notification overload. All this gives you back more time for focus work and keeps people aligned and collaborating across offices and time zones.
Here’s how to use Switchboard for async standups:
Create your dedicated, persistent stand-up room and pull up a Google Doc for each team member to post updates, progress, and blockers. You can also open your project management platform in the room and set up a recurring task and notification to remind them. Then, everyone commits to reading it in the morning, rather than having to put down what they're doing and all get on a video or phone call at the same time. With updates gathered in one place, it’s also easier to analyze them, track progress, or provide personalized follow-up.
However, for this to work, says Brown, “there has to be the expectation that people are going to [read] it.” To ensure this, he recommends combining async with real-time nudges, like mentioning it on Slack. “You don't have to expect your asynchronous meeting or collaboration will win every time,” he says, “It's okay to reach out as well to draw people's attention to important things.”
Brown also warns not all meetings are suited to async: “planning and strategy… any meetings that are meant to build relationships, alignment, the nuanced parts of a relationship, whether it's interpersonal or cross-functional” are best in person so you can hear the tone of voice and make eye contact.
You can start with baby steps when reducing meetings, like making them shorter, looking for ones to cancel, or establishing meeting-free days.
Email is the classic async communication method, and still very effective for sharing information that doesn’t need an immediate response. You can send detailed messages to one or more recipients with or without multimedia attachments for them to respond to at their convenience.
There’s no shortage of email providers, from Outlook to iCloud. However, Gmail is a firm favorite for anyone using Google Workspace as it integrates with Google Docs, Google Drive, Google Meet, and GCal for video conferencing and document collaboration.
To make email work async, establish guidelines to avoid inbox overload and miscommunications. For example, not CCing everyone, blocking time to achieve inbox zero, and using folders to stay organized. You should also train distributed teams in clear writing so it’s not like trying to interpret hieroglyphics. Good writing skills also make for more confident, engaged, and happy workers.
3. Digital whiteboards
We think of brainstorming as a real-time activity, but you can do it async using collaborative digital whiteboards, which allow team members to contribute ideas and feedback when they feel most inspired. You don’t get the collective energy of synchronous brainstorming sessions but it does allow time for reflection.
For example, your product team can use the built-in whiteboard or TLdraw in their persistent Switchboard room to brainstorm and develop features ideas over several days rather than a single meeting. All browser-based real time and async collaboration tools work in Switchboard without integrations, so they can also pull up Mural, Lucidchart, FigJam, and more.
Brown says, “These tools help you pull the pieces together and give people a forum to chime in on the work at hand and keep things moving forward… For creative output, it can be the tool you use to create things. So, for wireframes or designs, Figma, or Docker for spreadsheets, written material, or numbers.”
4. Voice and video notes
Videos, voice notes, and screen recordings are a great way to convey instructions, walkthroughs, or complex ideas. Instead of juggling schedules to set up a video call or spending ages writing instructions, just record a video and set a task in your project management platform with a deadline to watch it.
Tools like Switchboard’s room recording, Vidyard, or Vimeo also let you create a library of onboarding tutorials, product demos, features walkthroughs, you name it. You can also skip real-time interviews and use video recording tools to gather actionable user feedback to improve your product.
5. Project management platforms
Using an online collaboration tool for project management keeps everyone on track and informed without real-time comms—so you can focus on getting tasks done. Workflow and task management tools like Asana or Trello let you set up and assign tasks, deadlines, and notifications. This provides visibility and promotes ownership and accountability, which are essential for great teamwork.
For example, your product team can run a sprint using a project management tool to track progress and share updates, communicating async using chat. If you’re using Switchboard, you can also create a persistent project room to unite all the tools and information you need in one place.
6. Document collaboration tools
Document collaboration platforms like Google Drive, Dropbox, or Microsoft Teams let you share and work on documents or projects in real time or on your own time. Use them to co-create, compile notes and feedback, or leave input and feedback. Comments, annotations, and screenshots are a great example of asynchronous communication since they’re usually left next to the object under discussion, which provides context.
For example, your software engineering team could create a technical specification document in Google Docs for team members to comment on and review async. Someone made a mistake? No problem, just use version control to roll things back.
7. Knowledge management software
Your processes and workflows grow as you do, which means you need a way to document and share all that knowledge, like Notion, wikis, forums, and intranets.
These act as a central repository for information that anyone can consult or add to async. When regularly updated, they’re a valuable resource for new and existing employees, housing everything from FAQs, tutorials, standard operating procedures (SOPs) and training videos to how-to articles. For example, your UX/UI team could maintain a shared knowledge base in Notion for team members to add and update best practices, research findings, and design guidelines.
Using these asynchronous communication tools means team members always have access to the latest information and can get clarity without the back-and-forth or bottlenecks of real time communication channels. This is particularly valuable for hybrid or remote teams who may not be able to wait for others to come online and explain something.
Examples of asynchronous communication: The key to making async work
Too many in-person meetings take people away from focus work, but that doesn’t mean you should ditch them altogether. Instead, you need to know when to communicate async, when to get everyone in the room, and when to switch between the two.
For more effective async working, follow these examples of asynchronous communication: email, digital whiteboards, videos and voice notes, project management tools, document collaboration, and knowledge management platforms. Use them to share updates, feedback, and FYIs as well as brainstorm, review, and streamline approvals.
Use Switchboard as the base of your tech stack to keep everything–and everyone–organized in persistent rooms that save your work and make everything multiplayer. Just open up all your favorite browser-based collaboration tools to work async, cancel more meetings, and get back more time for focus work.
Have fewer, more productive meetings.
Switchboard’s persistent rooms let you get more done async and in real time.
*Grammarly, The State of Business Communication 2023
Frequently asked questions about asynchronous communication examples
What is an example of an asynchronous message?
An example of an asynchronous message is an email. The sender doesn’t expect an immediate response and the recipient can read and respond on their own schedule.
Which scenario is the best example of asynchronous communication?
A good example of asynchronous communication is hopping into your persistent Switchboard room to leave a comment in a shared Google Doc. The comment triggers an email notification for the recipient, who can hop into the room to read and respond when it suits them.
What are some of the benefits and drawbacks of asynchronous communication?
Some of the benefits of asynchronous communication include less pressure to respond immediately, more time to consider responses, the ability to work across different time zones, and more time for focus work when you have fewer meetings. Drawbacks include delays to progress, potential misunderstandings arising from poor written communication, and the risk of team members feeling disconnected.