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Synchronous vs asynchronous collaboration: Choosing the right style for better teamwork
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Synchronous vs asynchronous collaboration: Choosing the right style for better teamwork

Discover the difference between asynchronous vs synchronous collaboration, including tools and tips to work better together.

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Working in sync with your team can get you fast answers, but it can also lead to too many interruptions and burnout. When people default to meetings, you quickly lose control over your calendar and it becomes hard to find time for focus work. So, what's best: asynchronous vs synchronous collaboration? 

Whether at task or project level, leaders of highly collaborative teams need to understand the pros and cons of both async and in-sync working—and when to apply them. Understanding this crucial difference enables people to do their best work and gain control over their calendars without spreading themselves too thin. 

In this article, you'll learn the difference between synchronous and asynchronous collaboration, including use cases, tools, and the pros and cons of each working style. You'll also learn how Switchboard makes teamwork the best part of work—whether you’re together or apart.  

Want more flexibility in how and when you work? 
Switchboard’s persistent rooms let you get more done async and in real time.
Learn more

What is synchronous collaboration?

Synchronous working involves being online at the same time as your team and communicating with the expectation of an instant reply. Methods of synchronous collaboration include face-to-face meetings, video conferences, live chats, and real-time communication tools like Slack that let you instantly exchange information and ideas with your team. 

What's an example of synchronous collaboration?

To begin quarterly planning, multiple department leaders meet synchronously to coordinate efforts, share insights, and resolve dependencies in real time. By using Switchboard’s video conferencing features for their kickoff meeting, they can align their initiatives with company goals and make sure timelines and resources are feasible in the early stages. This lets them iron out any issues or questions before async working begins. 

For example, the product team leader can present a detailed roadmap outlining the upcoming features, enhancements, or new products planned for release during the quarter. This roadmap should align with the company's overall strategy and contribute to achieving specific business objectives. This way, department heads from product and development, sales and marketing, and operations teams are all on the same page. 

What is asynchronous collaboration?

Asynchronous collaboration is when people work individually, often on their own schedule, contributing to shared goals without being in the same room or online at the same time as the rest of their team. Tools for internal team collaboration, document collaboration, and project management tools are often used for async working because they let everyone move projects forward and respond on their own time. 

What's an example of synchronous collaboration? 

Here’s an example of asynchronous collaboration: Your product manager posts in your dedicated “upcoming features” Switchboard room, asking the team for feedback on a potential implementation. They include details of the Asana task and deadline as well as the Google Doc with the wireframe where people can leave comments, directly inside the room. Once all the comments are in, they collate them and pass them to the developer team to implement. 

By adopting an async approach to product development, team members can express their ideas without needing to be in a meeting. This means the team can move fast and respond quickly to emerging ideas and potential improvements without waiting days before everyone can make a synchronous meeting. 

How do synchronous vs asynchronous collaboration compare?

For many teams, the default is synchronous work: holding a meeting to make every decision. However, when teams are spread across offices and time zones, it becomes harder to coordinate everyone’s calendars. Meetings can also be a drain on resources: according to Shopify's meeting cost calculator, a regular meeting with three people for 30 minutes costs anywhere between $700-1600.

With too much synchronous working, people end up with zero control over their days and are beholden to their calendars. This means that knowing what should be done async or in real time can free up those calendars and give people more control over their days—and more focus time. 

"You need to look at parts of your process that would work well asynchronously, like reviews and feedback sessions," says Startup Marketing Consultant Elliot Brown. "But you also need to know when to spontaneously hop on a phone call with each other to avoid back and forth on a Google Doc." 

Figuring out your mix of async and synchronous working depends on your particular needs and working preferences. While synchronous working can help speed up decision making, it can also be disruptive to teams working across different schedules and time zones. 

On the other hand, there are many asynchronous work benefits, like helping your team become more cross-functional and canceling more meetings so the ones you do have are more productive. 

Below, we explore the pros and cons of each working style more in-depth. 

Pros and cons of synchronous collaboration

"Synchronous collaboration is great for the beginning stages of a project where you can get all the big ideas out there and get buy-in from everyone involved," says Brown. But it's not ideal for acting on the day-to-day tasks involved in project work. 

Here's why: 


  • Real-time feedback. When working together at the same time, you get immediate responses that let you make quick adjustments and decisions based on real time input. 
  • Personal connection and spontaneity. Direct interactions create a sense of camaraderie among team members and encourage spontaneous, dynamic discussions.
  • Good for discussing complex projects. Synchronous working lets you "See the thought process while it's happening, so things aren't just being handed up or down, or suddenly appearing on a page," says Brown. This lets everyone closely follow the project, know what's required, and stay aligned. 
  • Problem solving and brainstorming. When working at the same time, team members can build on each other's ideas, challenge assumptions, and collectively explore solutions. The energy and synergy of the group can also foster more teamwork and engagement. 


  • Everyone needs to be online and free at the same time. When working across time zones or locations, coordinating schedules can be a real headache and slow work down.  
  • Communication and notification overload and burnout. Having to be always available and respond to every notification can lead to overload, impacting the wellbeing and focus of your employees. 
  • Information loss or silos. When people miss a synchronous meeting, you're only talking about updates or information with the people who are there. This can lead to gaps in understanding or miscommunications with team members who weren’t. 
  • Hard to carve out time for focus work. Frequent meetings can disrupt individual focus work, making it challenging to allocate dedicated time for concentrated, uninterrupted work sprints.
Pro tip: Use Switchboard to work async and in real time, and access all the browser-based tools and apps you need for both styles of working.

Simply create your dedicated, persistent room and pull up all the multiplayer browsers you need to work side by side on anything in real time. Or hop into the room on your own time to get up to speed and make progress async.
Product manager and developer working on apps and files in a Switchboard room
Switchboard's persistent rooms save your work, so you can always pick up where you or your team left off. Source: Switchboard

Pros and cons of asynchronous collaboration

"When it's time to go heads down, and everyone is doing the work part of project work—that's the time when I think you can be more asynchronous," says Brown.

Here's why creating an asynchronous work culture is beneficial: 


  • Increased productivity. Working on your own time gives you more time for focus work, so you can get more done—and feel better about it. Research by psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi affirms that people who are able to enter a flow state are generally happier and more productive. 
  • Improved flexibility. Team members can contribute when it suits their schedules, accommodating diverse time zones, personality types, and working preferences. It also helps to create a more inclusive work environment where people aren't limited by their geographical location or physical ability to attend a meeting or be on a screen. 
  • Better work-life balance. Working async reduces the pressure of immediate responses, which lets everyone manage their time and tasks more effectively. If you need to take a break to pick the kids up from school, you can do that. 
  • Improved documentation and internal comms. You can't do async work well if people can't find what they need, which means you need to get good at documenting everything. When discussions and decisions are documented, it provides a clear record for future reference and improves internal communication and knowledge sharing.
  • Collaborate anytime, from anywhere. Teams spread across different locations and time zones can effectively work together without the need for everyone to be online simultaneously.
Pro tip: Switchboard lets you build faster with fewer meetings. For example, when working on roadmap planning with your cross-functional team async, you can populate your room with market and user journey research. You can also add product vision and strategy documents and design mockups, so everyone knows where the product is headed and what they need to do next. 
Memos and a project proposal document in a Switchboard room
Switchboard unifies all the tools, browser-based apps, and people, you need to move projects forward async and cancel more meetings. Source: Switchboard


  • Miscommunication or communication delays. Without the right asynchronous collaboration tools and communication guidelines, async responses might lack clarity and cause misunderstandings or bottlenecks. 
  • Risk of information silos. If people are using different async tools and rarely meet to update each other, there’s a risk that information stays with those people or teams. This limits access and can create knowledge silos within the organization.
  • Lack of spontaneity. "If people are working asynchronously, they might not be getting stuff done on the same timescale as each other, which can contribute to a lack of engagement or a feeling of isolation," says Brown. 
  • There's a learning curve. Understanding new tools, workflows, and communication protocols can take time, and there can be challenges in adapting to a more flexible and decentralized way of working. Providing training and support can help your team feel comfortable and proficient. 
  • Defaulting to written communication. Heavy reliance on written communication, such as emails or messaging platforms, can lead to potential misinterpretation and limit the richness of communication that comes with verbal or visual cues. Sometimes, you still need to hop on a call to straighten things out.
Pro tip: Switchboard lets you bring all the visual elements you need into your dedicated project room, so you don't always have to default to written communication when working async. 

Just pull up your virtual whiteboard, Figma designs, and virtual prototypes, and get everyone's contributions and feedback when it makes sense for them. This helps people stay on the same page when explaining complex concepts and keeps information silos at bay.
Design concepts, a virtual whiteboard, and a project brief in a Switchboard room
Switchboard brings designers, engineers, and product teams together onto one expansive canvas—making app sharing and teamwork easier. Source: Switchboard

Synchronous vs asynchronous collaboration: strike the right balance to improve productivity

You need a nuanced approach to collaboration that acknowledges the strengths and weaknesses of synchronous and asynchronous working. This way you can decide what's best for your team and when to apply each form of collaboration. 

For example, working async can improve productivity and cross-functional collaboration, but isn't great for all stages of your project—like planning. Meanwhile, working in sync with your team can get you fast answers and a sense of personal connection but lead to too many interruptions and burnout. 

Understanding the pros and cons of each enables people to move projects forward faster and gain control over their calendars without spreading them too thin. 

When you use Switchboard as your visual collaboration platform, all your work is saved in persistent project rooms that make everything multiplayer. That means you can work side-by-side in real time on anything or make progress async. The choice is yours. 

Want more flexibility in how and when you work? 
Switchboard’s persistent rooms let you get more done async and in real time.
Learn more

Frequently asked questions about synchronous vs asynchronous collaboration

What is an example of asynchronous collaboration?

An example of asynchronous collaboration is a team working in different time zones that does async approvals and design reviews, leaving comments in a shared document. This means they don't have to jump on a video call or have in-person check-ins, so they can make progress without constant meetings eating into focus time. 

What advantages does synchronous collaboration have over asynchronous collaboration?

Synchronous collaboration has the advantage of bringing people together face-to-face. For example, for one-to-one or team meetings. This enables spontaneous interactions and helps them feel more connected to each other. But too much synchronous collaboration, whether it’s meetings or instant messaging, can get in the way of focus work, making people less productive and possibly even causing burnout.

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Want more flexibility in how and when you work?

Switchboard’s persistent rooms let you get more done async and in real time.