7 Asynchronous Communication Tools That Boost Employee Engagement

Lisa Ardill

Content Editor at Workvivo

3 Mar 2023

Asynchronous communication is a big part of the new way we work.

It can boost efficiency, wasting less time and working hours preparing for (and sitting through) in-person or virtual meetings that eat up the workday. It can also streamline team collaboration and improve the work environment. When people can engage at their own pace rather than respond immediately, they can focus more peacefully on deep work.

The trouble is, we all still live in a world that’s quite accustomed to the old, very synchronous way of working.

It remained the norm for many, even during the pandemic, as synchronous video conferencing became the immediate alternative to in-person meetings (even though the average employee spends 31 hours a month in unproductive meetings!).

Modern tools can enable asynchronous communication, and with careful adoption, you can guide your work culture toward an async-friendly future.

Below, learn about seven powerful asynchronous communication tools – along with when (and where) to use them.

What is an asynchronous communication tool?

An asynchronous communication tool is any digital tool designed for people to communicate without the expectation of a real-time response. These tools allow people to share information, impart knowledge, and give direction without all parties engaging at the same time.

Here’s an ultra-simple example of the difference between synchronous and asynchronous communication. Take a phone call, for example. When you speak with someone on the phone, there’s an expectation of real-time response. It’d be rude for the person on the other end to just ignore your message and then reply at some later time – right?

But a voicemail or a text message is different. While you can reply instantly to a text message, you aren’t usually expected to. Finding the message later and responding on your own timetable is usually acceptable.

Why your async tools should be top-notch

In today’s remote-work world, your people are going to communicate asynchronously. That’s just a fact. Remote teams already aren’t in the same physical space (and most don’t want to go back, at least not full-time), so the concept of walking over to someone’s desk for an ad hoc face-to-face just doesn’t quite translate.

Once we come to grips with the new reality of async communication, it makes sense to invest in high-quality async tools that deliver an intentional, healthy experience. In fact, investing in strong employee communications solutions (synchronous and asynchronous alike) should be a priority for every CIO and IT team.

Benefits of asynchronous communication tools

Why all this focus on asynchronous communication and the tools that facilitate it? Because when done well, async comms can be a true improvement, not just a stop-gap or compromise.

Maintains efficiency for distributed teams

Distributed teams can take some getting used to, especially for workers well entrenched in the in-office paradigm. If you’re expecting instant responses, not getting them can be frustrating: your focus gets derailed, and productivity drops.

A culture shift toward async comms is required, but so are the right tools. With those tools in place, team members can send messages effectively and then move on to other tasks, maintaining efficiency and reducing frustration.

Reduces meeting fatigue

Meeting fatigue was real before the world went remote. Moving those meetings to online something similar – and then increasing their frequency to accommodate for less in-person interaction – doubled down on that fatigue.

We aren’t saying meetings are all bad. But some meetings should definitely be emails – or other asynchronous formats, like a video or screencast that people can watch on their own time.

When you reserve meeting time for things that actually require a visual video presence and real-time discussion, people will come to those meetings with less fatigue and be more likely to fully participate.

Allows for flexibility in schedules

Asynchronous tools allow for flexibility in schedules because people don’t have to be in the same place (physical or virtual) at the same time. Yes, there are still moments when you need an answer right this second – but there are also lots of times when you don’t.  

Communicating asynchronously allows people to work at the times that suit them best (or in their natural time zones) without the fear of missing a crucial notification or message.

Encourages employee engagement in different ways

Let’s be honest: every single one of us has sat on a video call pretending to look engaged while our minds were a thousand miles away. Most of us have even snuck other work during those long, seemingly pointless video sessions.

Moving what you can to async generally improves employee engagement. Consuming different forms of communication, each tailored to the most appropriate medium, is more pleasant than consuming everything as an email or a call.

When to use asynchronous vs. synchronous tools

Not every communication situation should be asynchronous. And we say that as people who are deeply passionate about an asynchronous tool!

Both methods have strengths and weaknesses, and there are great tools for each method. Here are some use cases for each.

Asynchronous communication is better for:

  • Time differences (different time zones, shifts, or schedules)
  • Providing lots of information at once
  • Maintaining clarity and avoiding misinformation
  • Information shared over a distance where direct, in-the-moment interaction is unnecessary
  • One-way information (watch this video, read this document, etc.)

Synchronous communication is better for

  • Time-sensitive tasks/information
  • Deliberating
  • Brainstorming sessions
  • Two-way conversations (e.g., hands-on training)

Let’s look at seven of the best asynchronous tools for various uses and situations.

1) Workvivo: Social intranet for an elevated employee experience

Workvivo is a social intranet, a central hub for your workplace knowledge and asynchronous communication. In addition to housing your evergreen content (like training materials or policy documents), Workvivo is also a social feed. It allows employees to post updates, share accolades about coworkers, and interact with one another. Your business can use this feed to share company news and announcements as well.

You can also use Workvivo’s intranet to store and manage data, such as customer and sales data, in a central location.

Workvivo places everything in a centralized hub, so employees always know where to look for news and information. Compared to email or messaging apps like Slack, which can become cluttered and difficult to navigate, an intranet retains a structure so that information stays accessible and organized.

Best of all, Workvivo integrates with your other tools (HR software, productivity software, CRM, collaboration tools, and more). In this way, Workvivo becomes the center of gravity for employees, the glue holding your suite of tools together.

Standout features and capabilities

  • Allows organizations to share documents (FAQs, spreadsheets, presentations) and store them centrally so that employees can access and review documents at their own pace, even when they are working at different times
  • Integrates with email and Slack
  • Allows employees to post content on the activity feed, in spaces, and in groups
  • Contains social features that keep employees coming back, increasing engagement and adoption
  • Supports live streaming (with interactive chat), allowing you to broadcast live in teams or even company-wide.

2) Asana: Project and task management

Asana is a balanced and well-rounded project management and task management tool for teams and organizations whose projects are not overly complex. If you’re using Agile, scrum, Kanban boards, sprint planning, and the like, Asana is definitely worth a look.

It’s easy to learn the basics, and the app includes multiple ways of viewing and organizing tasks: lists, boards, and timelines are the main methods, and there’s even a workflow builder (though it’s not as robust as more powerful project management suites).

Standout features and capabilities

  • Board view is easy to understand and use; any user can move tasks to the appropriate column
  • See all your own tasks in a simple calendar view
  • Organize work into specific teams
  • Can add multiple projects to a team to keep tasks organized.

3) Slack: Team communication

Slack is a collaborative instant messaging and chat application. It entered the market as a sort of ‘anti-email’, a way to collaborate asynchronously or in real time with individuals, ad-hoc groups, and predefined channels.

Slack is preferable to email for quick, short comms, and the ability to thread conversations into channels keeps team comms organized.  

Slack can be used as an instant messenger where you get an immediate response that could be considered real-time communication, but it also works for ‘respond when you can’ messaging. 

Standout features and capabilities

  • Simple chat (direct message) with individuals and groups
  • Organize discussions by channel
  • Collaborate via video or audio calls using Huddles.

4) Loom: Async video communications

Sometimes you need to go into more detail, not less. What could take 500 or even 1,000 words in an email (plus time spent gathering detailed screenshots) could be communicated in five minutes if you could show the other person what’s on your screen.

Enter Loom. It’s the perfect tool for capturing video, including videos using both screen capture and your webcam. You simply record a five- or ten-minute video, create a link, and send the link to your recipient. They can watch on their timetable (and watch as many times as they need).

It’s perfect for one-off explainers, recurring training, and any other situation where a quick video solves otherwise complicated workflow issues.

Standout features and capabilities

  • Incredibly easy to create and share videos
  • Video links open in browser; no software or compatibility issues to worry about
  • Recipient doesn’t need a login or account to view.

5) Standuply: Async team check-ins

Standuply is an odd duck – it’s an add-on that works with Slack or Teams and doesn’t operate on its own. But it’s a powerful duck. It infuses your collaboration app with process automation (such as automated surveys and async check-ins) and an internal Q&A system, automatically answering common questions in your organization.

Standuply can even connect users to a subject matter expert to get answers when no automatic answer is found.

Standout features and capabilities

  • Add process automation to collaboration apps
  • Create an internal Q&A system to automatically answer common questions
  • Integrate with Jira, GitHub, and other agile tools.

6) Google Workspace: Document and file management

File management gets a little complicated with distributed teams and remote workers. Your old network-based drives with Windows-style folder hierarchy don’t work nearly as well when people aren’t on the network.

Google Workspace is a cloud-based alternative, a place for all your documents and files to live in the cloud and where everyone (with the right credentials) can access what they need. It works best when you use Google’s accompanying (free) office web apps, which mostly parallel the versions you know from Microsoft. That said, you can use Google Workspace with Microsoft Office files with no problem.

There are many solutions out there that seek to solve this problem efficiently and with minimal disruption. For most teams, Google is the most stable and easiest to transition to.

Standout features and capabilities

  • Google Workspace was built for the cloud, giving it an edge on both synchronous and asynchronous collaboration features compared to incumbents like Microsoft Office.
  • Easily transfer files from Workspace to your computer and back
  • Workvivo easily integrates with Google Workspace, becoming your central hub without losing the functions and features you love about Workspace.

7) Jira: Issue and project tracking

If you looked at Asana and decided it was far too simple for your needs, Jira is the far less simple alternative. That means it isn’t right for everyone – one look is enough to scare off many smaller or less tech-focused businesses.

But if you can deal with the complexity, Jira is insanely powerful. Built mainly for issue tracking (such as helpdesk tickets or work orders), Jira has evolved into a suite of tools, including a powerful project tracker capable of handling the densest, most complex workflows.

Jira also includes agile boards for Scrum and Kanban, so teams operating faster and lighter can still benefit here.

Standout features and capabilities

  • Build complex roadmaps for big-picture planning
  • Gain data-driven reports and insights on initiatives, performance, projects, and more
  • Powerful drag-and-drop automation tools let you work smarter, not harder, with fewer manual actions.

Upgrade your asynchronous communications with Workvivo

Asynchronous communications can supercharge your distributed teams’ capability to interact, stay on the same page, and get work done. One possible downside, though, is the sheer proliferation of tools. Many tools are extremely strong in one area but weaker in others, leading to the over-adoption of too many.

The end result? Tool fatigue. Too many places to check for notifications and comms, and too little focus on the work itself.

While we aren’t saying Workvivo is the one tool to rule them all, it does offer many of these functions under one roof, centralizing your asynchronous comms and reducing the constant distraction of tool overload.

Workvivo allows you to:

  • Share company news and announcements
  • Handle knowledge management
  • Store customer, sales, and other data centrally
  • Leverage integrations with other tools, becoming the central hub of your software ecosystem
  • Keep content organized in a way ad-hoc collaboration tools can’t.

Ready to transform your async communications strategy and gain the benefits of a social intranet? Request your Workvivo demo now!