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Top 5 Asynchronous Collaboration Tools for Remote Teams

In a 2020 shocking meeting statistics survey, 67% of employees complained that spending time in meetings has made them less productive. There must be a better way to communicate and collaborate, but with fewer, better meetings. Luckily, achieving this is possible, thanks to asynchronous collaboration tools that make asynchronous communication easy and accessible.

What is asynchronous collaboration?

Asynchronous collaboration is when people work together on an idea or a project in their own time, that is, not in real-time. The most popular type of asynchronous collaboration is exchanging ideas via email. For example, a designer can discuss the new layout for a website with the client through an email thread. According to Ingrid Odegaard, Whereby Co-founder,

"Asynchronous communication is perfect for onboarding, explainer videos, announcements, training, giving feedback, and more."

Examples of Synchronous Communication

  • Facetime
  • Phone Call
  • Video Call

Examples of Asynchronous Communication

  • A private message on WhatsApp
  • Voice Message or Voice Mail
  • Email
  • Collaborative written docs

What is an asynchronous collaboration tool?

Firstly, what is the difference between synchronous and asynchronous collaboration tools?  Asynchronous communication tools facilitate the exchange of ideas between two people or teams in their own time. On the other hand, synchronous collaboration tools bring people together in real-time. For example, a marketing team can list down ideas for a new blog design using Google Docs and then jump in a Zoom call to discuss the merit of each concept.

There's no right or wrong way to use asynchronous or synchronous collaboration tools. In the above example, it's efficient to combine both asynchronous discussion (ie. using Google Doc) and synchronous discussion (ie. Zoom call). When it's time to jump in a call, you can go over fully-formed ideas and even decide on the next steps, since you've already taken the time to brainstorm asynchronously.

Types of Collaboration Tools

Exploring online collaborative tools is like online shopping. There are so many options, which makes it difficult to decide which ones to buy and use. And just like shopping, if you want to find what you're looking for, then it's best to browse the main categories.

Digital Whiteboard

Digital whiteboard is the type of collaboration tool closest to in-person collaboration, as it mimics how we map and visualize ideas. Conceptboard and Whimsical are a few of the free digital whiteboard tools to try with your team.

Instant Messaging

Instant messaging tools are critical for asking questions or sharing time-sensitive information.

Video Conferencing

Google Meet, Skype, and of course, Zoom are the most popular tools for video conferences and can be used with other collaboration tools, such as a digital whiteboard.

Meeting Management

Not all meetings need to be synchronous, so this is when collaboration tools that can facilitate a fully asynchronous discussion become necessary. Tools like Complish help distributed teams achieve fewer, better meetings - here's how.

Project Management

Effective collaboration is more easily achieved when ideas and tasks under each project are well organized. Notion, Asana, and Monday are the most popular tools for project management, many of which are also considered online collaborative writing tools. Already tried Asana? Nifty and Scoro are great alternatives for project management.

Now that you have a better overview of these collaboration tools. It's time to choose the actual asynchronous tools you should use with your remote team!

Asynchronous Online Collaboration Tools for Distributed Teams

So, what are the 5 best online collaboration tools and tips for your virtual team? In this section, we will discuss a few of the top tools for async working, and discuss how collaboration tools can improve team communication.

Yac

Yac lets remote teams send voice messages that anyone can respond to at any time. You can also record your screen, and it integrates with other tools like Slack. Each voice message comes with a transcription, so you have the option to read it. Anmol Parashar, a Product Manager at Pleo, says that using Yac has reduced 90% of the calls for his team.

Twist

If you're not a fan of sending or listening to voice messages, there's another tool that can help you communicate asynchronously. PCMag dubbed Twist as "The best communication app for distributed teams." Twist organizes conversations between teams through threads, channels, and messages and is built for asynchronous communication.

“Asynchronous communication is like a cheat code for distributed teams, in terms of productivity and balancing work with life."

Chase Warrington, Doist’s (Creators of Twist) Head of Business Development

Chase believes that it's best to spend some time brainstorming asynchronously, so you'll come up with the best and insightful responses during the actual call. This is only one of his many tips on leading remote-first teams.

Clickup

Clickup is an asynchronous project management tool that covers the communication and collaboration around managing emails, projects, and tasks that work with any team type or size. It can even be used as one of the collaboration tools for engineers since it can integrate with other tools like Jira, Twilio, and Zapier.

Complish

Complish offers a collaborative space to share status updates, discuss topics asynchronously, and write your meeting notes. Creating an agenda asynchronously before the meeting gives attendees the chance to review and prepare for the discussion points. This makes the discussion more focused and insightful, which can help save time and energy. David Smyth, Complish CEO and Co-founder believes that meetings should be a last resort, not the default form of communication.

These are just a few of the best collaboration tools for small businesses and the top asynchronous discussion tools used by high-performing accomplished peeps. There's a lot more! The best strategy is to explore various tools for asynchronous communication to find the one that fits your team's style and budget.

Advantages of Web-Based Collaboration Tools

When the lockdowns started in March 2020 due to the COVID-19 outbreak, most companies were forced to operate remotely for the first time. This was when asynchronous collaboration tools became more widely used, and their advantages, more important than ever.

Here are some of the advantages of collaboration tools for remote teams:

  • Accessible - You can access the tools from any device, including your mobile phone.
  • User-friendly - Online collaborative tools provide the best user experience and are even customized per team and per project.
  • Cost-effective - Most web-based tools are free to use if you have a team of 15 or less, and offer upgrade plans as your team grows.

As you can see, these are only a few of the advantages, but there are many more! Check out what other benefits of using collaborative tools there are for distributed teams.

Are collaboration tools always a win-win?

As with any type of innovation, there is a double-edged sword. When not utilized properly, there are some downsides of online collaborative tools.

  • Information Overload - Too many notifications and messages can overwhelm teams.
  • Distracting - If there are too many asynchronous discussions going on with no deadline, people might lose focus, thus preventing them from accomplishing tasks.
  • Negative Bias - Online communications, especially emails, tend to be perceived as negative because there are no social and physical cues to go along with the message.

Ultimately, it's up to teams to decide which asynchronous collaboration tools to use and when to use them.

Which type of asynchronous collaboration tools for remote teams are you using? And in which specific situations do you use asynchronous communication? If you're looking for ways to maximize asynchronous collaboration before your meetings, check out Complish's free meeting templates.