But Do Asynchronous Communication Trends Prevent Friendships?
To forge even a casual friendship, it takes a minimum of 50 hours of meaningful conversations and catching up with each other, as reported in a recent study. A best friend takes 200+ hours, while a more basic friend takes an average of 90 hours.
Working Americans spend hundreds of hours in each other’s company but most never progress to friendship. In fact, Gallup found that only 20% of employees have a best friend at work. Gallup also found that employers have an incentive to support work friendships, because friendships lead to greater customer engagement and fewer safety incidents. For women employees specifically, of those with a best friend at work, 63% report feeling engaged with their job, whereas only 29% of those who don’t have a best friend at work are engaged.
Friendships and Relationships are Critical for B2B
Trust-building is particularly critical for B2B organizations. Top sales team members must develop loyal, long-term relationships with customers. In addition, a strong company culture is widely viewed as critical to a firm’s success, supported by strong relationships among employees and also with customers.
Like growing a friendship, building trust to sustain successful business relationships often involves spending time together, getting to know each other, with multiple interactions over a period of time. So sometimes, these professional relationships do become friendships as well.
The Rise of Asynchronous Communication and How it Affects Work Friendships
Today’s working tools and environments, with teams working in different time zones, countries, and locations require asynchronous working. While it’s possible to forge relationships and friendships remotely, many workplace friendships still arise from time spent in person together whether at an office, on the road or at a conference. Add in newer communication tools like Slack, which allow groups of colleagues to chat back and forth, and it may grow more difficult to engage in traditional friendship-growing behaviors like conversations, face-to-face interactions and sharing meals.
Millennials and Gen Z are also shaping the workforce in many ways, and communication is one of the most prominent. They prefer asynchronous communication like Slack and text messages to phone calls – 68% of Millennials report texting “a lot on a daily basis,” compared to 50% who report using a phone to make a call daily. This means asynchronous communication can be expected to rise driven by technology and generational preferences.
It’s worth spending time to think about how your company culture approaches asynchronous and synchronous communications. One manager we work with who works frequently with Agile teams advocates for intentional use of asynchronous and synchronous communications:
“First, consider the work culture you are dealing with. Some cultures have Slack use engrained, where you can handle 100 tasks, seven seconds at a time. Other cultures are unfamiliar with asynchronous communication and might just go right for a face-to-face meeting for the most straightforward tasks. Both types of cultures need to identify what they are trying to achieve with each interaction. For a yes-or-no, binary answer, Slack will be more efficient and productive. But trying to hold a conversation that involves opinions and nuance is frustrating to do asynchronously. Then, it’s time to get on the phone and chat. If you're trying to broaden the conversation, it should be done in real-time. If you’re narrowing down, asynchronous might be better.”
While some may feel asynchronous communication is the “future of work,” it seems like the takeaway is there are times when asynchronous is best (and perhaps many times), but that synchronous is better at other times, specifically when trying to develop a cohesive culture and build trust and friendships.
As employers navigate the relatively new popularity of asynchronous communication, remember to follow the advice of my acquaintance and use all forms of communication intentionally, while creating plenty of space for trust-building and friendship-making.