Feb 20, 2023

Async > Sync Communication (Most of the Time)

This is copied from our Team Member Handbook.

Async > Sync Communication (Most of the Time)

To be as productive as possible while working remotely, we rely heavily on asynchronous work. Asynchronous (AKA async) work is a way to get stuff done with less interruption and higher efficiency. Async work is based on a few ideas.

  • Async work should be used more often than synchronous work (working together on a project while on a call). Async work allows for more critical and independent thinking, creativity, better resource management, reduced waste, and therefore increased productivity.
  • Multiplexing your tasks and reducing scope allows you to deliver faster, test your hypotheses sooner and achieve success with higher confidence.
  • Communication should be async most of the time (AKA fewer meetings / work sessions), only here and there linking up synchronously for things that require you to do so. Keeping this as a rule of thumb allows people to focus on their tasks longer and concentrate on best practices like documentation and writing proper procedures.
  • Always defaulting to action (within reason) helps the whole team move faster, reduce wasteful time, and increase ownership.
  • Async work helps our team members remain in flow with the critical tasks they need to get done. It allows for deep, uninterrupted focus.

Good communication is key to the success of any system (human or machine). There are many types of communication, an email, a message, a voice call, a notification, a video call, or even a "let's go get a coffee." Each has a totally different impact on productivity, and picking the right one is as important to the production pipeline as any other task we can perform.

Communication should never disrupt flow unless critical.

When should you use async (any type of communication that does not require the other person to be simultaneously present) communication? Most of the time. Async is preferred for:

  • Learning and onboarding
  • Project/product updates
  • Request for Commentary (RFC)
  • On-demand (Pull) Training
  • Assigning tasks to other team members