Things move quickly these days. In 2020, remote work was the future. In early 2021, it was hybrid work. As we head into 2022, now asynchronous work has been declared the future.
What is asynchronous communication?
Simply put, asynchronous means “not happening at the same time.” Therefore, asynchronous communication is a form of discussion where the parties participate at different times. Think about a chat board or email chain. Asynchronous work is when colleagues perform their jobs at separate times, yet the total project continues to move forward. Rather than everyone working from 9-5, people work when is best for them or from different time zones and still contribute to the success of the organization together.
We asked a few leaders of companies who run with async-first communication. Here are some of their definitions so you get an idea of what asynchronous communication means in the workplace:
- Asynchronous is communication “without the expectation of an immediate reply,” says Amily of Vibe.
- “Work happens even if working hours differ,” says Juste Semetaite of Toggl Hire.
- “An asynchronous-first policy is a show-don’t-tell work culture; employees focus on setting and achieving goals rather than routine or busywork,” says Rick Chen of Blind.
- “Async-first communication allows the recipient to determine the time to receive and respond,” says Scott Steward of Hicollectors.
Companies using asynchronous work (async-first)
"Our society's way of working is broken. Constant meetings, outmoded communication workflows, and dysfunctional processes have led to distraction, exhaustion, and burnout."
"Going fully remote was nice, but the real benefit was in going fully asynchronous."
"There are many things we learned throughout our journey with asynchronous communication about what works well and what doesn’t, including plenty of additional benefits beyond timezone flexibility that we had never predicted."
"Trello is a remote-first company, and the content team I work with uses the tool to assign blog posts and manage the workflow of freelance writers like me. We don’t have (or need) any meetings, rarely exchange emails, and as long as I turn in my articles on time, it doesn’t matter where or when I do my work."
Juste Semetaite of Toggl Hire
"As a fully remote company, we champion a results-driven approach to work.
"At Friday, we believe in collaborative, real-time work but often times this is taken up by meetings and less important updates that could be done in asynchronous ways."
"While I think remote work is the future, I believe that asynchronous communication is an even more important factor in team productivity, whether your team is remote or not. Not only does async produce the best work results, but it also lets people do more meaningful work and live freer, more fulfilled lives."
"As a remote team at Vibe, we’ve done our share of both sync and async communications.
"At Lyne, we're happy to announce that our team has decided to adopt the async-first method of working. We believe that this will offer us many benefits, including better collaboration and more focus. For us, working async offers a new way to work that has been designed with the needs of today's knowledge workers in mind.
From the Gitlab handbook, "Take initiative to operate asynchronously whenever possible. This shows care and consideration for those who may not be in the same time zone, are traveling outside of their usual time zone, or are structuring their day around pressing commitments at home or in their community."
"Companies that replicate the office environment remotely will fail. The instantaneous gratification of adult kids club distraction factory offices make people feel busy without allowing them to be productive.
"Async work should be used more often than sync work, it provides better resource management, reduces waste and therefore optimizes productivity."
"OpenCraft endeavours to make as many of our processes as asynchronous as possible so that no one has to work outside their preferred hours. Our sprint planning process is asynchronous), and while you may occasionally need to meet with a teammate or client outside your preferred time window, it's not the norm."
"When async-first professionals can focus on delivering impact without the distractions of meetings or pressures to respond instantly or show you are working, you see the benefits of being asynchronous."
Email from Scott Steward, CEO of Hicollectors
"Async-first encourages thoughtfulness because the recipient has time to receive the message, think it through, and offer the response they feel is the best."
"Levels is not just asynchronous by default, it "fights" meetings, Slack, and excessive emailing. Though not entirely outlawed, "synchronous" communication is treated warily and often assumed to be counter-productive."
"Link discussions across people, apps, and teams to make smarter decisions, create more focus time, and have fewer meetings."
"Asynchronous communication, minimal viable process, and documentation are our default. Our goal is to deliver new features to our customers that offer a best-in-class product without the bloat."
"Figma can credit much of its fast-growing user base $10B valuation to their uncommon ability to build delight, purpose, and excitement with software. What’s even more impressive is the fact that they’re building a lot of their product async."
"I believe this is because communication from leadership appears more formal in a remote asynchronous environment. Here’s what we’re trying at 15Five to make our leaders more available to our people."
Ray Charles of HouseHoldAir for the tip.
"Personally I don’t enjoy meetings all that much but I do think they are useful. We have an exec call and each department will have a weekly call on Monday or Tuesday. Then we’re usually pretty free the rest of the week. Outside of that, it’s all asynchronous communication," Amar Ghose, CEO of ZenMaid, said on the podcast.
"I'm personally pretty minimal when it comes to meetings and calls. They are important to have, but I think most meetings are unnecessary," Brian Casel, Founder at ZipMessage, said on the podcast.
"...it made sense for us to embrace asynchronous work ourselves. Over the last 18 months, we’ve learned a few lessons on how to best implement systems and processes to allow employees to work in their own time."
Want to add an async-first company?
We will update this post whenever we discover a new company that has announced its new policy as an async-first company. Think we’re missing an important async-first company? Fill in the form below to make a suggestion to our list.