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A Guide Asynchronous Communication For Remote Teams

No one wants to be distrubed when they are in the middle of a focused session. Work productivity has been proven to go down in a distracted environment. But then why do so many teams still fail to follow asynchronous communication? 

We see teams that do want to adopt asynchronous communication, but don’t know where to start. And, that’s why we wrote this guide. Here's how you can flip your team’s productivity by embracing asynchronous communication. 

Asynchronous Communication Best Practices 

Realizing the value for asynchronous communication 

We don’t go asynchronous with remote for the sake of being more productive, but because asynchronous teams operate alongside a key component - consideration. When you try to be async, you respect others' time, care for their success and craft a workspace that isn’t intrusive. 

Async means that your team members are well acquainted with one another as planning asynchronous workspace involves really getting to know each other to create systems and processes that work best for all. 

Create a mentor-mentee network within your teams 

Asynchronous communication needs more value and knowledge transfer in a decentralized manner. With that being said, when your team picks up their goals - they often need support not only to reach these goals, but also to place enough trust in themselves that they would be able to reach these goals and work through uncertainties with confidence. 

You can democratize knowledge and value by taking the following steps:

  1. Create repository of all commonly asked questions 
  2. Assign a mentor who can be reached when someone faces an issue
  3. Grade your team’s performance by looking at core metrics that observe a performance lift by the mentor-mentee interaction 

Don’t copy, create from scratch and iterate

These days, especially with the world being remote, taking references of other remote cultures to establish a base can be helpful to a certain degree. But these borrowed guidelines and protocols don’t align with the way you hire at your organization, manage teams, etc. That’s why, while you should borrow ideas, you should definitely test them and iterate to find what’s really making your team happier and productive. 

Leveraging tools to support asynchronous communication

Getting tools in place helps you resolve adopting async communication at scale and allows you to do it a lot faster. Here are some async communication tools that are a must have for any async remote team: 

  1. Loom
  2. Miro
  3. Google Docs
  4. Holopod

All of these tools (except for Google docs) have been designed and developed considering remote and async communication in mind. While Loom helps you eradicate the need to jump on calls reactively, Miro helps you structure collaboration online and can help keep everyone in the loop. Tools like Holopod on the other hand, makes it very easy to ensure that your team is spending a lot more time over focused-deep-state, not responding reactively to Slack messages, and at the same time keeps everyone in the loop on important events via smart slack status updates. 

Breaking your Sync and Async Tasks

Next best practice in setting up async communication is to set up and plan your async and sync activities. The idea is to identify sync activities as much as you can and then predictably support async communication. This is a very important step as you can’t really drive async if you don’t know how much synchronized communication is actually required. 

If you practice scrum with your team, here’s how you can break down sync vs async tasks in a much more reliable and predictable manner. You can have a synchronous meeting for a sprint planning. In this synchronous meeting, you will list down all planned pieces/tasks and assign them with clear definitions to each team member. With all planned work in place, we now need to define dependencies with each task. These dependencies can further be done sync or async, whenever it is impossible, we will map a synchronous dependency, otherwise everything will be async. 

But there’s a third thing to factor in our scrum sprint above - reactive work. We all are a victim of being forced to factor reactive work in our sprints, that’s why this is something that shouldn’t be underlooked. Reactive works create unknown issues within async team setups. To deal with reactive work within your async remote teams, you need to look into what’s really causing it. Mapping reactive work can be very easy if your team follows a sprint burndown chart. The idea is to identify sources of unplanned work in a sprint and learn how to reduce them as you move forward in a sprint to a minimum. Of Course, some unplanned work like AWS outage can’t ever be mitigated, but the goal is to bring it down to as much as we humanly can. 

Transforming your communication for async

The way your team communicates decides a lot about whether async is going to work for you or not. For example, you have all best practices above in place with your team, but you still see the following happening on your Slack: 

  1. @channel being used loosely without any consideration
  2. Private messages that are sent for requesting information or help without any time or urgency mentioned in it 
  3. Private or group messages that provide incomplete idea to the receiver

With #1, you would commonly notice that everyone in the channel will receive alerts and will be forced to look into the message even when the message/post doesn’t concern them. 

With #2,  the recipient will feel confused if they need to drop everything that they are doing to support your request. 

With #3, providing incomplete idea not only create a situation similar to #2, but also forces recipients to participate in a discussion that they shouldn’t be focusing on at the time. Remember the information that the recipient is going to request can easily be provided upfront as well. 

If you want, we also wrote a guide on etiquette best practices that may compliment your remote team’s asynchronous communication.

At Holopod we design amazing experiences that bring asynchronous communication naturally to your team.  Sign-up for Holopod here to see how we can help your team happily work asyncronously!