Asynchronous Work: Why It Matters & How To Do It |

How To Work Asynchronously

Posted by Josh Spilker

What is asynchronous work?

Asynchronous work is work that you do at times that are convenient for you, not necessarily dependent on collaborative or real-time communication. 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. 

Instead, asynchronous work is flexible work helping employees fully embrace remote work. 

Learning to work asynchronously takes time

You need to learn how to communicate with your team members, and they need to learn how to communicate with you. The most flexible companies have adopted their communication processes and shift the burden away from constant, real-time interactions to create a more flexible work experience. 

If you spend 75% of your workday communicating with others in real-time, how is it possible to enable a work experience where someone can work at 5am in the morning and another at 7pm at night? You’ll have to rethink your processes. 

Async work is about goals, not activity

If you are working on a project, then that project is your goal. You can work on it continuously for several hours at a time, or you can work on it in 10 minute increments throughout the day. It doesn't matter how you work on the project, as long as you get it done by the deadline.The “butts-in-seat” mentality doesn’t work like this, and wasn’t necessarily always productive anyway. The shift to a more flexible workplace evolves away from real-time water-cooler conversations, virtual offices, and constant meetings, to a scenario where each individual is able to do work and run at their own pace. This unlocks productivity and a better work/life balance at the same time.

How do you build a more asynchronous culture inside your team?

The key to making planning asynchronous is to be very clear about what your goals are, and what work it will take to achieve those goals. Then you need to make sure that everyone on the team knows what those goals are, and knows how they can help.

We like this quote about culture by Edgar Schein in the book, Organizational Culture and Leadership:

"Organizational culture is the pattern of basic assumptions that a given group has invented, discovered, or developed in learning to cope with its problems of external adaptation and internal integration, and that have worked well enough to be considered valid, and, therefore, to be taught to new members as the correct way to perceive, think, and feel in relation to those problems."

At Friday, we try to be autonomous by default (a company value) is because we want to give people time and space to do their best work. Another basic assumption we have at Friday is that doing your best work drives happiness, not the other way around.

Async working must be constantly reinforced

If asynchronous work is an important value, then your company must reinforce it all of the time. 

Here are a few examples of how to reinforce your values at work:

  • Before you hire someone, you should ask questions based on your company values and determine if there’s alignment. You could also highlight these values on your company website and job pages.
  • When you onboard someone new, you should reiterate these values right away
  • Values should be front and center in your company handbook
  • If you have an office, values could be displayed on the wall or a bulletin board
  • When you do monthly reviews or quarterly planning, you should reiterate the company values

Async work must be integrated into the everyday

After reinforcing values, the next step is to incorporate them into everyday behaviors. It’s not enough to talk about what’s important. You will need to live them out.

Learn more about developing an async remote team culture in this chapter from our book, The Anywhere OS

How do you go async-first as a team leader? 

The first step is to decide that you are going to work asynchronously. This means that you are going to plan your own work at times that are convenient for you, and communicate with the rest of the team about your plans. The second step is to make sure that you have a tool for asynchronous communication so that everyone can see your plans. The third step is to be very clear about what everyone on the team needs to do, and when they need to do it by

Friday can glue your work together and create an async cloud HQ for a high-performing team from anywhere.  

How do you optimize remote teams?

The key to optimizing remote teams is to make sure that everyone can communicate with each other effectively. This means that you need to use asynchronous communication, and you need to make sure that everyone can communicate with each other using that asynchronous communication. Follow these best practices for remote teams.

  1. Regular check-ins and status updates
  2. Create the right tech stack for communication
  3. Create “rules of engagement” for communication
  4. Develop company culture with intentionality
  5. Celebrate, appreciate & cultivate social interaction
  6. Keep meeting calendars up-to-date & honor the commitments
  7. Create proper onboarding

How does asynchronous communication work?

Asynchronous communication is when two (or more) people can communicate without the requirement that they be “present” at the same exact moment in time. They do not have to be online or in the same room at the same time. 

Does asynchronous communication mean no Zoom?

Asynchronous means that you can communicate with your team members at times that are convenient for you. Zoom meetings are still very useful for synchronous communication, but they are not required. So for asynchronous communication, Zoom will not be as helpful. 

How do you implement asynchronous communication?

There are many ways to implement asynchronous communication. Some teams use a tool like Slack where you can post messages that will be visible to your team members when they log in. However, many teams have found that Slack is actually a synchronous tool, though it depends on the standard operating procedures and practices that companies put in place. At Friday, we have found that most teams do not use Slack in that way and it’s asynchronous tool. 

From our post about why Slack isn’t asynchronous

“What happens when your day at the office is filled with people tapping you on the shoulder? You get distracted, stressed, and are unable to do deep, meaningful work. Sure, you have fewer meetings and less email, but these activities are replaced by something else - chat.”

In other words, Slack has replaced the interruptions that used to happen in the office but in a digital way. 

The team at Friday actually uses Slack, and it’s great for casual conversations and urgent, synchronous messages. It’s essentially replaced what email was at most companies for a number of years. We rarely have inter-company email; most of it is with people outside of our organization. 

Other teams use a project management tool like Trello or Asana as asynchronous toos to post updates on projects. Another way is to have a forum for each project and have team members post updates there.

Posts in Friday can work this way, too and serve as a great complement to Slack. 

How does asynchronous collaboration work?

The key to collaborating on work asynchronously is to be very clear about what you are working on and what the status is of that work. You need to communicate with your team members about any changes in your work, and they need to communicate with you.

Asynchronous tools:

How can your team achieve asynchronous communication?

The key to achieving asynchronous communication is to use a tool that makes it easy for you and your team members to post updates about what you are working on. 

This may be a paradigm shift for your company, even if you combine a few of the workflow tools you already have, without adding yet another workflow to what you’re currently doing. 

Daily Standups

An important workflow for localized or remote teams is a daily update or standup. Many organizations host a daily standup or huddle for 15 minutes to connect and get on the same page. Others use Microsoft Teams and Slack as an asynchronous way to do this.

Lots of organizations have daily stand-up channels within Slack and Teams. These usually answer 2 or 3 questions such as: 

  • What did you accomplish yesterday? 
  • What are you working on today? 
  • Where do you need help or what blockers are in your way?

Create a check-in for a Daily Standup, ping each person on the team to answer it, and then their results are recorded on a day by day basis. You can even gauge how members of the team are feeling, giving you a quick pulse of what your colleagues may need.

Track Goals

Slack and Microsoft Teams provide immediacy, but they are not built for longevity. 

Friday provides a structure to your team that layers on top of Slack, Teams, and other tools like Trello that you already use. 

Work with your team on goal setting, and then connect your work via project management tools. You can measure and track your goals each week or month, and add progress updates. 

Say Thanks & Break The Ice Asynchronously

Organizations may include channels in Teams or Slack for watercooler topics, randomness, quizzes, or get-to-know-you questions. 

But often this feels *separate* from the actual work experience, and there’s no real record of who participates and who doesn’t. 

In Friday, ice breaker questions get sent to each team member. They share and colleagues get to know each other a little better. Kudos can also be given to any team member from any team member, opening up more avenues for appreciation and celebration. 

A great aspect to Friday is that you can add Icebreaker questions directly into your daily stand-up or weekly updates. This makes it a more natural part of the workday, without extra effort. 

How To Use Friday for Asynchronous Work

Friday offers team updates and automated work check-ins to provide team updates, daily standups, or personal reflection questions all in an asynchronous communication format. You also get reports about responses, and can see individual answers. Use different team settings for private or sharing team-wide.

With features like a check-in builder, productivity planner, and power-ups to share ideas, set goals, and give kudos to teammates, Friday becomes your operating system for remote and flexible work. 

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