How to Move Your Team Toward Async-First Communication

Advice for team leaders and team members who want to bring more calm, focused productivity to the workplace

Illustration by Margarida Mouta

Here’s the paradox about remote work: We want to have the option to work from home, but we’re feeling extremely burned out from unnecessary Zoom meetings, nebulous Slack chats, and a general lack of boundaries between work and home.

The way many of us were working wasn’t working, even before the pandemic. The move to remote work only amplified how broken things have become. Forcing workers back to the office full-time isn’t going to solve the burnout issue, but neither will remote work alone.

This moment brings an opportunity to reimagine how your team works. A small but growing number of workplaces are beginning to recognize the need for a more flexible style of working that puts employees in control of their time and attention and gives them space to disconnect. It’s called async-first communication.

This guide will explain asynchronous communication, why it leads to more focused, calmer work, and how you can go async, whether you’re a team leader or team member, with specific steps from organizations and teams that have done it.

The case for async-first communication

Asynchronous communication involves a time lag between when one person delivers a communication and another person responds to it. For example, I send an email in the morning, and my colleague sends a reply in the late afternoon. It’s the opposite of synchronous communication, which refers to communicating in real-time, such as an in-person meeting or video call.

Today, the common way of working is somewhere in between the two. We habitually check into communication tools, attempting to complete our work in interrupted spurts. Software developer Samuel Hulick, calls this “asynchronish” communication. It’s embodied by Slack, “a conversational melting pot that is neither fully real time, nor fully asynchronous.” Asynchronish is the worst of both worlds:

“It leads to everyone having half-conversations all day long, with people frequently rotating through one slow-drip discussion after another, never needing to officially check out because “hey! it’s asynchronous!…I wonder if conducting business in an asynchronish environment simply turns every minute into an opportunity for conversation, essentially “meeting-izing” the entire workday.”

Asynchronous spectrumConstant connectivity chips away at focus. On average, knowledge workers spend 40% of their day context switching, ping ponging back and forth between communication and other work. In an 8-hour workday, this leaves workers with only 1 hour and 12 minutes of productive time that’s not interrupted by communication tools.

On June 27, 2018, when workers had a reprieve from Slack for a few hours because of an outage, RescueTime data showed they spent more time on productive work than the same time the previous week. That Slack outage gave workers what their bosses had not: permission to disconnect and focus on their actual jobs.

Our collective switch to remote work, brought on by the global pandemic, made finding time and mental space for focused work even harder. In offices, much of the communication is naturally synchronous—meetings in conference rooms, chats at the water cooler, dropping by a neighbor’s desk. When offices closed, many tried to recreate synchronicity online, scheduling draining Zoom meetings across the day and carrying on constant, open-ended conversations in Slack or Microsoft Teams. Since the beginning of the pandemic, people are working more hours and experiencing serious burnout.

The problem is most workplaces have not articulated how teams should communicate—how frequently, for instance, they are expected to respond to messages, and how often they should have meetings. Little effort has been made to protect people’s ability to focus and to unplug.

The goal isn’t to eliminate face-to-face interaction entirely…An async-first approach aims to rebalance the equation, so that written communication is the default, meetings are more purposeful, and team members can work on a schedule that’s best for them.

Async communication is about allowing team members to “consume and respond to messages on their own time instead of on the sender’s schedule.” The goal isn’t to eliminate face-to-face interaction entirely. We need human connection, and meetings and other real-time chat are valuable in certain situations. The problem is that communication has been prioritized over focused work. An async-first approach aims to rebalance the equation, so that written communication is the default, meetings are more purposeful, and team members can work on a schedule that’s best for them.

As one CEO, Sudeesh Nair, of ThoughtSpot, says on why he encourages his team to work async:

“…the ability to let people in whenever they want to work, however long they want to work in a day…that’s what asynchronous is about. If you think that way, you have to make more intentional changes in the work process, collaboration process, to enable every one of those people to come into the workforce.”

By setting norms around communication and boundaries around work, async can be used to create a calmer, more productive, more quality-focused, and more human-centered way of working.

sync versus async communication

TalentLMS surveyed 1000 respondents across the U.S. to gather remote work statistics. Learn more about when remote employees are most productive and work from home habits.

How to go async-first as a team leader

As a team leader, you’re in a position to change not only your behavior but help your team change theirs. Give your team the time they need to do their actual work, and feel in control of their schedule. Here’s how to create an async culture for everyone:

Start with your own team

Anyone who’s part of a big organization knows it’s hard to change an organization’s culture. Emma van Emmerik, Team Lead of User Research at food delivery app company Just Eat Takeaway, and her Berlin and Amsterdam-based team transitioned to remote work. Initially, they found their days filled with lots of meetings and Slack conversations. That could harm the necessary “heads-down” time they needed to work on product discovery and research, which involves immersing oneself in data to gather knowledge and distill it into communicable insights.

After reading about async communications, including the Doist blog and Basecamp’s It Doesn’t Have to Be Crazy at Work, Emma decided to spread the word: “I wanted to raise awareness of the topic of focus time and the benefit of promoting async communication within my team of researchers, and with the key product partners my team and I work with.”

Be open about discussing your async transition with other managers at your organization. Asynchronous work could become company policy or encourage other teams to adapt the same approach.

Check out async resources

If you’re new to the idea of async and don’t know where to begin, check out some available resources about this work culture, like:

You can even take a quiz to get your company’s current async score on We Are Async.

We are async quiz
Take an async quiz to find out how asynchronous your organization scores.

Engage team members

Switching to async communication is ultimately about helping everyone on your team improve their work and their well-being. That’s why it’s important to communicate and get buy-in early on.

“Introduce the topic out of curiosity with your team. Say this is something you’re interested in, and ask people what they think about it,” Emma recommends. She adds that you can tell your team you’re looking for ways to help them work with fewer interruptions and more focus time, and you’d like to get their feedback. “Figure out how you set up systems that put everyone in your team in the driver seat of their own productivity, not at the whim of other people’s preferences,” she says.

Share with your team excerpts of the reading you’ve done, including a definition of async communication. Meet or get written responses to discuss their reaction and what would help them work better. From these conversations, you can gauge the biggest challenges for your team, and what async strategies you can start with.

Here’s a sample message you can adapt for your team:

Hi Everyone,

Since we shifted to working remotely, I’ve felt the challenges of balancing work and home first-hand. It’s likely you have too. I’ve been thinking about the best way to avoid distractions and focus on deep work during the work day.

I’d like to get your feedback on how we can best do this together. Could you please read this guide to asynchronous communication and send me your thoughts by Mar. 16? I would appreciate your feedback on the idea of async work, as well as anything you’d like to share about your experience working remotely including any challenges you’re facing I’ll read through our insights and figure out the best way for us to connect around the end of the month so we can find solutions to these problems together.

Also, if you’re interested in reading more about async work, check out Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World or It Doesn’t Have to Be Crazy at Work. We’ll be happy to reimburse you for these purchases.

Look forward to hearing from you all!

Increase access to information with shared, cloud-based tools

When teams have easy access to information, transparency, and central sources of shared truth, it cuts down on unnecessary communication. Move your team to centralized cloud-based tools for documentation, project management, and communication:

  • Shared documentation: Designate a central, shared documentation tool that everyone on your team has access to. This is the place to store explanations of processes (e.g. submitting for reimbursements); HR guides; information such as a tax ID number; and meeting notes. Use a documentation tool like GitHub, Google Docs, or Notion. For more on how to create and maintain central documentation, reference GitLab’s Team Handbook.
  • Organized file sharing: Use a cloud storage file sharing platform like Dropbox or Box to provide centralized access so team members can easily access files without requesting access or waiting on an email attachment. Use an organized file structure—based on projects, quarters, or whatever makes sense—so it’s clear where different files live.
  • Project management: It gets confusing fast when you’re trying to communicate about a project’s status by sending documents back and forth over email. Get a handle on your workflow by switching your team to a project management app. Team members can create projects, add tasks, set deadlines, and write comments asynchronously. At Doist we use Todoist for a streamlined approach to project management that prioritizes actually getting things done over managing things to be done.
  • Team communication: Annie Warshaw, of Mission Propelle, a consultancy for working mothers and their employers, commonly sees email as the primary communication system in larger, more “old school” organizations. Switching to a team communication tool can “completely alleviate all of the little ‘hey did you get this?’ emails,” she says. At Doist the bulk of our communication happens in Twist, a thread-based team forum designed to promote focus, transparency, and an async-first style of collaboration.
👉 Learn more about Doist’s favorite tools for remote communication and our async-first approach to project management.
Todoist lets you and your team assign and communicate about projects asynchronously

Set guidelines for async-first communication

Your organization’s culture is just as important as the tools you use to communicate. As Cal Newport says: “If your company depends on unstructured, ad-hoc communication, telling people to check email less is not going to work.”

As a manager, you can provide a philosophy and guidelines for how your team communicates asynchronously. Allan Christensen, our COO, articulates Doist’s approach:

“Everyone at Doist knows that asynchronous communication is the default, and no one should expect an immediate response from their teammates. Not only does this make working with people in other time zones possible, but it also gives people the freedom to disconnect to focus completely on their work and come back to respond later.”

According to Andrew Gobran, Doist’s People Operations Generalist, employee onboarding is crucial for orienting new hires to async communication. Adopt the following steps that Doist uses when you’re introducing your team to async:

  • Establish upfront that we are a globally distributed team that values freedom and flexibility to work when you’re at your best.
  • Make the onboarding process async by design so newcomers are invited to navigate their onboarding checklist independently, while connecting with their mentor, team head, and other people at various touch points. It gives them a sense of how async and sync communication interact.
  • Invite newcomers to explore past and active threads in Twist to see the cadence and development of conversations and learn how decisions are made. This shows them the importance of transparency and written communication in an async context.
  • Reinforce the importance and value of deep work so newcomers understand that they are encouraged to be as intentional about their work as they are with their communication.
  • Understand the context that newcomers have experienced in past roles, so you’re able to anticipate and help guide newcomers as they adapt to communicating in a new way.

It’s okay to communicate synchronously—just encourage it sparingly. Avoid asynchron-ish altogether. Share with employees a guide on when to go sync v. async (see our Art of Async guide for more on this).

When to go sync v async
Provide guidelines on when your team should use synchronous and asynchronous communication.

Summarize more, chat less

When your team’s checking into Slack all day, it’s easy to lose connection with the big picture of what you’re working on. This can mean sliding into more reactive, less thoughtful communication, that ends up wasting time. As programmer Alicia Lu, another Slack self-exiler writes:

“Low quality communication has a multiplicative effect on communication overhead because it is imprecise and prone to being misunderstood. Thus it generates even more communication to clear up the misunderstandings, all of which contribute to more cognitive overhead borne by the recipients of the communication.”

Substitute constant chatting with less frequent summaries. Emma starts her week off by communicating a “top of mind” document to her team. Rather than pinging a team member when a non-urgent thought comes to her, she adds it to the document for the week ahead. She takes a similar approach with her boss, sending him “closing remarks” every Friday to summarize the week. “I want him to know about the evolution and progress of what we’re working on, but pinging him on Slack or email doesn’t tell a story. There’s a likelihood that that’s noise,” she says. Now, she adds, “we have a conversation that can unfold asynchronously, and I’m actually doing the act of reflecting.”

Help your team write for an async-first style, using our guides on Writing Tips for Remote Workers (And Everyone Else), and How to Create Healthy Group Norms for Team Communication.

Don’t measure who’s online, measure what’s getting done

Organizations too often value workers based on facetime, or Slack or Zoom time. As Zara Burke writes on managing remote-first teams:

“In a traditional office, the person who clocks in more hours might be perceived as a “hard worker.” In reality, they could be catching up on the latest cat memes on social media. Similarly, the person who shouts the loudest in a physical meeting room often wins the argument.”

Judging team members by their responsiveness and visibility—like whether they’re presence indicator on Slack is green—incentivizes context switching and performative workaholism, making it harder for everyone to do quality work.

Judging team members this way often happens when priorities are unstated or unclear. You can move your team to a more async mindset by making it explicit that you value the outcomes of what they produce, rather than the time spent responding to email and chats. Here are a few strategies to help:

  • Set goals that align with big picture priorities: Be clear about your team’s priorities and what goals will help achieve them. Try using OKRs, a goal-setting method that focuses on setting objectives and “key results” to meet an objective.
  • Encourage updates rather than constant check-ins: Have team members provide regular updates, e.g. once weekly, so people don’t feel the need to constantly show on team chat or through round-the-clock email responses that they’re working.
  • Have a framework for project cycles: At Doist we use “Doist Objective” cycles, or DOs to manage projects. This system, adapted from Spotify, provides a clear framework for how to kick-off projects, keep them moving, expand or reduce the scope if needed, and meet the final goal in a four-week time frame. Team members stay aligned around the same concrete goals and can focus on delivering results at the end of each cycle rather than doing performative “work”.

Have fewer meetings

It’s important that teams stay connected. But too many people are swimming in meetings that eat into the best hours of their day—especially if one’s job lies more at the maker end of the maker-manager spectrum.

Be more thoughtful about when you have meetings. “Take a hard look at what outcomes you’re trying to achieve from a meeting and whether they can be achieved in an alternative way, like a group communication. If the meeting can be one or two people, send a follow up to everyone else,” says Annie Warshaw.

Generally, meetings are best for sensitive subjects, issues that will require lots of follow-up questions, kickoffs that bring a team together around a new project timeline, and 1-to-1s between a manager and a report. You can do many types of meetings through async updates, such as status meetings or asking for feedback on a design or draft. At Takeaway, Emma’s team has started using Google Docs for many discussion and action items, which has enabled them to move to less frequent, biweekly meetings. It’s also put emphasis on communicating in written narrative form, which has strengthened how Emma’s team coordinates.

🦮 Guide: Not sure if something should be a meeting? Turn to Doist’s handy flowchart: Should This Meeting Be an Email?

Here are some tips for making sure the meetings you do have are productive:

  • Using a tool like calend.ly to shave some of the time spent on scheduling overhead.
  • Have a goal and defined agenda that are shared in advance so team members can prepare.
  • Include just the people who need to be at a meeting. Share the key points to others who aren’t present via your team communication tool.
  • Include smaller announcements in meetings that are already on the books rather than scheduling separate meetings—or save that announcement for an async tool.
  • Designate a Twist message for regular 1-on-1s, so that you can stay in touch with team members when getting a meeting on the calendar isn’t possible.
  • Make it optional for people to attend meetings. This may not work at every organization, but those who do it, swear by it.
    Be flexible about canceling meetings. Our Doist content team has a biweekly meeting on the books, but we often switch to async updates when people need it.
  • Cut down meeting times — if you have a 1 hour meeting, for example, consider making it 30 minutes.
async updates
Move meetings from sync to async updates when needed.

Encourage themed ‘focus’ days

While you’re cutting back on meetings, why not designate at least one day a week that’s entirely meeting-free? According to U.C. Berkeley’s Becoming Superhuman Lab, people reported being 43% more productive when they could carve out a daily block of uninterrupted time called a “focus sprint.”

This popular practice has been adopted by a number of companies, including Facebook, Shopify, and Asana, to give teams the mental space they need to focus. Emma encourages her Takeaway team members to do a “Focus Friday,” which she swears by herself. Uninterrupted blocks, like hours and hours, or a day—not 30 minute slots between meetings—is where the learning and craft happens,” she says.

Try No Meeting Mondays, Deep Work Wednesdays, Focus Fridays. Or better yet, all three!

Establish work-life boundaries for your team

When organizations haven’t stated boundaries around when people are expected to work, team members often feel they need to stay connected after normal hours. This can easily lead to burnout,a sense of never getting to disconnect, as well as Pavlovian anxiety from something like the sound of a Slack notification. A Virginia Tech study found that the “mere expectation” of checking emails outside office hours damages our wellbeing, even if we don’t actually do any work as a result.

Provide guidelines that state your team members aren’t expected to be online outside of work hours or while on vacation or leave. Advise team members to avoid contacting colleagues on vacation or leave as well.

time off settings
Have your team use email away messages or team communication tools to indicate when they’re out of the office.

Many workplaces default to synchronous communication out of suspicion. Afraid working remotely will allow team members to slack off, they expect availability and responsiveness. But people work much better when they’re trusted than when they feel constantly monitored. As Brenna Loury, Doist’s Head of Marketing says:

“You must ensure that [your team is] able to work autonomously if you want to continue developing trust. Micromanagement has absolutely no place in a remote company (or any company for that matter).”

Model an async style

As a manager, what you do is just as important as what you say. If you’re telling employees that they aren’t expected to respond to messages at all hours, but you’re sending emails at 11 pm, they’ll likely feel that’s what’s expected. Here are a few tips:

  • Spend time on focused work: Show your team you prioritize deep work by blocking out time where you disconnect. Try time blocking or themed days, like Focus Fridays, to make this easier.
  • Hold back on quick responses: Telegraph to your team that you don’t expect them to respond immediately to email messages or chats at work by restraining yourself from rapid-fire responses. (If you need help preventing your own toggling, check out our guide to avoiding context switching).
  • Don’t send messages at all hours: Show that you don’t expect your team members to be connected at all hours by saving your emails and chats for within work hours. If you’re working early or late, you can schedule your own emails to go out during the work day. In a multi-time zone workplace like Doist, where a team member in Taiwan is on Twist while someone in Colorado is sleeping, make it clear that people aren’t expected to be on outside of their work hours.
  • Use and respect away messages: Have team members use away messages to indicate when they’re out sick or on vacation so teammates know not to expect a response during this time. In Twist, we can select an icon to indicate that we’re out of the office and when to expect us back. Because Twist is designed for async communication, it’s easy for teammates to catch up on the conversations that are relevant to them when they get back.
time off message
Model an async style by refraining from messaging those who are on vacation, leave, sick, or otherwise away.

Organize (optional) social events

Rather than free-flowing chat rooms that give team members FOMO when they aren’t participating, set up a company-wide remote game night or designate a check-in time so team members can catch up. At Doist, we organize monthly casual hangouts in groups of three or four and have several just-for-fun Twist channels dedicated to asynchronously discussing topics like Mindfulness, Music, Coffee, and Books.

Moving toward async as a team member

Perhaps the worst thing about Slack pings and constant meetings is the feeling you lack control over your time. Managers, and ultimately entire organizations, need to lead on async communication. But if your organization isn’t there yet, here’s what you can do on your own to bring more sanity to your day and model async behavior for your team.

Write more, meet less

Do your part to try to cut down on meetings by defaulting to writing where you can. If you’re someone who’s in charge of scheduling meetings, consider if there are any you could move to a team communication tool, like a brainstorm or status updates. If you do need the meeting, consider making it shorter—often what’s discussed in a meeting expands to take up the time people have.

If you’re invited to a meeting you don’t need to attend, or which you feel would be better done in writing, don’t feel bad about gracefully declining. Here are some suggested responses on minimizing meeting participation, from Dropbox:

“Thanks for including me! I’m wondering if we could try to solve this over email instead?”

“I’ve been in so many meetings lately, but I’m trying to be more disciplined about my schedule. Could we try to solve this without a meeting, first?”

“I’d be happy to give you feedback on that! Before we schedule a meeting, could I review it in Paper?”

Think before you send

It’s been said that your inbox is other people’s priorities. Similarly, your urgent question may be your recipient’s interruption. Rather than reflexively messaging team members, ask yourself if you can find the answer yourself.

If you do need to ask, write in a way that’s easy for your coworkers to read by being concise, putting the most important information at the top, giving all the necessary context, including links to relevant documents even if they already have access them, and making your “call to action” clear and concrete (try bolding it). Include a preferred deadline upfront if you’re asking for something significant.

In general, ask yourself how you can write your message in order to eliminate as much back and forth follow-ups as possible. As Doist Product Marketer Aer Parris writes:

Good writing may take more time up-front, but pays dividends down the road when everyone can easily reference the information they need to do their jobs well.

Strong communication will cut down on follow-ups for clarification, show colleagues that you respect their time, and help them prioritize.

🦮 Guide: Get writing advice with our Writing Tips for Remote Workers (And Everyone Else) guide.

Turn off your notifications, schedule your communication time instead

Turning off your notifications is an essential first step to communicating asynchronously. Unfortunately, it may not be enough to avoid the siren’s call of your team’s communication tool.

Many of us (raises hand 🤚 ) check email or other team communications out of habit rather than need. There’s a part of us that craves the hit of novelty, or the easy distraction from the hard project we’re plodding through. But using email as a break just floods you with more work to do, making it harder to focus on your actual work.

Instead of bouncing back and forth between your team communication tools and your work throughout the day, designate specific blocks of time for communication and protect your most productive hours for your most important tasks. If your team currently operates in an asynchron-ish style, expecting a response in minutes rather than hours, communicate the times when they can expect a response from you. Don’t forget to take real breaks throughout the day: step away from your screens, eat, rest, and re-charge, rather than using email or a team communication tool as a diversion.

time blocking
Work asynchronously by dividing your time into blocks for different tasks.

Set boundaries

The number one struggle for employees working remotely is unplugging, according to Buffer’s State of Remote Work 2021 survey. To the extent you can, set boundaries with your coworkers, managers, and yourself. Don’t check or respond to messages outside of work hours.

Have a work shutdown ritual that closes all of your open loops for the day and signals to your mind that it’s time to shift out of work mode.

Delete apps like Slack or work email from your personal devices to make it easier to abstain from work stuff outside of work. This made a big difference for one Reddit user on the r/workingmoms thread:

“I deleted Slack and Outlook off my phone……it’s been two days. TWO DAYS. And already I feel like a huge weight has been lifted…I didn’t realize how much I would spontaneously flick to these apps on my phone to see what was going on with various projects, etc. while I was watching my son. I’m quickly starting to realize that in most cases, things can wait until my working hours, and if it’s a true emergency (which lets be real…most time it’s not), I can address when I log on.”

Of course, not checking your team’s communication tools and not thinking about work are two different things. When a work-related task crosses your mind, add it to your to-do list to come back to during your work hours. This simple habit helps middle school principal Robyn Wiens separate “work mode” from “home mode”:

“If I just got home from work, and I’m with the family and I remember I have to tell someone a few different things I can just quickly grab my cell phone and pop those into my Todoist list. That way when I’m back into work mode the next day I can remember to get those things done.”

There’s a big payoff for setting boundaries and investing yourself fully into the time you carve out, especially for busy people like working parents. “If you can take that concentrated quality time, you can look at your day, and go, I got a lot done, and I got to spend quality time with my kids, that will alleviate a lot of the guilt,” says Annie Warshaw.

Model async behavior

It may feel like you’re powerless to change your organization. But you probably have more power than you think. One of our most powerful sources of influence is our actions. As Invisible Influence: The Hidden Forces that Shape Behavior, Jonah Berger, a marketing professor at Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania says:

“The more others seem to be doing something, the more likely people are to think that thing is right or normal and what they should be doing as well.”

Committing to asynchronous work is not just about creating a more agreeable way of working for yourself but modeling to inspire others. For example, if other team members notice you’re not responding to messages immediately, you may encourage them to disconnect and focus on their work as well. Don’t be shy about communicating the async philosophy and how you plan to apply it to people with whom you work most closely. They may want to follow your lead!

Discuss with your manager

A lot of people are unhappy at work but feel in no position to ask their manager for accommodation. Push through this discomfort and try having these conversations anyways. If you want a change in how you work, discuss it with your boss and propose a schedule, a way of tracking your projects, a meeting-free focus day, or one of the other strategies we’ve discussed.

Asking for accommodation is something working parents in particular struggle with, according to Annie Warshaw:

“Even though they might have a long track record of exceptional work, they are very worried of putting that boundary in place because they don’t want to be perceived as someone who’s not a team player, or not keeping up. They may still be doing the work, but they’re not doing the work within the time frame the team has put in place, or within prior expectations on their turnaround time.”

There are many other reasons besides parenting you may want to discuss a more async approach with your manager, like needing calm and focus in your day, having a regular physical or mental health appointment, having a preference for early or late hours, or wanting clear boundaries around work and non-work.

Whatever the case, approach a conversation with your manager through an “outcomes framework,” Warshaw suggests. Discuss what you can produce and how an async work style, where you’re able to control your schedule, will make you more effective. For example, if you’re trying to set clear demarcation between work and family time, make it clear that this will improve your work.  If you have kids, Warshaw suggests saying: “Taking that time will help my productivity because I’m not thinking about my work and kids at once. When I get back to work, I’ll put my full attention on it.”

A full email to your manager raising the subject can look something like this, adapting for the tone you’re comfortable with:

Hi [Your Manager’s Name],

I’m writing to check in about my work schedule. I’ve recently experimented and found that I was more productive at the projects I’m managing when I turned off my notifications, closed out of email and Slack while working, and limited checking these apps to twice a day. [Insert example: For example, Our team sent a prototype right on schedule for the first time in a year, and I finished a first draft of a report that I’d had to push back for the last several months]. This approach has helped me focus on my work, and gave me clear boundaries between work and my responsibilities at home. Based on my experience, I’d like to suggest that I switch to this arrangement for my day-to-day work. I’d also be eager to discuss how as a team we might adapt this “asynchronous” approach.

If you’re interested in reading more about this, here’s a guide that’s helped me [links to this article].

I look forward to hearing from you.
Thank you,

[Your Name]

Summarize instead of chat

The more you can communicate the value you’re providing through taking an async-first approach, the more trust and flexibility your manager is likely to provide. In place of lots of small chat updates, send less frequent summaries that focus on the value you are providing. Here’s some advice from Jeremy DuVall of Zapier on building a quarterly or annual scorecard you can use to evaluate yourself and update your boss and colleagues:

  • Select metrics that are easy to measure and highly valuable. You should be able to gauge progress from week to week.
  • Build a consistent narrative. If you’re changing up the scorecard each week, you’re not creating an easy narrative to follow. Consistency is key. Each week should build on the next.
  • Tie your metrics into the larger company picture. What are the top goals of your organization or team and how does what you’re working on move those forward?

Look into alternatives

As someone who has had jobs in many work environments, my experience is that there are many different types of work cultures and managers. If your workplace is stubbornly committed to an outmoded work style and employees’ preferences aren’t taken into consideration, it might be worth beginning a search for an organization whose culture is more in line with how you work. Check out We Are Async’s job board and Doist’s advice for applying to a remote job.


The pandemic has brought on a reckoning about how we work that isn’t going away. Workers are more aware than ever about how technology impacts our work, the fleeting nature of focus, and our collective inability to disconnect. Ultimately, everyone is seeking a better way to balance work and life. While asynchronous communication isn’t a panacea, it’s a welcome relief from the always-on work culture that forces employees to blur the lines between personal and professional. Organizations who proactively adopt an async culture will be part of a sanity-first movement that inspires loyalty among employees and interest from potential hires.

Did your workplace move to async communication? We’d love to hear about your experiences in the comments section or on social media (@doist)!