Since early 2020, we've been a remote-first co-op. For most of this time, we've all been in roughly the same timezone. In late 2021, we decided to trial moving towards more asynchronous working practices.
This will help us carve out more time for deep work, on our own schedules, and to measure productivity on outcomes rather than hours spent working. It also allows us to be more flexible in accommodating different schedules, and helps us achieve a better work-life balance.
Async is the freedom to collaborate on our own timelines, not everyone else’s. It’s the power to protect our best hours for focus and flow. It’s the peace of unplugging, knowing we can pick up where we left off.
Basecamp's Guide to Internal Communication includes lots of useful principles. Until we have the resources to establish our own one of these, use this one!
Internal communication based on long-form writing, rather than a verbal tradition of meetings, speaking, and chatting, leads to a welcomed reduction in meetings, video conferences, calls, or other real-time opportunities to interrupt and be interrupted.
We use Twist for asynchronous communications.
We use Loom to create short screenshare videos. We use Notion for meeting notes and documentation. We use Linear to discuss specific tasks in our Todo list and backlog.
In general, we try to keep comments near the thing that we're discussing.
Writing solidifies, chat dissolves. Substantial decisions start and end with an exchange of complete thoughts, not one-line-at-a-time jousts. If it's important, critical, or fundamental, write it up, don't chat it down.
Never expect or require someone to get back to you immediately unless it’s a true emergency. The expectation of immediate response is toxic.
When communicating async, be clear about your expectations by including dates, times and timezones.
In general, we expect to receive a response to our Twist, Missive or Notion comments within 24 hours Monday to Thursday. We don't work Friday to Sunday, so any questions asked on Thursday will wait until Monday.
Over-communicate rather than under-communicate. Async is slower than sync, so under-communication can result in days of lost time.
Over-communication rules from Twist:
- Don’t use acronyms
- Add images and screenshots to supplement your explanations
- Annotate images and screenshots to highlight the portions you’re discussing
- Always use exact days of the week, times, and timezones when mentioning dates
- Make reference and link to related discussions as much as possible
- Avoid making assumptions about what is known
Synchronous vs asynchronous meetings
Synchronous meetings should be used sparingly for internal co-op alignment. See Meetings for best practices.
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, and 1-to-1s between members.
If not everyone can make it, record the meeting so they can catch up later.
Some of the ways that we maintain a convivial co-op culture:
- We run quarterly retreats, to give us an opportunity to work together in person. The first one was Team Retreat, Autumn 2021.
- We schedule regular one-on-one chats to catch up with each other informally.
- We add random banter to the #fun Twist threads.
Twist have some useful tips for managing the practicalities of remote work: