Asynchronous communications guide

LinkORB team members are spread across the globe. This is true for technical writers, engineering, infrastructure, and all teams alike.

As such, asynchronous communication is a cornerstone of how LinkORB operates. It ensures you don't have to stay up all night for real-time discussions with teammates whose time zones are 10 hours ahead of yours.

Simply put, communicating asynchronously is like leaving voicemails for someone you're sure will reply even if you're not sure when they will reply. So, send that Cyans message now but don't badger your teammates for an immediate response 🙃.

Effective asynchronous communication

Oftentimes, someone on the team may require input or feedback from another team (member) before moving to the next phase of a task or a project. Using asynchronous communication for such discussions means the person seeking feedback/input and the persons whose inputs/feedback are required may not be online at the same time.

To get the most out of such a discussion, consider the following when seeking input/feedback asynchronously:

  • Share information or questions in the most accessible format(s) (screenshots, videos, text, polls, pull requests).
  • In your written requests, please provide as much relevant information as possible, including links to give the recipient(s) context on the subject matter.
  • Highlight important points or questions.
  • Don't stop at asking questions, research, and suggest possible solutions.
  • Leverage (new or existing) dedicated Cyans topics with descriptive titles.
  • If a team member takes longer than usual to reply to your message, create a Team HQ sub-task with your questions or requests as the description, and assign that sub-task to the delayed team member with a status of input.

Asynchronous communication best practices

The following are some asynchronous communication best practices for engaging with team members on various platforms.

Avoid @mentions

Prefixing the @ symbol to your teammates' usernames when addressing them in a Cyans topic or a Mattermost room sends them an email notification. We strongly discourage using mentions (the @ symbol) when sending low to average priority messages because it can result in notification fatigue and distract team members working on deep-focus tasks.

Only use @mentions when addressing your teammates on a high-priority matter such as a time-sensitive issue or a security-related problem. Otherwise, highlight lines, words, or teammates' names you want to draw attention to by using bold text (or code fences if you like color). Putting a teammate's name in a Markdown heading can feel like you're yelling at them, but nothing's off the table; do that if you need to.

Reply/read messages daily

Our email system sends a daily summary of all Cyans and Mattermost topics where you've got unread messages. Please set aside some minutes during the work day to read and reply to such messages.

Letting the messages pile up leaves your team members hanging and slowly turns a simple activity into a chore such as replying to messages from 50 different Cyans topics with large walls of text. It is also easy to miss important points in a large pile of unread messages in one or more Cyans topics.

Even a brief message stating that you are focused on higher priority tasks and providing an estimate for when you plan to engage is appreciated.

Minimize timezone preference

Unless explicitly required or agreed upon please communicate asynchronously and only use synchronous communication when the time zones of the affected parties overlap. Staying up all night for a synchronous discussion may produce "desired results" in the short term, but it could lead to burnout in the long term.

Use polls for group decision making

Reach for StrawPoll when trying to decide between two or more options and require your team's input. Polls encourage your teammates to asynchronously participate in the decision-making process because you've done the heavy lifting of listing the available options. All they have to do is click a few buttons. Please see using polls to make group decisions for more information.

Build a positive asynchronous culture

Even though we don't share an office or interact face-to-face very often, we think LinkORB has an amazing culture! While we are working hard and moving fast, we also put effort into using a positive and collaborative tone in our asynchronous communications. 😺Emoticons and memes are supported (and encouraged) across our communication tools.

Opt for synchronous communication on time-sensitive matters

While phone calls and other synchronous communication channels are discouraged, please use them for top-priority, time-sensitive, or emergency matters.