Home Blog Conversational Email Asynchronous Communication: Beating the Always-On Work Mentality

Asynchronous Communication: The Art of Turning Off the Always-On Mentality

By Spike Team, December 19, 2020
asynchronous communication

Does the next paragraph describe your life with technology? Most of us wake up to dozens of emails, alerts, and notifications each morning. Especially if you work with people in different time zones, you may have an entire day’s worth of communications before you even wake up! That problem is hard enough to solve, but don’t forget about your company chat tool!

Do you ever dread taking days off because you know you’ll have hundreds of missed messages the next day? I know what you’re thinking. The communications revolution was supposed to make our lives EASIER, but it’s just made it busier and more distracted. Let’s talk about asynchronous communication.


PING. 7:30am. Message from Jane re: lunch

BUZZ. 8:15am. When can I expect that report on my desk?

BLEEP. 8:20am. Did you see my note from last night?

BRIINNG. 8:25am. You forgot to include the attachment

BRAAAAP. 8:27am. I’m still waiting for that report

BRRRRRRRRR. 8:28.am. You have a new message on Facebook

what is asynchronous communicationPhoto by Tim Gouw on Unsplash


Today, we spend more time managing our communications apps that we do actually working and being productive. We’re in a constant state of distraction, and we’re struggling to maintain our flow, something that’s absolutely crucial to the way we work most effectively and creatively. Let’s face it, most of us are beholden to the ping, beep, and buzz of our emails, alerts, and chat alerts. People feel like they can’t close their chat app because they’ll miss out on essential communication that they need to see or they’ll miss an emergency alert.


Instant messengers such as Microsoft Teams, Slack, Skype, and WhatsApp demand instant attention. They lock you in, ruining your concentration and breaking up your day into tiny chunks of scattered thoughts while limiting your ability to do deep work. Each message could either be an important work request or the latest funny cat gif doing the rounds—but you’ll reply, who wouldn’t? Put, you can never really engage with any task on a deeper level because your mind is being stretched ever thinner as you deal with an incessant stream of messages. Can you imagine shutting down all of your chat apps for even just an hour to knock out a brainstorming session on a marketing plan?


Chat Apps, Like In-Person Meetings, Can Be a Huge Waste of Time


Most people haven’t considered how Slack interrupts your work in much the same vain that meetings do. The said requirement of “being available on Slack” all day long is like forcing your employees to sit in a meeting all-day-long meeting. Can they get work done while in the meeting? Absolutely. Is it their best work? Not even close.

Consider how productive you feel when you try to get work done in the early mornings or late in the evening when most of your team isn’t on your company chat service. Why can’t we work that way most of the day? There are times when simultaneous chat is needed, but it’s not an all-day affair that it’s become with tools like Slack and Teams.


Any employee required to do deep work (designers, engineers, etc.) needs long periods of uninterrupted focus on their work. Assuming employees aren’t productive because they aren’t on Slack is like thinking they aren’t working because they aren’t in the office. Slack was deployed to cut through the noisiness of email, but it only made it worse.


Just because your organization can use a chat app 24/7 doesn’t mean that it will improve productivity or morale. It might make it worse.

This always-on design is leading us increasingly towards an always-on mentality. The technology itself is actively coercing us into immediate replies, something that has very quickly translated into expectation and impatience on the part of whoever you are communicating with. And let’s be real for a minute, probably you too!


Remote Work and Synchronous Communication


The way in which we work today is also a factor. Increasingly, we are no longer tied to the same desks, offices, or even countries. Because 2020 has made remote work commonplace across almost every industry, individuals can be scattered across different time zones. Teams can be spread across continents. Freelancers and remote workers can be on the other side of the world. The disconnected nature of our locations means that there is always the temptation to answer those midnight emails, to add just a little more information for those team members who are just logging in. 


We’re not even safe when we’re at home. The instant-messaging creep is so pervasive that we can never really shut down at the end of the day. We feel pressure to reply to those small requests and quick emails whenever we have our devices handy—it only takes the ping of a phone. Always on really means ALWAYS. 


Look, we know there’s no OFF button for life, but there has to be an alternative to always on. Luckily for you, there is, and it’s been staring us in the face the whole time. Asynchronous communication is the answer, and email is the best example of how you can take back control of your life.


What is Asynchronous Communication Exactly?

what is asynchronous communicationPhoto by Aleksandar Cvetanovic on Unsplash


The definition of asynchronous communication is best explained by comparing synchronous and asynchronous communication. Synchronous communication requires two (or more) participants to be active at the same time and on the same platform—like a telephone call or Skype, for example.


Asynchronous communication, on the other hand, does not require both parties to be active/online in order to share information. Email is the best example of this, but standard SMS messages and voicemail are also asynchronous.


The difference between synchronous and asynchronous communication then, isn’t necessarily in the tools we use, but the underlying technology that those tools are based on. If your team chat or communications apps are based on synchronous logic, then there’s a good chance that your stress levels will increase, and your concentration levels will decrease. It can even lead to job burnout, perhaps the most destructive result of the always-on mentality.



Asynchronous Communication and Flow

Asynchronous communication depends on a mutual understanding that, once the information is transmitted, it will be dealt with in as timely a fashion as is humanly possible. It fosters a healthier way to communicate. Colleagues, clients, and friends no longer depend on or demand instant replies. The technology itself guides our messaging etiquette.


With this in mind, it’s easy to understand how asynchronous communication can be hugely beneficial to your flow. Flow is how you work most effectively. Concentrating all of your efforts on a single task. Giving yourself space to be creative. Asynchronous communication is your best friend when it comes to flow. It allows you to turn off, and only connect or reply when you choose to. It enables you to minimize distractions. To really dive deep into complex work.


Synchronous vs Asynchronous Communication – Finding a Balance

When it comes to collaboration, then synchronous forms of communication do offer a few benefits. They allow you to share ideas and brainstorm together instantly. However, if you’re relying on a single app such as Slack, these are quickly outweighed by the negatives. The right balance then, is crucial, and here at Spike, we’re working hard to bring you the very best of both worlds.

Spike’s foundation is asynchronous.

It’s based on email and includes all of the features you need to communicate effectively with clients, colleagues, and friends. However, we’ve taken email and reimagined it for the 21st century, bringing you a chat-like format that no longer relies on confusing or repetitive threads and conventional email layouts. We’ve ditched the repetitive headers and signatures to create something altogether more conversational. In fact, we call it Conversational Email, and it’s built to help you find your flow. 


Conversational Email brings you all the advantages of chat—it encourages streamlined communication, it’s responsive and flexible, and it allows you to make real connections with those around you. Put simply, it’s a more human way to connect. However, since Spike is built to be asynchronous, you also have the opportunity to reclaim control of your time. To put all of your effort into your work. To concentrate and be creative. Spike brings you all of the connection and none of the pressure. 


If you want to learn more about flow, the difference between synchronous and asynchronous communications or you are on the lookout for ways to be more productive in your daily life, check out the Spike blog and stay tuned for the best tips and tricks around.

Spike Team The Spike team posts about productivity, time management, and the future of email, messaging and collaboration.

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