Why Slack Sucks: The benefits of async communication in software development

Posted by
Nate McGuire in Development category

When it comes to software development, Slack is not the holy grail of communication. In fact, it can actually hinder productivity and lead to miscommunication. Asynchronous communication, on the other hand, can greatly improve the workflow and efficiency of a remote development team. We’ve figured this out first hand at Mayven Studios with our remote development team of 60+ over the last 8 years.

Getting into flow, and losing it

One of the main issues with Slack is the constant interruptions it causes to a developer’s flow state. Time zone differences necessitate async comms, and it’s clear that our team is much more productive without the constant distractions of synchronous communication. Synchronous communication is often just a constant interruption and it’s not always appropriate for complex or sensitive issues, and can be overwhelming with constant notifications and messages.

Why async wins

The benefits of asynchronous communication are numerous. It allows for clear and thoughtful responses with time to digest before responding. This encourages developers to take the time to properly understand and address issues, and reduces the likelihood of misunderstandings and miscommunication. Asynchronous communication also facilitates documentation and organization, as there is always a source of truth (the sent message, in writing). It’s easier to keep track of progress and previous discussions, and it allows for better collaboration and knowledge sharing. Additionally, it increases productivity when people are not constantly interrupted. Developers are not constantly interrupted or distracted, and it allows for better time management.

Comparing different asynchronous communication methods, Email is widely used and accepted, it allows for easy attachment of files and documents, but it can be easily overlooked or ignored, sometimes people are lazy and don’t check their messages. It’s not always the quickest method, especially for time sensitive issues. Texting, Slack, and WhatsApp are quick and convenient, allowing for real-time communication but it’s not always appropriate for complex or sensitive issues.

How to incorporate async into your worklife

Incorporating async communication into your workflow can be done even if you aren’t in a different timezone. You can block off time on your calendar for your flow work or block time in the mornings or evenings to respond to emails/messages/etc in bulk so you aren’t distracted the rest of the day. There are also some apps that can help you with this, for example, Superhuman email client has a send later feature, or reminders to review messages, making sure it is top of mind on the receiver’s timezone. Additionally, Do not disturb, Focus, and Sleep modes on Mac are great for this.

Don’t let Slack be the downfall of your remote development team’s productivity. Embrace the benefits of async communication and use the right tools to make it work for you. You have all the tools at your fingertips that can help you to be more productive with async digital work.

Headquartered in San Francisco, our team of 50+ are fully distributed across 17 countries.