Asana tips: 5 ways to work from anywhere
March 9th, 2020
Read this article in French, German, Portuguese, Spanish, or Japanese.
Learning how to navigate a remote work schedule, manage a remote team, or encourage remote collaboration—while also trying to stay healthy—can feel challenging. But Asana is here to help.
The best way to succeed as a remote worker is to make sure you have all the tools and information you need to do the job well. From 100% remote companies like InVision and Adventure Travel Trade Association to wholly remote departments like Make School’s engineering team, Asana can help you and your remote team continue to accomplish your goals—no matter where you’re working.
Building trust while working remotely
Feeling plugged in if you aren’t at the office can be tricky. Remote managers may worry they don’t have a good enough sense of what their direct reports are working on—conversely, direct reports worry their manager can’t see all the work they’re doing. The truth is, we all need more visibility into our work.
When you use a tool like Asana to collaborate, your team can easily keep each other accountable and know who is responsible for what—no matter where each person is located. Think of it as a central source of truth that everyone can tap into from around the globe.
Having a collaborative central source of truth like Asana helps everyone gain clarity across an organization, so you know who’s doing what, by when, even when your team is remote.
Take Joshua Zerkel, for instance. As Asana’s Head of Global Community, has the pleasure of meeting our Asana Together community around the globe—but it also means he travels for work a lot. With Asana, he can remain aligned and clear on the projects he and the rest of the “Communiteam” are working on, no matter where they are. In an interview with Remote How, Joshua says:
“Part of what makes [remote work] work and work well is if you’re really clear on what it is you and your team are doing… Without that sort of coordination it’s really hard to truly be productive.”
Even with team-wide trust, remote work looks different depending on your company culture or industry. So we’ve looked to our Asana Community members for their favorite tips about working from anywhere.
5 ways to use Asana for remote work
1. Use “Drop in” projects to replace one-off chats and ideas
One of the advantages of working in an office is those just-dropping-by, see-you-at-the-water-cooler conversations—something that’s nearly impossible to recreate when you’re dialing in or only communicating through messaging apps. That’s why Asana Ambassador Mia Velasco recommends creating a special project to house those same types of brainstorms, conversations, and drop-in thoughts:
“I have an ‘Inbox’ Project that houses random one-off requests that I get from my colleagues. They are the types of requests that someone would pop by my desk to ask for my help with… now they’re housed in Asana so I can organize them into my overall workflow.”
Asana Ambassador Stephanie C’s team goes a step beyond “Inbox” projects. She says:
“Although many of our team interact with other staff who pop by for one-off requests, we always encourage them to submit a request form to help us manage the team workload, timelines, and ensure those not sitting in the pod can stay in the loop.”
2. Keep your remote team up to date with status updates and discussion threads
If keeping your team updated on your work is a challenge, status updates and discussion threads are the solution. With status updates, you have a one-stop-shop to update your team about the progress of your project. To make sure your team remains aligned every week, you can even set a reminder so Asana notifies you to send a status update every Friday.
Status updates feel too big? Try communicating by adding collaborators or tagging people in tasks or projects they need to see. It’s a key way Make School’s engineering department communicates. By commenting on tasks, the remote engineering team can discuss requirements and ideas, even if there aren’t clear action items yet. And they’re not alone—Asana Certified Pro Larry Berger uses a similar trick to keep his team up to date:
“I recommend using a single ‘Misc. Discussion’ task’s comment thread for quick one-offs and chats that don’t really require individual tasks.”
“Comments are critical. Because you don’t see people face to face, and can’t catch up during a coffee break, everything needs to be written down. Don’t hesitate to [tag coworkers] in comments… because Asana might be your only contact with the team.”
3. Provide context with conversations and comments
When you’re working remotely, you have to compensate for the conversations you aren’t able to have in person. Whether your primary mode of communication with your team is email, Slack messaging, Asana tasks, or something else, remote workers need to find a way to give color to their work and provide context behind what they’re working on.
With Asana, you can do that by adding a comment when you mark a task as “Complete.” Let your team know if they need to take any next steps—like staging a blog post—or provide much-needed context to keep your team in the loop—like letting them know a bug is fixed. Update your Sales team on an account’s status or share great news about a new client. Asana Community member, Dave, adds:
“An otherwise binary notification in your inbox becomes a more contextual oversight of what’s happening in the team… [It] only takes a second to do, but it allows [you] to get a better handle on what’s happening [across] the team.”
4. Indicate when and where work is taking place with custom fields
Custom fields are a great way to take even more control of your work and help coworkers everywhere get a sense of what you’re working on with just a quick glance. Custom fields allow you to clarify how long you think a task will take, specify the priority, or clarify how big the load will be.
If you’re thinking about remote work, try creating a “WFH” custom field, where you can mark whether or not a project could or was completed remotely. Then, with Advanced Search reporting, you can sort by the “WFH” custom field and show your team what can get accomplished remotely.
Another nifty way to use custom fields by working remotely is to clarify how communication will happen between you and your team. Asana Certified Pro Bastien Siebman, who has been working remotely for years, advises:
“It’s critical to be very clear about when you’re meeting and where it will take place. [Try creating] a custom field with the meeting location to make sure you have the right video conference link.”
5. Practice balancing accessibility and availability with “away” features
One of the bigger challenges of being a remote worker is balancing your new schedule with the feeling of being “always on.” We all know someone who answers emails on the weekends or checks their email first thing in the morning—some of us feel like we have no choice but to be constantly plugged in. But job creep can lead to burnout and other negative workplace effects–so much so that the World Health Organization recently declared burnout an “occupational phenomenon.”
When you’re working remotely, it’s important to differentiate between being accessible and being available. Taking breaks and establishing a structure to your workday is important no matter where your office is. That’s why Asana Certified Pro Paul Grobler recommends using the Asana “away” feature to let coworkers know you aren’t immediately answering tasks. Paul adds:
“When working remotely, always be accessible but not always available. Protect your attention for focused work. When going on leave use the Asana feature to show yourself as away. This will help your team to know when you are on leave [if they’re] assigning tasks to you.”
Working–and thriving–from anywhere
Remote work can seem overwhelming, especially if it’s not something you’re used to doing. The best thing to do is keep lines of collaboration and communication open with your team, and over communicate if necessary. Learn how Asana can help your team stay connected from anywhere, and stay healthy out there.