Reuniting and thriving in a distributed world with Asana
April 20th, 2021
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After over a year of navigating a global pandemic without a playbook, a return to in-person collaboration and team gatherings (and hugs!) is finally in sight. Many organizations, including our own, are thinking about if and how they’ll reopen their offices and reunite their teams.
We know the future of work has been accelerated, and the way we work is more global and connected than ever. As teams reunite, there will be a wider variety of work environments than we’ve seen in the past. Some will be remote-only, some will be office-only, and others will be somewhere in between.
No matter the approach, connection is more important than ever. Teams thrive when they’re able to work together effortlessly.
At Asana, we’ve seen that collaboration and trust are spurred by shared daily experiences, face-to-face communication, and opportunities for impromptu discovery and co-creation. Given that we’re a growing, globally distributed company, we’ve naturally supported hybrid team environments and flexibility while being office-centric. After spending more than a year physically distanced, we’ve safely and mindfully supported our global teams to return to in-person collaboration in our new San Francisco headquarters at 633 Folsom Street.
Although our shift to remote work was sudden, we know that welcoming our teams back to the office isn’t as simple as just unlocking the doors. Since we were last together, we’ve virtually hired and onboarded more than 500 new Asanas globally who have never set foot in an Asana office. As we plan for our in-person return, we’ve invested in reuniting our teams through intentional re-onboarding, leading consciously, and fostering belonging and inclusion, all grounded in our own use of Asana.
Designing our return to hybrid work
At Asana, there really is no substitute for the connection and team flow we experience when we’re co-creating in the same space together. As a company, we’re focused on creating dynamic in-office experiences where teams can thrive, do their best work, and be heard and supported in their decision-making.
When considering our hybrid model, we also wanted to keep investing in our purpose-built culture that focuses on collaboration, inclusion, and personal and professional growth. We’re committed to supporting employees at all stages as they develop their careers, and that level of mentorship is best suited to being primarily face-to-face.
That means Asanas and new open roles will be primarily colocated in our 11 global offices, with flexible hours so that people can optimize when and how they work best. From the beginning of the company, we established trust in our employees and didn’t have set hours or ways of doing work. That will not change.
As we reunite our teams, we’ll incorporate additional flexibility that adds hybrid elements to our office-centric culture. Our long-standing No Meeting Wednesday policy will evolve to include the option of Work from Home Wednesday, and most employees will have the option of working from home on Fridays as well. With this shift, Asanas can synchronize in-person collaboration and the time needed for focus and individual flow, either at home or in the office, which enhances the value we get from both.
This flexibility also allows Asanas to take advantage of things like foregone commute time or the ability to take breaks to spend time with family, which have been some bright spots in our learnings from the pandemic. And when we’re in person, we’ll benefit from offices that are designed to foster opportunities for ad-hoc connection and co-creation through inclusive common spaces.
We’re particularly excited about our new headquarters in downtown San Francisco—a 12-floor LEED Gold-certified building, featuring communal spaces, a beautiful new commercial kitchen and dining area, dedicated wellness zones that promote mindfulness and taking breaks, and a rooftop garden that provides outdoor gathering space. We’re also eager to invite our customers, partners, and extended community to visit our new building and executive briefing center as we look to inspire more collaboration and innovation for teams.
Enhancing collaboration across globally distributed teams
In 2020, burnout and increased imposter syndrome were an acute reality for the workforce. While Asana isn’t immune to these challenges, we’ve been proactively addressing them in service of our mission, as well as our commitment to inclusivity and belonging. We’ve also invested more in community-building efforts so our employees feel connected to each other.
As a company focused on ensuring that teams around the world can work together with less effort, our product was essential to not only helping us transition to remote work quickly and smoothly, but to enduring as a company.
With Asana, we eliminate the “work about work” of searching for information, chasing status updates, and attending unnecessary meetings. Our product gives us clarity on who is doing what by when and how our day-to-day work connects to our biggest goals, so that we can focus on doing the work that drives the most impact.
We can’t imagine planning a global return to our offices without Asana as our foundation. Organizing our work in Asana allows us to stay flexible while keeping the right people informed, all with minimal effort. It serves as a fully connected, shared source of truth that allows us to stay focused on our mission.
Work management is critical for workplaces to flourish. No matter where teams do their work or what tools they use, they need clarity and connection. We believe Asana can be an essential tool to underpin organizations’ most important work.
Crafting an intentional return to in-person collaboration
As we guide our global teams back to the office, we’ve had the opportunity to do so in a way that allows them to reacclimate to a post-pandemic world and address ways to mitigate fatigue and burnout. While there was no playbook for shifting overnight to being entirely remote, we now have the opportunity to be intentional about our transition to reuniting in person. As theory becomes reality, we aim to stay open, curious, and values-aligned while co-creating the return with our teams along the way.
We’ve taken a phased approach, gradually ramping back into a full return to our offices. For our larger offices, we’ve started with smaller cohorts of employees whose early feedback has allowed us to iterate and prepare for the return of our entire group in September. For our smaller offices, we’re able to guide full teams back while staying flexible enough to adapt quickly as things evolve. Across teams and offices, we’ve used weekly quick polls, as well as broader surveys to ensure the employee experience feels values-aligned and supported.
Through trainings, resources, and programs, we’ve provided a holistic support system for employees as they acclimate to new routines and schedules. We’re rolling out coaching for managers on rebuilding team rituals in person and not through a computer screen. Just as transitioning to remote means more than just moving what was in-person to virtual, we’ll take the same intentional approach when it comes to reuniting our teams.
We believe in doing great things while living well, and early on in the pandemic, our leadership team reinforced a guiding principle: “Take care of yourselves. Take care of our customers.” Our global community has been resilient, and though we had no choice but to work apart, the experience has brought us closer together.
We’ve long approached our company culture like a product, applying the same design principles to our culture that we use to build Asana. In the spirit of our value, reject false tradeoffs, we believe we’ve found a way to achieve an exceptional office-centric culture while adopting the best elements of hybrid models to ensure that every one of our global team members can work together effortlessly, no matter where they are.
Editor’s Note: This post was updated to add clarifying details about our office-centric hybrid philosophy.