Remote Work

How Asana uses Asana: Managing a distributed team

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Staying connected is no easy task, but during the shift to remote work team leads have had to adapt on the fly to managing distributed teams. Learn how these five Asana managers are helping their teams collaborate while working remotely.

What Asana feature(s) have helped you keep your team connected while everyone is remote?

Parijat Talkad, Manager, Talent Acquisition Operations, San Francisco

“We have a shared meeting agenda project where we gather agenda items that need to be discussed, share out quick links to resources (i.e. best practices for remote candidate interviews), and discuss out-of-office coverage needs. This last one is huge—it is such a quick and easy way to share who will be covering for a specific coordinator. It helps us schedule tasks and handle any ad hoc scheduling issues—without needing to pull everyone into a meeting.

Having all of this information in one section allows for my team to share issues, concerns, or solutions they have come across. That way, we can mimic in-person questions, updates, and feedback. It also provides a central location for our global team members to share, learn, or give feedback and advice. Though our shared meeting agenda project has played a bigger role while we’ve been remote, it has been extremely helpful with helping our global team members to continue to feel connected.” 

Jenny Thai, Head of Content, San Francisco

“The top three Asana features I use to manage my distributed team are: 

  • Projects. From weekly 1:1s to group meetings, I use meeting agenda projects to track discussion topics and follow-up items for every meeting. This makes it easy to capture and curate agenda items in advance so that my team and I can make the most of our meeting time.
  • Conversations. Video conferencing fatigue is real, so if there’s an update that I can share asynchronously through a status update or comment, I do it in Asana instead of scheduling another meeting.
  • Portfolios. My team works on a wide range of marketing initiatives, from product launches to content marketing, so I use Portfolios to stay on top of everything. I can see status updates at a glance and drill down into specific projects to get more details if needed.”

Kim Pak, Head of Culinary, San Francisco

“Our team keeps everyday operational planning running smoothly by using rich text hyperlinking and adding tasks to multiple projects when necessary. Tasks are updated in real time, so team members always have the context they need.”

Ariel Tavares Grilo, Localization Manager, Dublin

“On the localization team, all of our teammates are spread around the globe—all of our language specialists, project managers, and desktop publishing specialists are based in different regions with different time zones. Even before COVID-19, we used Asana as a work management tool for all of our communication. The visibility that Asana provides is key for keeping our team connected and in sync! 

For example, we have forum projects per language where our specialists can connect with one another over their work, but also share news, suggestions, insights, or comments as necessary. It allows our teams to interact all of the time in different situations—by commenting in the different tasks, they can get the best of a wonderful, collaborative, and friendly environment. We’ve also set up Rules in those projects to make sure everyone is added to relevant tasks and kept in the loop.”

Ashley Waxman, Head of Employer Brand & Organic Social, San Francisco

“Since going remote full-time, our team has used due dates and, in particular, due times. That way, we can ensure clarity of communication and responsibility, which is particularly important when we can’t share context in person. It’s easy to think that due dates are a given, but some tasks are meant to communicate information and not necessarily created to be actionable parts of a larger project. Assigning a due date ensures that if the person misses the task when it’s first assigned, they’ll see it in their Inbox and the Today section of their My Tasks on the day it’s due. 

Due times are also super helpful to communicate prioritization. When you get tasks from your manager, but you don’t get a chance to talk to them live, it can be hard to decide which one to tackle first. I try to put due times on tasks when I know someone has a lot on their plate, so they can prioritize accordingly.”

Have you onboarded a remote teammate? If so, how did you use Asana during the process?

Parijat Talkad, Manager, Talent Acquisition Operations, San Francisco

“Since transitioning to remote work, I have onboarded four new recruiting coordinators to my team. 

One thing we did—even before transitioning to remote work—was create a dedicated project for each direct report’s onboarding schedule, tasks, and resources. This ensures every team member has clarity. With the project, the new hire knows what they need to accomplish in a given week, what tasks require action, and what tasks are helpful reading or reference. This allows both myself and the new team member to have effective and clear communication on tasks that might require additional context. 

Having all of the resources during onboarding laid out in one place lets me check in on my new teammate’s progress offline—without having to meet face-to-face. That way, when we do meet on a video call, I can take the time to check in with them, see how they are doing, and learn about them.”

Kim Pak, Head of Culinary, San Francisco

“Yes! Typically, onboarding schedules can conflict with new culinary team members, due to daily operations. Having this time to dive into Asana has given our new team members a chance to learn and adapt to all of Asana’s great features.”

Ariel Tavares Grilo, Localization Manager, Dublin

“All of our onboarding processes are always remote, since our team works around the globe. To keep onboarding activities organized, we create a dedicated onboarding project for each new hire. That way, we can schedule all of their activities in one place and easily follow up on the onboarding process for each new hire.”

What team building activities has your team done while remote?

Parijat Talkad, Manager, Talent Acquisition Operations, San Francisco

“We have done a few team-building activities—especially because half my team joined since we started working remotely, and a couple of my team members are in our global offices. These include: 

  • Daily work blocks: In order to mimic working in the office next to each other (where you can easily ask a coworker a question), we create a call that we can hop into and out of as needed. 
  • Daily virtual coffee breaks: Usually when we’re in the office, the team will grab coffee and catch up together. We’ve created an optional, recurring 15 minute meeting for team members to get to know each other, catch up, and continue building their working relationships.
  • Monthly games and happy hours: There are a lot of virtual games that have come out in the past few months, and my team has taken advantage of these features. Our favorite is an online version of Pictionary! This is something that I, as a manager, definitely prioritize, since it’s a great way to unwind and get to know the team.

Asana is also big on gifs, memes, and Appreciations, so we are constantly sharing in our team chat to keep the laughs and smiles going!”

Jenny Thai, Head of Content, San Francisco

“Right when we first went remote, we did a team exercise to reflect on and review our CliftonStrengths results. This was especially timely because it helped everyone better understand individual working styles and preferences. Context and nuance can get lost when you’re not working together in person, so it’s all the more important to be mindful of how people prefer to communicate and collaborate.”

Kim Pak, Head of Culinary, San Francisco

“The culinary team loves making video mashups, so we created a fun cooking demo for the company about how we cook together no matter where we were.” 

Ariel Tavares Grilo, Localization Manager, Dublin

“At the beginning of the switch to remote work, we created a task with tons of comments, fun facts about ourselves, and pictures. To date we have 28 collaborators and over 275 comments, images, and GIFs to help our team connect from around the globe.”

Ashley Waxman, Head of Employer Brand & Organic Social, San Francisco

“I have a small team of three, and to ensure that each person has a hand in co-creating how we communicate and work together as a team, everyone owns a piece of our team connections throughout the week. I plan our Monday team standup agenda, another person plans our end-of-week standup agenda, and the third person posts a Friday prompt in our team channel that’s typically really fun and helps us to get to know each other on a more personal level. 

I love that each person is doing something that plays to their interests and strengths, and we have more accountability to each other because we know that the rest of the team is relying on us to make our piece happen.”

Any final tips for remote managers?

Parijat Talkad, Manager, Talent Acquisition Operations, San Francisco

“Being remote and physically separate from your team can make you feel far apart, but use the tools you have to stay connected either in real time or asynchronously. Having a framework for how you and your team communicate helps ground everyone and provides clarity on expectations. When there are clear deadlines, outcomes, and expectations, the team is more effective at driving change, taking action, or getting aligned on tasks and projects. 

Take breaks, drink water, stretch, and more importantly be kind to yourself.” 

Jenny Thai, Head of Content, San Francisco

“Everyone is learning and adapting to remote work together, so it’s okay if you don’t have all the answers right now. Get feedback from your team on what’s working and what could be better, and don’t be afraid to iterate as you go.”

Ariel Tavares Grilo, Localization Manager, Dublin

“All of Asana features help us organize and track our work so we have real-time visibility into who’s doing what by when. But for our team, we’re also managing high workloads with very short deadlines. Workload is key for us—it helps me get the perfect balance when I’m assigning new tasks. With Workload, I have clarity about the current team’s bandwidth, and I can prioritize and reschedule tasks quickly based on our team’s availability and capacity. I’d recommend Workload for every remote manager.”

Ashley Waxman, Head of Employer Brand & Organic Social, San Francisco

“Be flexible and invite your team to give feedback frequently on how the team operates together. Being remote means setting new norms and expectations, and it takes time to get into a rhythm that works for everyone. Building trust and creating space for your team to feel comfortable giving you feedback as their manager is critical to positive and productive team dynamics.”

Work from anywhere with Asana

If you’re managing a distributed team, learn how Asana can help you connect and collaborate from anywhere. Or, if you’re interested in joining the team, check out our open opportunities today.

Special thanks to Ariel Tavares Grilo, Kim Pak, Parijat Talkad, Jenny Thai, Ashley Waxman

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