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From Home to Hybrid: Asana’s COO Shares Back-to-Office Advice on Productivity
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From Home to Hybrid: Asana’s COO Shares Back-to-Office Advice on Productivity

The way we work has fundamentally changed. COVID-19 upended business dealings and office work processes, putting into hyperdrive a move towards digital collaboration platforms that allow teams to streamline processes and communicate from anywhere. According to the International Data Corporation, the revenue for worldwide collaboration applications increased 32.9 percent from 2019 to 2020, reaching $22.6 billion; it's expected to become a $50.7 billion industry by 2025.

"While consumers and early adopter businesses had widely embraced collaborative applications prior to the pandemic, the market saw five years' worth of new users in the first six months of 2020," said Wayne Kurtzman, research director of social and collaboration at IDC. "This has cemented collaboration, at least to some extent, for every business, large and small."

Businesses using these applications before the pandemic may have had a smoother transition to remote work. That was the case for British footwear brand Dr. Martens, which had been using the Asana platform to streamline work and communications for its global marketing team. Asana allows businesses of all sizes to organize strategic initiatives; monitor timelines, status and workloads across team projects; provide feedback on documents; request approvals on work; automate work processes and more. When COVID-19 caused offices to close, Stacey Kemp, who is the creative services manager at Dr. Martens, says Asana helped them adapt. "With 2020 forcing us to drastically change our way of working, our 'facetime' initially went up and productivity within work hours plummeted. To combat this, we had to get much better at giving clear instructions, feedback, and having discussions via written word. Asana helped us bring everyone's thought process into one centralized place," she says.

This fall, as enterprises everywhere decide whether to return to the office, continue working remotely or establish a hybrid working model, collaborative technology platforms will be more important than ever, says Anne Raimondi, chief operating officer of Asana. "As we continue in uncertain times, a platform that allows for well coordinated and distributed work is a must-have for any nimble organization. It allows work to continue in-person or remotely, with consistency, reliability and maximum flexibility."

"When organizations are able to forge ahead with the core tenets of teamwork — clarity, transparency and accountability — then they're able to continue their mission with passion and empowerment, whether their team is at the office or at home," says Anne Raimondi, chief operating officer of Asana

Raimondi shared the following advice with business leaders as they overcome COVID-19 survival mode and move into the next productive work phase, whatever shape that may take.

1. Reduce "work about work." Some call it busy work, some call it a threat to productivity. The Asana team calls it "work about work," and says it applies to communicating about work, searching for information, switching between apps, managing changing priorities, following up on the status of projects and other tasks involving work coordination rather than making headway on the skilled work itself. According to Asana's "Anatomy of Work Index 2021: Overcoming Disruption in a Distributed World," 60% of workers' time is spent on this kind of work, while 40% of time is spent on the skilled job a person was hired to do. In order to increase productivity and create room for meaningful work, businesses must first identify the areas that are detracting from that work. "When work about work happens, skilled work doesn't. To solve for this, consider reducing the number of unnecessary meetings, blocking time for focused work and streamlining workflows across teams using a collaborative platform," says Raimondi. "When you empower your team to do the work they were literally hired to do, you'll see your employees — and your organization — flourish."

2. Banish burnout. The pandemic has tested us all physically, mentally and emotionally. Businesses everywhere are starting to see that toll on their teams in the form of burnout, which the World Health Organization defines as "a syndrome conceptualized as resulting from chronic workplace stress that has not been successfully managed." According to Asana 71% of workers experienced burnout in the last year. Almost half (46%) of respondents said they were overworked, while 32% said they were unable to switch off or disconnect and 29% cited a lack of clarity on tasks and roles. "Employees have spoken, and they're not ok," says Raimondi. "Leaders must take the reins here and work to understand, address and eliminate the root causes of burnout." Across the country, corporations are finding ways to tackle burnout, such as camera-free days, or time off for mental health purposes. Asana has had a long-standing "No Meeting Wednesday" policy, which will evolve as employees return to the office and allow for the hybrid options of "Work from Home Wednesdays" and "Flexible Fridays" to allow for options and time to focus on creative or strategic work.

3. Be ready to adapt. According to Asana's research, 65% of employees believe that the skills needed for their job will evolve. Raimondi says that flexibility, today, can best be supported by technology, like Asana, that helps workers carry out their jobs, regardless of what is happening in the world around them. "When organizations are able to forge ahead with the core tenets of teamwork — clarity, transparency and accountability — then they're able to continue their mission with passion and empowerment, whether their team is at the office or at home," she says.

That's been the case at GoodRx, says Tori Marsh, who is the company's director of research. "Before COVID-19, Asana was our bible for the team. Now, it's even more so. Rather than talking to my coworkers on the other side of the table, we're communicating in Asana comments. We're still able to track everything that's going on without being there in person."

As business leaders set their expectations and goals for the new office environment — hybrid or otherwise — it's certain that flexibility and adaptability will be key. Organizations of all sizes may benefit from a reliable work management system that allows for order, consistency and clarity, so that employees working from anywhere can focus on the work they were hired to do, and not the extraneous tasks that can detract from their goals and their organization's purpose.

To learn more about Asana, visit Asana.com