Kelly Gurr
Stax on Stax
27 Mar 2020

Working From Home is the New Normal

In a world where COVID-19 leads the headlines and is the focus of most discussions, affecting everything from travel to grocery shopping, the Stax team is looking at how to best respond to the pandemic. Fortunately, we were already set-up to accommodate working from home arrangements.

When news of the coronavirus first hit, the team were vigilant in practising safe hygiene around the office. We’ve always had a policy in place to work from home— our cost and compliance team have always worked remotely from various locations around Melbourne. Whilst we’ll certainly miss the office banter and sparkling water on tap, in order to flatten the curve, most of us chose to work remotely before it became a requirement for non-essential businesses in Australia.

This combination, the pandemic and more people working from home as a result, could change the way of working for the future. Gartner (2020) states 64% of today’s professionals say they could work anywhere, and remote work policies are common (in place at 71% of organizations). By 2030, the demand for remote work will increase by 30% due to Generation Z fully entering the workforce.

A common concern regarding remote working is productivity. Without the social pressures that come with being in a physical office, will remote workers work slower or spend more time on non-work activities? Actually, research has found the opposite to be true. A two-year study by Stanford University found an increase in productivity from remote workers. Participating employees were more likely to work a full workday, had fewer sick days, and took less time off.

Having worked with local remote teams for the past few years, we’ve found our teams remain productive and invested when provided with trust and flexibility to do their work when and where they need. As a side note, we also fully endorse taking breaks and holidays. We have a ‘no leave, no life’ policy, which encourages taking time out to do the things you love. No one can work all the time!

A distributed workforce is successful with the right leadership and the right level of communication. We set clear expectations on the outcomes required and discuss deadlines. Each team (and individual) is accountable for their output with the flexibility to discover and deliver the solution their own way.

Working from home does take a mind shift though. It becomes even more important to keep communication open and frequent. Face time is crucial in helping to minimize feelings of isolation. Our goal at Stax is to maintain engaged and motivated teams. To do this we continually gauge how people are feeling and identify any challenges they may face. We keep the office banter going through different channels and even play virtual trivia!

The Stax team use several methods to ensure everyone feels included and informed, including:

  • Product roadmap and Confluence: to share a big picture view of what everyone is working on
  • Regular showcase: to demonstrate the value we’ve delivered each sprint
  • Trello and JIRA boards: to manage projects and view daily activity
  • Slack and Zoom: for everyday conversations and meetings

Whilst we are not sure how long we’ll all need to work virtually, what we can say is that as a team, we will be there for each other and for our customers. In the words of our CEO: keep calm and carry on.


Top tips for Remote Working

  • Set up your space: Where you work, when you work - make it work for you
  • Plan ahead: Set goals and keep to your usual routine as much as possible
  • Over-communicate: Use your webcam and keep the chit chat going
  • Remain balanced: Exercise, keep learning, switch off and seek help if you need it

If you’re interested in finding out more about working at Stax, check out our careers page.

TL;DR

Here are a few of the things the Stax team have found to keep us connected, remain productive— and stay sane!

Be flexible

Many businesses are in a state of flux, as are households. There are still so many questions and uncertainty: where should I set up my workspace, what hours work best for me and others in my household, and so on. Flexibility is key.

Be sure to create a space that works for you. Stax has provided monitors and other equipment to help create a productive workspace. Give some thought to what you need to keep you going. For me, Spotify is a must. I can even keep listening to the Stax team playlist!

stax-home-office-wfh

Create a Framework

This is as important to individuals as it is to business. Put together a schedule that gives you time to stay focused but also allows for breaks. Setting a goal for the day will help. Stick to your usual routine: get dressed, prepare your lunch, remove distractions and time box projects.

It’s super easy to get caught in “the zone”. Suddenly four hours have passed, and you haven't moved from your chair. Alternatively, you may struggle to get into the zone! Either way, check out the pomodoro technique. Breaking projects down to 25-minute chunks helps to keep you on track and allow for a breather.

Keep Communication Open

Keeping in touch with the team is crucial. In a distributed working team, there is no such thing as over-communication. This applies as much to the fun casual chats as it does the official stuff.

We are big Slack users with channels for most topics. Even our CEO provides regular “blogs” in #general. Some of the handy channels we have to stay connected are:

  • #stand-up-while-sittin: a daily team standup
  • #family: getting to know people beyond the usual
  • #random: water cooler chit chat
  • #movements: saying hi/goodbye, popping out for lunch, milk or toilet paper!
  • #good-vibes-only: sharing links to things to make us smile

Getting in some face time reminds us that we’re not the only ones out there. Using Zoom has introduced us to kids, pets and some wonderful working environments! Number one rule: wear clothes! Theming optional.

stax-wfh-meeting-team

Look After You

This is an uncertain time so be sure to look after yourself. The Stax team have been sharing events which are being live-streamed e.g. Melbourne Symphony Orchestra and Twitch Stream Aid.

Ongoing professional development and networking are still key with many meet-ups and courses moving online, General Assembly and Product Women to name a couple.

If you are no longer having to commute, take advantage of the extra time: cook dinner, play with the kids, relax. Remember to get those steps in, a walk in nature can do wonders for the mind. Enjoy the extra time you get for you!

At Stax we are fortunate to have been granted an additional 14 working days of leave for anyone impacted by COVID-19. If you find you need support, access your Employee Assistance Program (EAP) who can assist with confidential counselling and coaching or reach out to a friend!