Four days a year in the office for workers

An Australian company is embracing working from home as the new norm after the pandemic and say its now crucial to business.

Australian tech company Atlassian only requires staff to come into their nearest office four times a year.

In fact, it’s billionaire co-founder and co-chief executive Scott Farquhar has only been to the Sydney headquarters three times in the last year and two of those days were for external meetings, rather than teaming up with colleagues.

“It’s been great on a personal level. I’ve spent more time with my children and less time in Sydney traffic, so that has been great, and at a practical level my team is around the world, so I am catching up with them on video individually and it’s actually better as everyone isn’t trying to dial into a conference room — it’s a better experience,” he told news.com.au.

“We have had one person who works in our executive team, he actually moved his family from Atlanta to Sydney about two years ago and now he has moved his family up to the Sunshine Coast in Queensland.

“He lives 10 minutes away from a great school, 10 minutes away from the beach, he’s renovating a house, and lives on 10 acres and he’s just as productive working from home as he would have been working in Sydney. I’m hearing great stories from staff on how they are making lifestyles changes to take advantage of this.”

More then 1000 Atlassian employees have moved since the pandemic, while 1500 new hires have also been made.

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Mr Farquhar said the $80 billion tech giant’s working from home policy is crucial to allow the company to tap into talent outside of Sydney and give people around Australia access to high paying tech jobs.

“So there are some businesses that said work from home two days a week but what that means is you can live in Sydney or maybe the Central Coast or stretch it out to Wollongong, but it’s not tapping into people in regional Australia or Brisbane, Melbourne or Perth,” he said.

The 5700 Atlassian employees around the globe can use into its ‘Team Anywhere’ policy and work from any location in a country where it has a corporate entity, where they have legal work rights and the time zone aligns with teams members.

But they can choose to return to the office, with Mr Farquhar revealing that 10 to 20 per cent of staff have come back, and its physical offices will be kept, including plans to build new Sydney headquarters. But acquiring any more spaces have been paused, although it is contemplating smaller hubs closer to where employees live.

A recent survey found staff expect to spend 50 per cent of their time in the office, although Mr Farquhar is not sure whether this will translate in reality.

However, to ensure their isn’t a system of “two tier employees” — those people who come into the office and can cosy up to the boss every day and others WFH, Mr Farquhar said the policy also focuses on keeping everyone on the “same footing”. For example, if there is a team meeting, everyone would join via Zoom individually rather than some colleagues sitting together in a conference room and others logging on remotely.

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In terms of the four days a year in the office, Mr Farquhar imagines these gatherings to be an “intense process” like a conference, where people may stay on site and the point is to build social bonds, rather than coming in to work.

He said generally the lack of flexibility around working means people have to decide between the lifestyle of their dreams or the job of the dreams — but at Atlassian now people can have both.

The WFH policy also benefits a range of people too from those who live far away, to people with a disability who may find it difficult to attend the office and primary caregivers who require flexibility, said Mr Farquhar.

Yet Atlassian seems to be an rarity among their tech giant peers. Recently, Google told employees they must live within commuting distance to offices and apply if they wish to work from home more than 14 days in a year, while Netflix and Amazon have also signalled employees should return to work.

Mr Farquhar said he is happy to lead the charge in new ways of working and said often what the company does “trickles down” to others.

“We are happy to be at forefront of changing the way people work so that’s the role we want to play and as we learn and pave the way we expect other companies to follow behind,” he said.

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