Welcome to our new weekly column, where we talk to CEOs, founders and tech leaders about the benefits they’ve discovered from WFH in 2020.
We kick off the series with former Xero boss and investor Chris Ridd, who chairs healthtech startup MedAdvisor, and likes to jump on his rowing machine between meetings when he’s not going for long walks during them.
“Back in 2012 I was a member of the Federal Government’s Telework Advisory panel helping to inform the government on policy initiatives to help advocate for telework. Our role, amongst other things, was to find ways to promote to business and industry the positive impacts of adopting working from home policies,” he said.
“Eight years on, a global pandemic turned it into a necessity. Reflecting back on those discussions, I am now seeing first hand the pros and cons of a world I was trying to envisage way back then.”
Ridd said that being involved in multiple tech companies and engaged with many different groups of people and teams, I get to see the best and worst of how working from home affects people.
“The bad? Working mums with young kids who can’t attend daycare. Working parents with only one study and juggling homeschooling. Young singles sharing a small apartment with other renters. Across all the challenges, I’m constantly impressed with the ability of people to adapt and thrive in what is for many, particularly in Melbourne, a frustrating and difficult situation,” he said.
“For most however, it has been a bit of a revelation and I am definitely in that camp.
“My work life today is managing a portfolio of interests as investor, non-executive director and adviser across five different tech companies in Melbourne. Each are of varying sizes and stages of growth, from fintech startups to an ASX listed medtech, and everything in between. I love the variety and pre-pandemic I would have spent 50% of my time in various offices and 50% at home. So the adjustment for me has not been too dramatic.”
Here are Chris Ridd’s six things that spark joy about his home office:
1. Zoom hopping between companies
My work life today is managing a portfolio of interests as investor, non-executive director and adviser across multiple tech companies in Melbourne. Each are of varying sizes and stages of growth, from fintech startups to an ASX listed medtech, and everything in between.
I love the variety and pre-pandemic I would have spent 50% of my time in various offices and 50% at home. So the adjustment for me has not been too dramatic.
Working across multiple companies has actually been made easier during lock-down. Forced into a situation where Zoom or Microsoft Teams has become the norm I have found it easy to jump between different companies at the click of a button.
Previously I would often travel between offices across Melbourne and so I estimate that I am saving between 1 and 2 hours of travel time on those days.
2. My office setup – maximising screen real estate
In order to make the home office as comfortable and productive as possible, I have also made new investments in technology to ensure a great experience.
New additions include 2 new high resolution screens (3 in total), new printer, chair and studio quality microphone to optimise the home office operation.
I read recently that Australian’s have invested more than $2B in upgrades to their home offices so count me in as a contributor to that statistic.
3. Daily walk and talk
The other advantage is being able to combine work with exercise.
Like most of us there are various mediums used to communicate with colleagues and despite the huge surge in video conferencing, the humble phone is still a popular choice.
During Covid I have made a habit of grouping my daily calls into a dedicated time slot and combining it with a solid 60-90 minutes of walking. It’s a great way to get exercise and allows me to get out of the routine of the home office whilst being productive.
4. Rowing machine
Whilst on the subject of exercise I also have a home (water) rower that I fortuitously purchased last summer well before the pandemic kicked in. It is a fantastic way to stay fit and an ideal workout between meetings.
Now that I can’t get to the gym, racing the clock on 500M and 1000M sprints means that my workouts remain strenuous even without a trainer yelling at me to go harder.
The downside is that the rower is positioned just opposite the beer fridge so at times it can be counterproductive.
5. Learning to be a barista at home
One other benefit has been the time and cost savings of making home coffee instead of going for take outs.
Like the personal rower, the coffee machine was already acquired well before the pandemic. When you are out on the road office-hopping you can spend quite a bit of time and money on takeaway coffees.
Admittedly I do miss my coffee meetings held in any number of great cafes across Melbourne but taking a break from work to produce a homemade barista coffee can be quite cathartic.
6. Playing my Didgeridoo
And finally, I have learned a new skill. I was not going to let those short breaks between meetings at home go to waste so I’ve managed to become proficient at playing the didgeridoo, circular breathing and all.
It’s a skill that would not have happened in an office setting because whilst you can develop a sense of calmness and serenity when playing the instrument, others around you would almost certainly find it far from relaxing.
As a musician it’s one of those iconic instruments that I have always wanted to learn and can now thank Covid for my new found skills.
And a note to my various tech colleagues on video conferences… if you ever see me go on mute and switch my camera off during meetings, I am actually doing it for your benefit. 😉