Focus on how, not where - lessons from Atlassian's distributed approach

What is a distributed work model and how does it impact productivity?

9th May 2024

Earlier this year Atlassian recently released a gem of a report titled 'Lessons Learned: 1000 Days of Distributed,' and it’s safe to say it’s speaking our language. Just like Flexa , Atlassian believes the real magic is in how you work, not where you work.

The report gives us an in-depth look into Atlassian’s 'Team Anywhere' approach to distributed working. Since 2020, the company has allowed employees to choose to work from home, in one of their 12 global offices, a mix of both, or somewhere else entirely.

In just three short years the company has achieved a lot 👇

💪 Employees have saved 10 days per year in time they would have previously spent commuting

🔥 The company has jumped up 40 spots on Fortune’s 100 Best Companies to Work For list (from #47 to #7) in one year

🎯 They haven’t seen any dips in productivity

💰 They’re saving money on real estate while still investing in thriving offices

⭐️ They’re bringing on top talent faster than ever before. The number of candidates per role is more than 2x higher since Team Anywhere launched

💻 Employees spend 13% less time in meetings and have reported a 32% improvement in focus

Pretty impressive right? As we were reading this report there was so much we wanted to share, but I’ve tried my best to narrow this down to three key takeaways.

Top 3 takeaways from the '1,000 Days of Distributed at Atlassian' report

Firstly, we need to shout about just how amazed we were by the level of work that has gone into pulling together these insights. Atlassian has its very own ‘Anywhere Lab,’ which is made up of dedicated behavioural science PhDs that run experiments with the goal of designing and validating smarter ways of working. This team has analysed Atlassian’s approach to distributed working over the last three years to bring us these learnings.

🤝 Intentional gatherings for the win

Atlassian understands the importance of in-person collaboration but isn't fixated on making it an all-the-time thing. They emphasise "intentional gatherings," which have boosted connection by 27%. These gatherings focus on what happens within those four walls, not just clocking in and out. They’ve found that people are more likely to visit the office when the experience is meaningful.

They also keep a close eye on office attendance to make smarter planning decisions. Checking in on metrics like cost per visit, visitor engagement, and how the space is being used helps them optimise the space for better use.

💻 Focus on how time apart supports time together

Understanding the difference between ‘sync’ and ‘async’ best practices have been a game changer for Atlassian. Sync is when people are working together, on the same thing, at the same time and async being the opposite. Atlassian promotes using sync time for creativity, navigating complexity, driving momentum, and bonding through best practices such as blocking off ‘open collaboration’ time and not defaulting all meetings to 30 minutes.

🎯 Measure productivity with outcomes, not tasks.

Atlassian quite rightly highlights that productivity issues do not disappear once you walk into an office. With just 1 in 3 executives believing a return-to-office mandate has a slight positive impact on productivity, it's clear the office isn't the ultimate solution for increased productivity.

The Team Anywhere Lab conducted experiments to improve the company’s distributed team effectiveness with the focus being on guiding Atlassian's to organise their time around crucial tasks. The team was encouraged to use time boxing techniques to focus on top priorities. This resulted in 67% of individual contributors and 71% of managers who took part in the experiment saying they made more progress on top priorities than in a typical week.

Why do we love Atlassian's distributed working approach?

⭐️ Attracts Top Talent

Our 2023 Flexible Working Report highlighted the growing interest in remote work, but also the shortage of remote jobs. l. The question remains: why aren't more companies adopting a strategy similar to Atlassian's? It's evident that making a distributed approach work requires effort, but the payoff is significant. A flexible workforce not only attracts top talent but also aligned talent, ensuring that your top employees will want to stay with you for longer.

🌍 Champions Diverse Hiring

Shifting focus from ‘where’ people work to ‘how’ people work allows for a more diverse workforce. Atlassian's distributed model has led to a 2x increase in female representation in India. Our Flexified companies also report a 65% boost in talent pipeline diversity since promoting their flexible ways of working .

❤️ Enhances Employer Brand

Atlassian's approach serves as a stellar example of how flexible working can boost your employer brand. The company proudly shares that 92% of their employees find their distributed working model makes them more productive. By showcasing your employees' love for your way of working, you can attract like-minded talent. Hundreds of companies use Flexa to get their flexible working environments recognised by over 2 million people.

A distributed work model is all about focusing on "how" you work rather than "where" you work. It's about giving people the freedom to do their jobs from anywhere, whether that's at home, in a coffee shop, or on the go. Instead of being tied to a physical office, teams collaborate using digital tools and stay connected through online platforms. This approach is built on trust and autonomy, where employees manage their own time and tasks. It's great because it opens up opportunities for people from all over to work together, reduces costs, and lets everyone find a work routine that suits them best. So, it's not about the four walls you work within, it's about the results you deliver!