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Bench: How We Stay Productive as a Team

Harmonie SpaldingLast Updated: October 28, 2014

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From time-to-time, we catch up with our friends over at Bench to talk about what’s going on with our teams. We share what’s been working, what we’ve learned–anything that could help each other out. Today, they’ll share some of these productivity tips with you. This is a guest post by Cameron at Bench.


When your business suddenly enters a period of rapid growth, how do you maintain a high level of productivity across all teams?

This is a challenge we’ve been addressing at Bench. As a scaleable online bookkeeping service, we pair every new client with a professional bookkeeper – meaning that the more clients we acquire, the bigger our workforce grows.

As we’re nearing the 100-employee mark we’ve had to develop a range of in-house methods to maintain productivity, maximise efficiency, and bring costs down both for our clients and for ourselves.

We wanted to share some of the tools and processes that have helped us to achieve this in the hope that they’ll benefit you and your business too. We’d also love to hear about any productivity hacks that you’ve developed, so please tweet them to us and share them in the comments section below. We’re listening!

Optimized Team Communication

Optimizing the way we communicate saves us time on individual, team, and company-wide levels. In addition to Flow, here are some apps that have proven critical in helping to streamline our online communication:

Close.io: Our sales and bookkeeping teams use Close.io to track and centralize all communication with clients.

Bloomfire: Everyone in the company has access to Bloomfire, a searchable database of company-specific information. We store everything from morning meeting notes, sales reports, accounting best practice guides, and other useful content that we’ve found on the net which helps us do our jobs more effectively. Over time the Bench Bloomfire account has become a goldmine of searchable information for everyone who works here, and it saves us from repeating answers to commonly asked questions.

We’ve also integrated the following practices to improve in-person interaction:

Lunch & Learn Sessions: Every Wednesday a different team member presents an hour-long presentation to anyone who wants to attend. One week it’s font and color selection, the next it’s a deeper look at using Excel. In-house Lunch and Learn sessions are a cost- and time-effective way of distributing valuable information and skills throughout the company.

Bierhaus: Always fun. Always on Friday afternoon. Bierhaus is a social, open company forum held every two weeks where department heads update us on company progress, and anyone is welcome to ask anything they like. It’s our way of proactively encouraging interaction across departments and teams while discouraging a sense of hierarchy.

One-on-Ones with Ian (Bench’s CEO): We steer clear of hierarchy. Similar to Bierhaus, we’re able to ask Ian anything we like – feedback on our performance, his take on the future of the company, even his thoughts on the next season of Game of Thrones.

Bench Academy

All new Bench employees go through a week-long training period we call Bench Academy. Everyone, no matter which department they work in, learns how to process client bookkeeping using Bench’s web platform.

After the training, every employee – from our CEO, our VPs of Marketing and Operations, to members of the dev and marketing teams – is tasked with managing the books of a Bench client. Having everyone work directly with Bench’s web platform helps us to understand our clients’ needs and identify areas where we can improve the Bench web app to better serve our clients.

A New Macbook Air For Every Employee

One of my colleagues (we call each other Bench Mates) used to work for a large multinational company before joining Bench.

“It took two weeks and cost $2000 for someone to move desks!” he said, marvelling at how easy it was for us to move desks and work remotely.

Using MacBook Airs instead of stationary desktop computers means that moving desks takes no more than a few minutes. It also makes it easy to head to a nearby cafe for a team meeting. Google Drive and Dropbox also help us to reduce time spent locating, sharing, and accessing documents no matter where we’re working.

Work Smart, Not Hard

Here’s an interesting story: during my first week at Bench I attended a company-wide meeting. Management announced that they’d noticed a lot of people working overtime and reminded us that, at Bench, we strive to work smart, not hard. We were reminded to ask teammates and managers for help to achieve our results without sacrificing a healthy work life balance.

I’d never before heard a manager, let alone a company, make my well being a priority. As an employee, this policy reminds me that I’m supported. It makes me feel valued. And it motivates me to collaborate with others to find ways to work smarter and produce better results without risking my sanity in the process.

A ‘No Questions Asked’ Work From Home Policy

“Hey, I’m going to work from Starbucks this morning.”

This is a common message to receive via email from a team member here at Bench.

Choosing to work from home is at every employee’s individual discretion. The only stipulation is that employees must be in the office if their presence is required for a meeting.

Our self-directed Work From Home option re-emphasises to everyone that we’re a results driven company. If working remotely increases your productivity and your well being, do it.

Our Approach to Dropbox

We hacked Dropbox. It’s a minor hack, a tweak if you like, that ensures we don’t lose information or waste time trying to track it down.

All new employees are set up with a dropbox account. Whenever an employee creates a new folder on their personal Dropbox drive, two specific team members in the company are given admin access. Knowing that two people have access to all of the company information on Dropbox means that we don’t lose information or waste time trying to track it down when an employee is sick or on vacation. It’s a simple hack that saves us plenty of time.

1Password

1Password is an app that generates secure passwords and saves them in a single account. All you need is a master password to log into your 1Password, and you’re able to access all of your saved online login information.

As a Content Manager, I have 40+ logins (and counting!) that I access on a weekly basis. For argument’s sake let’s say that it would take me 5 minutes each day to manually enter passwords for existing accounts and generate/store existing passwords.

If 1Password saves me 5 minutes a day, then that’s 25 minutes saved each week, and 1300 minutes (21 hours) I personally save each year. Multiply that 21 hours by 100 employees and we’re saving 2100 hours company wide per year thanks to a single app.

What cool hacks and processes are you using to increase team productivity? We’d love to hear them and chat with you in the comments section below.

Cameron McCool is the Content Manager at Bench, the online bookkeeping service that pairs you with a dedicated accountant and simple, elegant software to do your bookkeeping for you.

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