Flexible working and empowering staff with technology – AFS & Associates

AFS & Associates
AFS & Associates are a team of highly skilled and professional financial accountants and advisors based in Bendigo VIC. Founded in 1946, AFS has gained a wealth of experience through working with leading businesses in Bendigo and across Australia.
AFS & Associates

In 2017, AFS partnered with Strategic Group to ensure their team was supported and were able to access their business via the cloud.

Review of Processes

In 2019, AFS commenced work on a renovation project to fit more people into their office, this process quickly moved to a review of how the team worked. This was necessary as it became obvious that the move to an activity based working environment would allow AFS to provide a variety of work spaces for their team and support their company values and team focus.

Kate Mannix
The move to activity based working meant we needed an IT solution to be consistent across all team members so they could move around the office and use all spaces without favour for only those team members with laptops.
CEO

Going Paperless

In order to maximise the full potential of the new building configuration, AFS needed to progress to a paperless office.

After the goal to be paperless by 1 July 2019 was announced we worked through with each team to determine how this could be done and what technology we needed to assist with this.

Within the first two months of this goal being set, we reduced our paper use by 70%, saving copious trees. Along with the paper saving, this also then saw the reduction in our stationery, print and postage costs, a factor we didn’t really consider in the beginning and certainly wasn’t the driver.”

Flexible Working

While AFS reviewed how their team worked, they prepared to introduce a new Flexibility Policy across the firm. This policy allowed the team to work their standard hours between 7am-7pm to integrate work and personal lives in a way that worked for both the firm and for the individual staff member.

To be able to effectively implement a flexible working policy, create an activity based working environment, and go paperless, AFS decided to procure laptops for every member of the team. The refresh would apply to every team member and included monitors, keyboards, and mice, so that all technology was standardised across the firm.

This investment in technology allowed the AFS team to:

  • Work from anywhere connecting to VAULT
  • Move around the new office using the space that suited them on that day; a quite zone, somewhere where they could sit with their team, alone, near the window, in the collaboration spaces.
  • Use less paper, no training notes needed to be printed, meeting clients without folders of papers
  • Respond quicker to clients in meetings with access to the system at their fingertips

“One final change was our phone system, again to be able to work anywhere in the office we wanted to reduce the complexity of this, and that resulted in us investing in Avaya Office Equinox (soft phone option) running on the laptop and using headsets.”

Staff Engagement

The amount of change that the AFS team went through was huge but the benefits of a brand new office, flexibility, dress for your day initiatives and brand new IT devices and equipment, positioned AFS as an employer of choice in their region and industry.

Kate Mannix
“The increase in staff engagement was huge; there was a new vibe in the office after introducing the IT equipment, flexibility and dress for your day.”

“We even found team members logging on from home when too sick to come to work but able to get a few hours done from home. Team members getting work done outside of the office that normally would not have happened. We hoped that the investment would provide a pay back and it has.”

CEO

COVID-19

Just as the AFS were settling into their new digs, along came the worldwide pandemic known as COVID-19 to turn everyone’s lives upside down. Luckily, for AFS having just implemented all new devices and flexible working initiatives, they were able to quickly move to working from home.

“Feeling like Nostradamus we were able to implement the out of office module of our phone system and allow our team to work from home, at first by choice. After making the decision to close the office and have everyone work from home, it was a simple shift for all team members. Fortunately, we had allowed the team to take home their old monitors when we replaced them, therefore they could set up at home, plug in their laptop and headset and operate outside the office as they would have within the office.”

Vision to Reality

“Right through the building and IT change we engaged Strategic Group to provide their expertise and guidance on how we can make our vision a reality. They worked very closely with suppliers to arrange the complete fleet replacement, docks and monitors at a competitive price. “

“We knew the end outcome we wanted to achieve and allowed them to guide us in the areas that they specialise. Together we have implemented a robust working environment allowing our team to work flexibly within or outside of the office with zero client impact.”

Kate Mannix
We have moved to using video conference meetings for all team and client catch-ups, and using video calls within our phone system between team members. Whilst working remotely we have found the ability to ‘see people’ via video certainly helps the team engagement and personal contact. We even had our Friday night drinks and raffle via zoom!

We are grateful every day that we made this investment in 2019.”

CEO