The Significance Of Work Efficiency

As humans, we have a limited number of hours each day to get our work done. No way around that. While we have no power over time, we do have control over how efficient we are. At ElementIQ, we work with a variety of clients in different industries, so making sure we put our best foot forward every hour is something we have to get right every time.

I sat down with our in-house Web Developer Kevin Hashimoto to discuss how he likes to tackle the challenge of maximizing your effort in a given time-frame. Take a look below.

Stivian: Hey Kevin, thanks for joining me today. You’ve had a pretty extensive post-secondary background so far, mind sharing what you’ve studied?

Kevin: I went to film school, business school and then I went into programming. I’m currently dabbling in design, so it’s been quite the range of experience.

Stivian: What do you like about development? Is it scratching that creative itch or getting to think strategically?

Kevin: A bit of both, actually. With development, it’s not so visual, but I love creating things from scratch. I’m a very do-it-yourself kind of person. If I need something and it doesn’t exist, I’ll just make it.

Stivian: Have you always had an interest in work efficiency?

Kevin: I think so. I’ve always wanted to work as efficiently as possible. It bothers me when things aren’t going as smoothly as they can be.

Stivian: Have you seen things at ElementIQ that could be more efficient?

Kevin: With ElementIQ, it’s more that everything’s always in the process of change. We’re continuously improving processes as we find them. There’s a lot to improve on, and there’s a lot that we do well.  

Stivian: What’s something you’ve seen implemented at ElementIQ that’s made a big difference in how we work?

Kevin: Me joining is one. *laughs*

I think how we structure our project management with Teamwork. Since we don’t have a dedicated project manager, getting organized with that tool has been keeping projects in order. If we misuse it, our communication gets disorganized and projects get chaotic.

On the design side, Invision has been really good. There’s a lot of tools inside of it that help with development workflows.

Stivian: How do you get ready for the day? Does your routine start in the morning or at night before work?

Kevin: I’m a night person, to be honest. I just work so much better at night. Somewhere from 10 PM to 2 AM is my sweet spot. My morning routine is pretty relaxed. I wake up and hang out for a bit until I get in the mood. I’ll eat some granola bars, drink a protein shake, check out Instagram and get to work. I’m not a morning person but I’ll get up and do what I need to do to prepare.

Stivian: There you go. I know you freelance on the side, do you find working at an agency 9 to 5 and working on the side to be difficult?

Kevin: Oh yeah, totally. Even if I were to be just freelancing full-time, it’d be really difficult because it’s so volatile and unpredictable. Juggling a full-time job at an agency and then freelancing right after that is pretty tough but I’ve got goals I want to get to, so they keep me going.

Stivian: Nice, what are some of these goals?

Kevin: I’m launching my own branding agency, and my other goal is working fully remote, preferably on a beach somewhere.

Stivian: That’s the dream. What’s the Pomodoro technique? I’ve heard you mention it before.

Kevin: It’s a technique where you work for 25 minutes at a time and take a 5-minute break, and so on. The urgency of the timer keeps you focused because you know you don’t have a lot of time. I find I’m more focused throughout the day with the 5-minute break in there. It’s a good power-hour.

Stivian: I guess you could call it a power-25. How do you like to spend your 5-minute breaks?

Kevin: I like to get up, get a glass of water and walk around a little bit. I don’t want to be in front of my computer waiting for the 5 minutes to expire, as I need to refresh my brain for the next session.

Stivian: Have you been using this technique for a while?     

Kevin: A little while, yeah. I’ve been experimenting with different times blocks, just because development has a different workflow. I tend to work for longer than 25 minutes at a time.

Stivian: What are some of the challenges with being a web developer compared to previous jobs you’ve had?

Kevin: Thinking ahead is a big one. You need to structure how you develop things ahead of time. You need to make things scalable and maintainable so you’re always considering the future when building.

Stivian: That makes sense. What does the ideal workflow set-up look like to you?

Kevin: In terms of development, I like to have the design finalized before I touch development, just in case things change because I have to go back and re-do my work. Getting everything finalized before actually building anything is ideal, and it’s what we’re in the process of standardizing here. On the design side, you want the scope of the project before you get to work. Having clear steps detailed before getting to work makes for smooth projects.

Stivian: At ElementIQ, we work two days of the week from home. How do you find remote work? Do you find yourself more productive or focused with the extra time to rest?   

Kevin: Honestly, it’s a mix. Some days I feel more productive, some less. Some, I’m more focused, others not so much. I find the flexibility to work at my own pace and catch up after 5 PM a bonus. It’s also a little more relaxing working from home. Some days I go to a café, grab a warm drink and some pastries and work from there.  

Stivian: That sounds pleasant. What do you think are your best habits that have resulted in professional success?

Kevin: Being straight to the point, and not too humble about things. When you sugarcoat some things, your points might not get across at times. I used to be pretty humble and sugarcoat everything, just because I wanted everyone to like me. The way this comes back to efficiency is if you want things to change, you can’t sugarcoat them.

Stivian: I agree. I think it’s important to acknowledge the difference between dishonest harmony and being truthful for the sake of productivity. Were you a disorganized person before? Did you have to work hard to develop good habits?

Kevin: I think I was pretty disorganized. In terms of school, I never liked it so I was disorganized from the beginning, but my accumulation of experience and experimenting with different methods has brought me to where I am today.

Stivian: Do you have any advice for people who might be disorganized and are trying to build good habits?

Kevin: Every person is different. I’d suggest exploring different methods of working and finding that zone that you’re comfortable in.

Kevin has recommended this video series from InvisionApp that goes over workflows for design teams, a must watch for anyone involved in design projects!

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CMPNY Coquitlam And The Importance Of Coworking Spaces

ElementIQ has a fairly unorthodox approach to where we work. We currently spend two days of the week remotely, and the other 3 are spent at CMPNY, a coworking space in Coquitlam.

Wondering what a coworking space is?

Coworking spaces are shared workspaces with desks in the open, private offices, and meeting rooms making up the majority of the floor. The flexibility, price point, and amenities offered are stealing entrepreneurs, freelancers, and small businesses from traditional workspaces.

We had the chance to sit down for an interview with boss lady Alicja Mazur, Director of Communications and Community at CMPNY to discuss how these innovative hubs are creating opportunities and fostering communities for teams of all sizes.

Stivian: Hey Alicja, thanks for doing this. Tell us a little bit about your professional background.

Alicja: I started out in retail, as we all do, where I perfected my salesmanship skills. Then I became an Executive Assistant for a software development company, whereupon I started working for the Port Moody Arts Centre as a Communications Manager. Then I landed this gig, where I was a Space Manager for about two years.

Stivian: Word on the street is you recently got a promotion?

Alicja: Yup, I’m now the Director of Communications and Community.

Stivian: What’s that gonna entail?

Alicja: It’s an experiment! I’m hoping to grow the community in Burnaby and Coquitlam. I’m going to come up with a strategic plan for us in regards to communicating the benefits of coworking.

Stivian: That’s exciting. Big role. Tell me a little bit about CMPNY, what you guys do, and what your values are.

Alicja: CMPNY is a coworking space that primarily focuses on shared office space, shared desks, shared meeting rooms, etcetera. Our clients are small business owners, entrepreneurs, contractors, freelancers and the like. They can share among the resources of CMPNY and the community to grow their business and look more professional to their clients, and be in that continual phase of growing and acquiring knowledge.

Stivian: Makes sense. Is there anything behind the name? You guys were Spacekraft before, right?

Alicja: We were Spacekraft before. That was a stylistic choice because we wanted to represent innovation. That being said, we felt that we’ve grown quite a bit from our original choice, so we rebranded as CMPNY. The reason it’s CMPNY with no vowels is because it’s such a striking visual. If people recognize the brand, that’s the first step to success.

Stivian: It’s a strong name, I like the look. What sort of impact have you seen CMPNY have in the local community?

Alicja: The impact we’re having in the Tri-Cities right now is that we’re getting people used to the idea of coworking spaces. What we’ve noticed is that most people in the suburbs either commute all the way downtown or work from home. There’s very few local jobs that allow people to commute in 5, 10 minutes, and the people that work from their homes are comfortable doing so. Something that CMPNY’s doing right now is making sure that talent comes here because that brings the zest of business relationships, and that grows the businesses inside the coworking space.

Stivian: Nice. Why do you think businesses are coming here? What’s drawing them in over traditional working spaces?

Alicja: Well, there’s scientific-based research that says that working remotely isn’t healthy for people. People who work remotely are more likely to experience depression, they’re more likely to be divorced, and people who commute long hours downtown typically experience decreased life satisfaction overall. So for those able to work remotely, over the internet, and not having to be at a workplace, all of a sudden you have this opportunity to be at a workplace. You might not want to work at your house, per se, because there’s so many distractions there.

Stivian: That makes sense. I think the whole loneliness thing, being alone Monday through Friday, 9 to 5, that’s got to have an effect on those working from home. I guess some people can pull it off but…

Alicja: Well that’s why you see an increase of people working out of coffee shops. They want to be around people because we’re inherently social creatures.

Stivian: So you get a lot of freelancers and solopreneurs, do you guys do anything to build a community for them?

Alicja: Yes! So, one of the main missions of the Space Managers, and one of CMPNY’s main missions is to make sure we host events that people want to go to and make connections. Not necessarily rigid business connections, but more-so friendly, neighbourly, communal connections. I come from a Political Science and Communications background, so the value that people get out of micro-communities and micro-villages is stupendously strong and influential. That’s where you form friendships. That’s why the eradication of neighbourhoods causes so much panic.  

Stivian: Are people enthusiastic about the events? Do you see them come out pretty often?

Alicja: Yep, we have really great turnouts and we usually have a bunch of different people that come out to them. We have a mix of social events, and their primary reason for existing is for people to get to know one another. We have education programming where we bring in an expert on a certain topic so you can learn more and bring a new tool to your arsenal. Next week we’re doing a lip-sync battle. It’s just one of those things where if you can lip-sync in front of a bunch of strangers (who might be friends now), you now have the confidence to do that pitch in front of an investor that can take your business to the next level.

social lunch
One of CMPNY’s beloved social lunches.

Stivian: If you could organize one event – your DREAM event, what would it be?

Alicja: If I had unlimited funds, I would take all the CMPNY folk on a 7-day retreat cruise where we would talk about professional development, and bring in a business coach, a life coach, a psychologist and a business planner, and have each person go through that, and go through it together as a community. That would be a cathartic experience.

Stivian: That’s better than what I had. For some reason, my brain jumped to bringing in like 12 llamas to the office. So the Digital Nomad movement has become very popular within coworking spaces, do you get a lot of these people coming through?

Alicja: Absolutely. Again, it’s one of those things where you want to connect. Correct me if I’m wrong, but Digital Nomads usually specialize in specific areas, and while they might be able to Google a resource or call a colleague in Alberta, it’s way easier to just talk to somebody face to face. That face to face interaction is key to improving and learning better. If somebody shows you how to do something, as opposed to reading a blog about it, that’s much more likely to stick.

Stivian: Has the industry changed a lot since you started at CMPNY?

Alicja: The industry has changed quite a bit. A little history of coworking – the connotation of coworking started with the dotcom movement in Germany. A bunch of hackers rented a basement and were like “…This is pretty sick. It costs us all virtually nothing and it’s fun working together.”. It then migrated to Silicon Valley, where it was more of the bean-bag chairs recreational area and developing personal relationships. You can see that at Google’s headquarters where they have a bunch of benches, a cafeteria, ping pong, and things like that. And then it came here because there was a need for it. With the whole Digital Nomad movement and the fact that office spaces were becoming increasingly more expensive, why not work out of coworking spaces?

Stivian: That’s a big impact. Last question. What role do coworking spaces play today and how do you see them evolving in the future?

Alicja: Coworking spaces right now fill a niche for community building and a lack of affordable building space. I see coworking spaces expanding like franchises, similar to Starbucks and McDonalds. People want to work close to home, as they’re increasingly starting to value work-life balance. For parents who have careers that are demanding, it’s important to spend as much of your time with your kids as possible. You want that balance.

I think coworking spaces are going to be a-dime-a-dozen, and what that’s going to mean is they’re going to really differentiate themselves. For example, there’s L’Atelier downtown that’s primarily catered to creatives. For us, 10 to 15 years down the road, I can see us having a coworking space primarily for Digital Marketing people, a coworking space specifically for engineers, a coworking space for X, Y and Z. It’s just going to silo.

Stivian: That’s really cool. Any last words you want to add?

Alicja: CMPNY is cool. We love ElementIQ. #love.