How Airwallex implemented a few simple changes during COVID-19, and boosted productivity by 50%

Craig Rees Airwallex

Airwallex vice president of platform, product and engineering Craig Rees. Source: supplied.

A remote business through and through, even Airwallex had to adapt to a new way of working during the COVID-19 pandemic. Ultimately, those changes led to a 50% uptick in productivity for the Aussie startup.

Airwallex was international from day one. It was built in Melbourne by a team of international students, to cut the costs and improve the transparency of international payments for businesses.

Five years later, it has a team of 600 (and counting) across 12 countries. This business was an expert in working remotely even before the COVID-19 pandemic made it commonplace.

Having strong communication has always been crucial. But, in 2020, almost all employees switched to working from home. At the same time, the business more than doubled its headcount, and its customer base too.

All of this meant senior team members were funding themselves being looped into more and more meetings.

Craig Rees, vice president of platform, product and engineering, tells SmartCompany conversations that would usually require a tap on the shoulder and an impromptu chat were being conducted via time-consuming Zoom calls.

Instead of just tapping a colleague on the shoulder, he found himself filling his days with Zoom meetings.

So, the business has made a shift towards what Rees calls a “document-first approach”.

Team members document changes through Salesforce, Confluence and Google Documents, so there’s always a single source of truth. Then, things such as Slack and email are used for more spontaneous communications.

People can then work on the issue whenever they have time and, importantly, in their own time zones.

Rees estimates this has boosted productivity by 50%. But, he also believes its improved morale, giving employees a little more autonomy and minimising infringement on their personal time.

In this SmartCompany Plus case file, you can read more about how Airwallex has managed a period of hypergrowth during a global pandemic, hearing from Rees and other execs, as well as from co-founder and president Lucy Liu.

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