Peter Stansfield is the co-founder of Convenio, an online marketplace, matching those with fitted-out office space with those looking for an office for a day.
1) To kick things off, could you tell us a little about your career background and current role?
I spent the first half of my career in Banking as a Project Manager with an emphasis on Business Transformation projects.
During this time, I became more and more involved in workplace transformations, office relocations and became very interested in the cultural change that employees and companies go through during these projects.
From banking I went to Unilever, as their Global Workplace Manager, this further refined my workplace knowledge, ultimately enabling me to put everything I’d learned into practice across a range of workplace projects in London and Sydney (QBE Insurance, Qantas, NSW Land Registry Services).
My current role is the Co-Founder of Convenio. Born out of the impact COVID has had on companies working remotely and the lack of options for those companies to bring their teams back together, to strike a balance between the benefits of working remotely with the benefits of working together in an office.
We launched in September 2020 – it’s an online marketplace offering fully fitted offices for as short as a day at a time (think Airbnb for offices). It’s a bit different from what’s currently on the market at present.
We also believe that companies can come together in smaller groups e.g. departments, teams, projects etc – no one works with everyone in the company at the same time after all.
By coming together in smaller groups e.g. a company of 500 staff, now meets in 5 groups of 100 employees, they can meet in less space, for less people, less often and make significant rent savings compared to a traditional office lease model.
2) What does a day in the life look like for you? Can you take us through a recent workday?
Well I’m working from home now, so I wake up early with the kids (girl aged 6 and boy aged 2) and start getting them ready for the day. I’ll be honest I’m guilty of reading emails, news, and the latest messages on my phone at the same time.
However, Dad’s breakfast is currently flavour of the month at the moment, but I’m sure it will be short lived before Mum’s the favourite again!
Once the eldest is at school and my wife has taken over looking after our youngest, then I get down to work in the home office (converted spare room). I was lucky enough to pick up second hand Herman Miller Aeron chair for the office, so it’s not a bad set up.
The day is packed with meetings with potential users of the platform, catch ups with my co-founder, Adam and of course focussed work developing the business.
3) Does your current role allow for flexible or remote working? If so, how does that fit into your life and routine?
Yes – due to my focus on workplace projects it’s in my DNA to work flexibly. I’ve been a strong advocate for ditching presenteeism and focusing on outputs for years now.
All my roles have enabled me to evangelise about the benefits of flexibility and the power of trusting your employees to work the way that works best for them. Two people doing the same role, could for many reasons carry it out in completely different ways.
It makes no sense to constrain someone into being present in an office 5 days a week, 9-5 or longer – it doesn’t equate to productivity or high performance.
4) What does work-life balance mean to you and how do you work to achieve that goal?
True work life balance for me is the complete freedom to be trusted to do what is needed to achieve my objectives.
If that means being in the office then I will be, if that means being somewhere else e.g. home or a 3rd place then I will be there to get the job done. At the end of the day if I feel like I have made progress with my work, spent quality time with the family and fitted in some fitness then that’s a successful day for me.
It doesn’t always work that way though and best laid plans can quickly go awry. That’s why being mindful of what others in the team are juggling goes a long way to creating something special and making people feel part of something.
5) In the past 12 months, have you started or stopped any routines or habits to change your life?
Regular fitness sessions either daily or every second day, are such a good way to clear the mind and recharge yourself. Focussing solely on work every waking hour is not healthy.
Frequently I break away from what I’m working on, especially a tricky problem with no obvious solution and many times I land on the answer either during a fitness session or in the shower afterwards, when your mind is free from distractions.
I’m also conscious of how often I’m on my phone. Family mealtimes are precious and that’s when the phone goes away. I’ve not always done it, but it’s something I’m keen to keep up.
6) Do you have any favourite books, podcasts or newsletters that you’d like to recommend?
Since starting Convenio I’ve subscribed to TechCrunch, so everyday I’m reading about start-ups, funding rounds, entrepreneurship.
Plus, the volume of news being generated everyday about the impact of COVID on the workplace / commercial offices is incredible. You could easily spend half a day or more just reading all the articles on it.
Outside of work I like interesting history. Especially about Australia. I really enjoyed the podcast for Girt – The Unauthorised History of Australia by David Hunt. Anything really that showcases how people have been successful and what they went through to achieve that success.
I also have a theory (based on Wikipedia) that a lot of successful people had at least one parent that was a teacher, professor, or lecturer – check it out the next time you think “I wonder how they made it”.
7) Are there any products, gadgets or apps that you can’t live without?
I mentioned before my phone, so definitely the iPhone, plus the AirPods – no more tangling wires! I also recently upgraded my laptop to one with 2 screens (Asus), very handy for being productive without having to plug in a separate screen.
8) If you could read an interview about work-life balance by anyone, who would that be?
I used to like to see what Mark Zuckerberg was doing for his new year’s resolutions and how they impacted his day to day running of Facebook. I believe he’s stopped these now though.
Closer to home it would be great to see how someone like Afterpay’s Founder, Nick Molnar manages his day. The company is going from strength to strength and it must be a challenge to not be consumed by it all, whilst maintaining the right work-life balance.
9) Do you have any last thoughts on work, life or balance that you’d like to share with our readers?
In the Good Weekend magazine (Sydney Morning Herald) recently there was an article called “Grindstone Cowboys” by Amanda Hooton. It started with a suicide.
In October 1957, Vere Gordon Childe (founder of modern archaeology) jumped to his death at the scenic Govetts Leap in the Blue Mountains. In the note he left, which was shared publicly in 1980 he wrote a number of points, but one that stuck out to me was “As one grows older, useful work becomes impossible, and without work, life is meaningless.”
Vere was 65, with no partner and no family. It’s impossible to say if having that balance in his life would have changed the course of events on that fateful day, however for me reading what his state of mind was like at the time indicates that he was indeed out of balance between work and life.
Work was his life but playing your strength to excess makes it become your weakness. Balance is the key; however you find it. When I find work getting out of balance for too many days straight, then I know I need to make a conscious effort to change and regain the balance for both myself and my family.
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