David's right at home in the office

By Julia Proverbs

In David Baker's office there is, among other things, a piano, grandfather clock, suitcase and a pair of pink training wheels for a child's bicycle.

Sitting behind his immaculate desk, Mr Baker is dressed in a black Rip Curl T-shirt and khaki shorts.

But looks can be deceiving. While his work environment and attire may be relaxed, his job is one of responsibility - he is a quality and technical manager for Independent Verification Services, working with the forestry export industry to ensure biosecurity standards are met.

The reason he shares his work space with an eclectic mix of items and dresses like he is about to hit the surf is that he works from home.

About 80-90 per cent of his working hours are spent in his home office, a converted garage at the back of the Matua home he shares with his wife Jo-Marie and their two daughters Emily, 4, and Claire, 2.

When he accepted the job nearly seven years ago, the ability to work from home was a big attraction.

It was one of two comparable jobs he was offered but the other involved a 30-minute commute.

"We were in the planning stage of having a family. Kids are only little once and it gave the option to take full advantage of that," Mr Baker said.

"I keep fairly strict hours but I pop in for morning tea and lunch and have some time with the kids during the day as opposed to sitting in a room with my peers. When I do have to do overtime I can pop in, have dinner and say goodnight to the kids."

When he meets clients he suits up and takes them out for coffee, and about once a fortnight he calls in at the company's main office in Hamilton.

It works equally well for Mrs Baker, who is a freelance writer.

In the afternoons, when Emily is at kindergarten and Claire is having a nap, she can leave the house to conduct interviews because her husband is home.

"My work's not keeping tabs on what I'm doing. As long as I achieve what they expect there are no questions asked. I just love it. I don't think I could work any other way," Mr Baker said.

However, working from home is not for everyone, he added.

"You have to be self-disciplined and not abuse the privilege, but also not let it ruin your personal life. When I walk into the house I leave it behind," he said.

Mr Baker is among a growing tide of New Zealanders who would prefer to work from home.

Ninety per cent of Kiwis say flexible employment options, such as working from home, are important factors when looking for a new job, the Randstad World of Work Survey found.

But only 13 per cent of employers said they would provide greater workplace flexibility through remote working in an effort to improve productivity over the next five years.

David Lowe, employment services manager for the Employers and Manufacturers Association, said flexible working arrangements were just part of living in the modern world, but not every type of job allowed a working-from-home arrangement.

Retail sales, teaching and manufacturing were examples, he said.

"Not all jobs can be classified into achieving results. Some of them are activity focused and it's the results ones that lend themselves to a more flexible arrangement." However, when it works it can be a win-win situation for both employer and employee, Mr Lowe said: "Happy people bring good performance, there's no doubt about that."

The survey stems from research from 9829 employees and employers across the Asia Pacific region. In New Zealand 1620 were surveyed, including 970 employees and 650 employers, ranging from chief executives to middle management and human resource professionals.

Asked if flexible work options were an important attribute for potential employers to have, 42.54 per cent of employees said they were very important and 47.76 per cent said they were important.

Of the 187 respondents who were already offered flexible working conditions, 54.55 per cent said it had made them more satisfied, 41.18 per cent said it didn't make a difference and 4.28 per cent said it made them less satisfied.

When asked how it would address talent scarcity over the next decade, 18.58 per cent of employers said they will recruit more people who want to work remotely.

Almost 29 per cent said the biggest barrier for home-based workers was technology limitations.

- With Alanah Eriksen NZ Herald

- Bay of Plenty Times

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