Working from home aids big-city exodus to Bay

By Dawn Picken news@bayofplentytimes co nz

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GLOBAL GARAGE: David Roberts develops and sells innovative products internationally from his converted garage in Papamoa. The former Aucklander moved to the Bay for cheaper housing and a better quality of life.
GLOBAL GARAGE: David Roberts develops and sells innovative products internationally from his converted garage in Papamoa. The former Aucklander moved to the Bay for cheaper housing and a better quality of life.

New research shows at least 70 per cent of Kiwis want to work remotely or at least telecommute part-time. Some of the Bay's new residents are turning those desires into reality by ditching the Big Smoke - while keeping their jobs.

Lee Ward and her husband moved to Papamoa in January.

"We just did a big renovation on our house in Auckland and were looking at what we could buy. We saw what we could get down here instead and made the move."

Lee Ward works full-time from home. Her Auckland-based employer has agreed to let her continue working while living in Papamoa. Photo/John Borren
Lee Ward works full-time from home. Her Auckland-based employer has agreed to let her continue working while living in Papamoa. Photo/John Borren

The 31-year-old had worked for a logistics company for 14 years. She researched an amendment to New Zealand's Employment Relations Act allowing all employees to request flexible work arrangements. Her company, Ceres Enterprises, agreed to let her trial working from home for three months.

Working at home gives me a lot of peace and quiet, which means I can really focus on what I'm doing without any distractions, which I think has increased my productivity and efficiency.
Lee Ward

"Because I've been with them so long and we're a pretty close family sort of company, they were very happy to give it a go." She said her role was adjusted slightly, as she no longer manages a team, but she maintained her wage.

"My husband got a job down here and has taken a pay cut, but it's still okay."

Mrs Ward travels to Auckland about every three weeks to meet with her boss, but says it's nothing compared with the two hours she used to sit in traffic each day.

"Now I can do my yoga in the morning, walk along the beach ... I'm already at home when I finish work, that's the best part."

She's at her computer by 7am and finishes at 3.30pm: "Working at home gives me a lot of peace and quiet, which means I can really focus on what I'm doing without any distractions, which I think has increased my productivity and efficiency. I also have much higher job satisfaction and motivation."

Another Auckland transplant, David Roberts, runs a business called Modowest that develops and distributes products including a stand-up desk accessory.

Mr Roberts said he and his fiancee wanted out of their two-bedroom apartment.

"We started looking at property in Auckland and quickly realised we couldn't afford anything we wanted to live in."

The 36-year-old moved his family to Papamoa a year ago and works from a converted garage with his fiancee and two employees. He says the biggest advantage of working from home is spending time with his kids, aged 1 and 11.

Read more: Man sets up camp in city park

His biggest challenge has been getting a fibre internet connection, scheduled for installation soon.

With the business just steps away, Mr Roberts says he sets boundaries.

"It was a lot easier when I was single and could get locked into working, but with a family I get pulled back into the real world."

Those who deal with companies of all sizes say flexible work arrangements are more achievable thanks to technology.

Tauranga Chamber of Commerce chief executive Stan Gregec says larger companies are often equipped to handle employee requests to work from home but it's "a bit more of a challenge for smaller businesses who often need people on the premises to do essential work". He says flexibility is a factor in attracting high-calibre talent.

That sentiment is echoed by some of the area's larger employers, such as Zespri. The company's global HR manager, Patrick Watson, says: "While the nature of our business sometimes requires our people to be in a specific location, Zespri embraces flexible working arrangements which can include working from home."

Bay of Plenty Regional Council HR manager Judith West says the organisation supports flexible hours and working-from-home arrangements where appropriate.

"This is especially relevant when our people are working in remote locations or working with the community outside regular hours. They remain available to attend on-site meetings, take phone calls and emails as needed."

Shelley Leach, who moved from Auckland nearly a year ago, works 16 hours a week for her father's orchard management business in Te Puke. Her commute consists of a walk across the lawn with her 2-year-old to a home office. While she works on the computer, her mother babysits. "The biggest thing is having my daughter right here. Not having her in day care is huge."

-More online: New Zealand Employment Relations Act - Flexible Working Arrangements Act Amendment, effective March 2015

www.dol.govt.nz/workplace/knowledgebase/item/1503

- Bay of Plenty Times

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