Flexible hours perk of remote work

By Dawn Picken

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Recent research shows at least 70 per cent of Kiwis want to work remotely or at least telecommute part-time. Some Rotorua residents tell us how they’ve made the shift from corporate life to the world of working from home.

SHORT COMMUTE: Julia Charity runs a national accommodation network from her lounge. PHOTO/STEPHEN PARKER
SHORT COMMUTE: Julia Charity runs a national accommodation network from her lounge. PHOTO/STEPHEN PARKER

JULIA CHARITY'S commute consists of walking through her home.

For the last four-and-a-half years, the former molecular biologist has run a national accommodation network called Look After Me from her lounge.

"I'm a single mum. I have a 10-year-old daughter, so flexibility to go up to the school for performances and events, that flexibility to integrate family life and working life seamlessly is really good."

Ms Charity says she works 9am until 3pm, then again from 8pm until 10pm.

"I structure an eight-hour working day that suits my lifestyle. I'm with my daughter after school, and take care of washing and domestic time."

She can also bring work with her when she goes away. She figures she saves up to $1200 per month by not leasing an office, but has turned down free work space.

"Getting up and presenting yourself, wearing nice clothes, the hair, makeup, finding a park, walking, setting up - and the distraction of whoever else is in a shared office space - I just couldn't do it.

I think I've evolved as an office worker."

SO has Shout Marketing founder Linda Macpherson. She used to spend around $1000 per month on office space when she ran her business in Napier. After moving to Rotorua for her husband's forestry job, she decided to trial a home office.

"I thought I would use it while I got organised, but I'm still here."

That was six years ago, and Mrs Macpherson hasn't looked back.

"It does make you financially adaptable to changes within the business and external changes - whether there's a global financial crisis - and I've had a couple children since then. It relieves the pressure. My focus isn't on how I pay for the commercial space and whether or not I do it justice. I can just focus on clients and what they need."

Mrs Macpherson's children, ages 1, 3 and 6, attend school or childcare while she works three days each week between 9am and 3pm.

"Because that time is finite, I have to be really disciplined about what I do. I have to be equally disciplined about not doing it when it's time for the family."

JAMIE Grunwell has worked the last few years from home, running a workplace health and safety consultancy called Go Safety. The father of three (his boys are aged 5, 6 and 9) says he wanted to spend more time with his kids " ... to do coaching and have a day off if I want to".

Mr Grunwell works at least three days from home and spends the rest of his work week on job sites. He says he saves up to $300 per week on childcare.

"In the school holidays, I work from home most of the day and they'll play around. If I'm at my desk they come and approach me any time. The awesome thing is, I can play ball with them for half an hour."

He says one downside of a home office is not having as much social time with other adults.

"I joined the Chamber of Commerce to get out and meet people."

ROTORUA Chamber of Commerce chief executive Darrin Walsh says two chamber employees work occasionally from home, as does he.

"We all have targets and goals we set our employees and if they are hitting those goals, then so be it. This is a sign of the times. Most people have portable devices and can be into the work database from any point."

An amendment to New Zealand's employment law which took effect last year extends the legal right to ask for flexible working arrangements to all employees. Flexibility can be towards hours of work, days of work or place of work.

SOME larger local employers say they make accommodations where possible.

Scion spokeswoman Keri-Anne Tane says work-from-home arrangements are not standard practice, especially since much of the company's work is based in a laboratory and dependant on collaboration. "I think what employees here want is flexibility and a level of trust when life requires them to be flexible, like when a child is sick ... I like to think we support that well," she said.

Bay of Plenty Regional Council human resources manager Judith West says the organisation supports flexible hours and working from home arrangements when it can.

"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."

Talent ID recruitment specialist Olivia Burman says many Rotorua job candidates are looking for more part-time hours and/or flexibility to better manage family life and other commitments. "Work around school hours would be one of the most common reasons, but we do find that candidates are looking for work-life balance for a variety of reasons."

Julia Charity says another bonus she didn't get in the corporate world was wearing slippers to work, something she often does in winter.

"My marketing assistant used to bring her slippers to work. She laughed that it was one of the benefits of the job."


Job Seeker Survey

Recruitment and HR services firm Randstad suggests implementing flexible work arrangements could be key to New Zealand employers attracting and retaining quality staff. The annual Randstad Award employer branding research shows up to 55 per cent of Kiwis would prefer variable working schedules. 28 per cent of men prefer to work in the office every work day, compared with 26 per cent of women.

More online:

New Zealand Employment Relations Act - Flexible Working Arrangements Act Amendment. Effective March, 2015

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

- Rotorua Daily Post

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