Jeana Abbott has an Australian work phone number and a personal assistant in Sydney.

But home - where she also works - is in Wellington.

The education manager for Australasian accountancy body CAANZ is one of a growing number of transtasman commuters.

"The last five years it feels like there has been an increase in commuters. It is just the extension of business," says Abbott, who has been crossing the Tasman on a regular basis since 2013.


For Abbott, the change came after the New Zealand chartered accounting body she worked for merged with the Australian one - a change she was deeply involved in as the head of people and culture at the time.

She was offered the chance to move to Sydney, but decided to stay in New Zealand because she had already spent 10 years living overseas.

Abbott was ready to hand in her notice and walk away from the job, but instead, her employer asked her to stay on and work out how they could make it work.

But a commuting career wasn't a decision she took lightly.

"I took a little while to decide with family whether we could do it," she says. "It is a team effort. You have to make sure the people around you - whether that is family or friends -that they are signed up for it as well.

"I knew it would have an impact on myself but equally people in my life."

While she doesn't have dependants at home, she says she has a complicated family situation.

In the beginning she was commuting every week, and had a serviced apartment set up in Sydney to help make life easier. Today, she mainly travels fortnightly or every four weeks, on top of travelling within New Zealand and Australia.

Abbott believes the rise in flying commuters is a sign of businesses becoming more global, and looking internationally for talent.

"I think how employers and how businesses are searching for people has become more global.

"Location has become less important. Getting the right person is more important. Travel is incidental and is built into the budget."

She says workers are also more prepared to see options on the global stage.

Commuting between Australia and New Zealand is more likely than regular travel to the other side of the world, but some people are also relocating their families for short stints to places such as Singapore, reflecting the rise in project work.

"I think the global employer is seeing their talent pool and asking what would work for your family?" says Abbott.

Cheaper air travel is also helping.

"Airlines have been very competitive and they target corporate customers - and they are a big part of business now.

"Airlines have become smart around that."

Jeana Abbott has an Australian work phone number and a personal assistant in Sydney, But home is in Wellington.
Jeana Abbott has an Australian work phone number and a personal assistant in Sydney, But home is in Wellington.

Looking for cheap deals is all part of Leigh Angus' weekly commute between Brisbane and Auckland.

As head of innovation for ASB Bank, Angus leaves her husband and three children on a Sunday night and works in Auckland for four days, before flying back to Brisbane and working from home on Fridays.

She doesn't have a preference for airlines: the cheapest and quickest does the job.

Angus fully intended to move her family to Auckland when she took up the job a year ago, but a month into the role circumstances changed and the family decided it was better for her husband, 14-year-old daughter and 11-year-old twin sons to stay put while she commuted across the Tasman.

Angus convinced her boss to agree to her weekly commute.

Given that ASB chief executive Barbara Chapman also used to be a regular commuter between her family in Sydney and work in Auckland, Angus says "there was a precedent there".

But she admits there are challenges going back and forth across the Tasman.

"I am a mother of three kids. Sometimes I will have school call me and ask if I can pick up the kids." Angus says it falls on her husband, who also works, to take care of the children during the week.

It means she has had to rely heavily on family and the community to help out.

"Without that it wouldn't be possible."

She says she is also very mindful of the extra cost of getting to work.

Angus books her flights a few days out, or on the same day, and while that works most of the time, she says she has been caught out a few times.

During the recent fuel crisis and the Lions' tour, she says flights tripled in price, but she just had to wear the cost because - like anyone else - she had to be at work on Monday morning.

Angus has a punishing routine: she typically takes a late flight on Sunday night and arrives in Auckland at 1am or 2am on Monday morning, grabbing a few hours sleep before heading into the office to start her working day.

"Mondays are always a little bit challenging," she admits. "My team are aware of this."

After work on a Monday, she goes home and tries to sleep, but says it is hard because of the time difference.

"I will feel exhausted. But my body clock still feels like its 5 o'clock because of the time difference."

She lives in a minimalist bed-sit close to ASB's Wynyard Quarter offices, so she can walk to work during the week.

By Thursday night she is back on the plane to Brisbane, where she typically gets in around midnight and then is up by 5am Australian time to begin teleconference meetings in New Zealand around 8am.

Angus is not afraid to admit that she sometimes does these early morning meetings from bed, in her pyjamas.

Her job at ASB involves coming up with innovations and then figuring how to make money from them.

"What I do helps enable people within the business to create new ideas that are going to be future products or services."

She can't talk about anything she is currently working on, but points to Clever Cash - a digital kids' money box in the form of an elephant, which the ASB took two years to develop.

Before the ASB, Angus worked for Domino's Pizza and helped set up an innovation lab which came up with the idea of drone delivery.

She says innovation roles are pretty rare and are getting more popular.

"They are bit like the new black."

Angus has plenty of experience - she has been involved in innovation for 15 years and has lived in 11 countries as part of her work.

"People talk about this concept of where home is - I'm not patriotic to any particular country. I've worked in about 11 different countries now - it's more about the work environment."

Angus says technology helps her family cope with the physical separation.

"I have always travelled with work. For them, it is more difficult for sure. I am four days out of the house."

But she does a lot of Facetime with her daughter and the family has a camera set up in their lounge so she can help the kids with their homework.

Angus believes the commute is do-able in the long term.

I thought maybe six months and I would be exhausted. But instead there are moments where it can be quite refreshing.


Three hours on a plane with no wi-fi means she gets to catch up on a lot of movies.

She says anyone considering the commute should get comfortable with the idea of transience.

"Every week it's a flight, shuttle, taxi."

Gary Dransfield, the former chief executive of Vero New Zealand, knows all about the challenges of the transtasman commute.

For nearly four-and-a-half years, Dransfield commuted between his home in Sydney and Auckland where his job was.

He took the job in 2011 on the basis that his wife would move over to New Zealand in about a year's time.

"My kids were either studying at university or at high school. The intention was for her to stay in Sydney and then come over."

Then things changed and his wife decided to stay in Australia to support the family.

Dransfield says even if his wife had joined him, they would have spent a lot of time travelling back to Australia to spend time with their children.

Initially, he went back only every second weekend.

"That was getting tough at home - it was a bit lonely for my wife."

Gary Dransfield, the former chief executive of Vero New Zealand, commuted across the Tasman for nearly four and a half years. Photo/Supplied.
Gary Dransfield, the former chief executive of Vero New Zealand, commuted across the Tasman for nearly four and a half years. Photo/Supplied.

Then he began to commute weekly, flying in on a Sunday night and then out on a Friday.

Sometimes he flew the Tasman twice a week - once for work reasons and another to return for family.

"At times I would come across in the middle of the week."

He arrived on the job not long after the Canterbury earthquakes hit and the insurance industry was under major pressure.

Dransfield says the time difference was a little challenging.

"Two hours - you wouldn't have though it would make much difference."

He tended to operate on New Zealand time but admits it got harder during daylight saving, when the difference would grow to three hours between New Zealand and Brisbane, where Vero's parent company Suncorp has its main offices.

"It made travel a bit more complex."

In New Zealand during the week, he found he could do long hours as he didn't have a family to go home to.

"I was always available for functions."

Dransfield says it was tiring - not so much because of the travel, but more the long hours he worked.

There were also adjustments to be made when he did go back for the weekends.

"The dog was always happy - my wife reckoned the dog would go and wait at the front of the house at the time my flight was due in.

"Fortunately my wife was independent."

Dransfield says he got advice from someone who had done it before, who told him to make sure he rang home every night and was always happy with what his wife had organised for the weekend.

He believes the arrangement worked well on the business side because it meant he could jump on a plane at any time and be in Christchurch.

Now he is back living in Australia working for Suncorp, he still does a lot of travelling for work.

I spend half my week in Brisbane. My wife would argue where my real domicile is.


Coming back to live full-time in Australia also meant some adjustment.

"I felt I might have been interrupting the family rhythm a bit too much. It meant some adjustment was on the cards - mainly on my part."

Now he's back, he says there is a lot more time; whereas before he had only the weekends to run around to do the chores, he can now do them early in the morning or the evening and have a relaxing weekend instead.

He says the decision to commute long haul is often driven by the age of your children and where they are at.

"I don't miss the travel part - not that I found it unpleasant."

Dransfield says those who are considering the transtasman commute have a to figure out a rhythm and pathway that is going to be sustainable.

"Just going home and sleeping all weekend is not really a life. It's not sustainable."