One of New Zealand's remote working pioneers is speaking out on the pitfalls for those new to working-from-home amid the Covid-19 scare.

He also expresses his fear that the sudden switch to remote-working will lead to domestic disruption or even an increase in domestic violence.

His message to employers over the next few days is: cut staff some slack as they adjust.

Dunedin-based Timely became a global success story with its appointment-scheduling software for small businesses like hair salons and personal training. It now has some 12,000 small businesses using its cloud-based product worldwide.

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Its founder and chief executive, Ryan Baker, has always been a remote-working advocate. Timely's 90 staff all work from home - coming together for occasional meetings (now on hold for the virus), but mainly using tools like Slack and Zoom to stay in touch and manage workflow.

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As the new working week starts, and many white-collar workers spend their first day remote working under "the new normal" Baker says.

"The main message I would like to get out today would be directed to employers rather than employees.

"Employers need to learn quickly what it means to have people working from home. It's not about transposing what they would normally do in an office and achieving the same thing using tech.

"It's a different mindset around productivity. Employers need to be prepared to cut everyone some slack while they learn to adjust. Let people find their best ways of working.

"Certain things need to happen at set times, or according to a roster, like in the office. But others you need to let go and let people work with full flexibility around their lives at home."

Baker adds, "More broadly, I'm concerned about that mix of people being thrown into working from home when they haven't done it before - and at a time when there's elevated stress and anxiety generally across society.

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"Their kids or partners also being at home with schools and whatnot closing and what that could do for family violence for example. Or people who live alone who will have elevated isolation." (If you have domestic violence concerns, see "Where to get help" at the foot of this article.)

Practical tips

After a decade managing a remote workforce, Baker says these are two things bosses and staff should immediately watch out for:

1. "People are bad at taking breaks when they work from home. There's something about feeling guilty stopping working," he says.

"But make sure you take decent and meaningful breaks. Don't have lunch/coffee at your desk.

"Don't feel bad about stopping to walk your dog, or work in your shed, or hang out with your family.

Timely founder and chief executive Ryan Baker. Photo / Supplied
Timely founder and chief executive Ryan Baker. Photo / Supplied

"It's those things that make you more productive when you go back to your desk.

"If you don't do this your mental health and wellbeing will be impacted."

Successful entrepreneur Baker has long railed against what he calls "unwork" - or poor quality output from staff who spend marathon periods at the keyboard for the sake of it.

2. "Employers, bear in mind that not every has a home that is amazing to work from home," Baker says.

"They may live with other people, or not have much room, or inadequate heating or cooling.

"You need to invest the time to look after everyone.

"Talk to them about their space, get them to send a photo of their space and assess it for health and safety.

New Zealand has 14 new cases of Covid-19, bringing the total number of cases to 66. Director-General of Health Ashley Bloomfield says there are four probable cases.

"Things like health and safety get harder when you work from home, but you're not absolved from it.

"It's a time for everyone to look after each other as much as possible."

Baker has also contributed to a practical guide for better video conferencing. Read it here.

ALERT_STAGES
VirusFacts2

If you're in danger now:

• Phone the police on 111 or ask neighbours of friends to ring for you.

• Run outside and head for where there are other people.

• Scream for help so that your neighbours can hear you.

• Take the children with you.

• Don't stop to get anything else.

• If you are being abused, remember it's not your fault. Violence is never okay

Where to go for help or more information:

• Women's Refuge: Free national crisis line operates 24/7 - 0800 refuge or 0800 733 843

• Shine, free national helpline 9am- 11pm every day - 0508 744 633

• It's Not Ok: Information line 0800 456 450

• Shakti: Providing specialist cultural services for African, Asian and middle eastern women and their children. Crisis line 24/7 0800 742 584

• Ministry of Justice:

• National Network of Stopping Violence:

• White Ribbon: Aiming to eliminate men's violence towards women, focusing this year on sexual violence and the issue of consent.

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