The New Zealand workforce has been cornered into a period of rapid change and economic shift.

Every Tuesday, the Herald will bring job seekers and business owners tips from the experts on how to prepare and pivot in uncertain times.

Working from home has played a huge part in our lives throughout the lockdown.

But will the concept stick once restrictions lift?

If your home workspace is well set up and you've loved every productive WFH minute, good on you.

If it's a makeshift desk in a sea of Lego or piles of washing you'll need to invest in making it work more long term.

Working from home - at least in some capacity - is here to stay.

This week large corporations Google and Facebook were told they would be working from home until 2021.

In New Zealand, many large companies have indicated a large percentage of their workforce will work from home - at least some of the time.

Jodie Shelley from 2Degrees said Covid-19 had jolted the company into a new way of thinking.

"In general our people are saying they can see how working from home more will be a part of their life from now on – just without the kids or flatmates to manage," she said.

"As we eye a potential move to level 2, we're looking at how we can keep the positive elements of the change we've gone through."


This included a mix of remote and office work to provide balance.

Jodie Shelley of 2 Degrees said the company will keep key elements of the work from home model. Photo / Supplied
Jodie Shelley of 2 Degrees said the company will keep key elements of the work from home model. Photo / Supplied

"Even two days a week of no commute will offer an extra 2-3 hours to invest in a different area of your life," Shelley said.

"Lockdown has fundamentally changed how we work together in ways I don't even think we have a true grasp of yet."

Insurance company Suncorp New Zealand had delivered office equipment and boosted technical support to employees so all 1100 team members could work remotely.

And no one was rushing back to the office.

"Level two changes provide an opportunity for some of our people to work in our office locations under strict, carefully monitored, conditions but this will only happen when we are ready to do so," Catherine Dixon, of Suncorp New Zealand, said.

"We're seeing the weeks ahead as a great opportunity to accelerate the 'work anywhere' capability our people have demonstrated so strongly during lockdown."

Katie Williams, HR Director at Vodafone NZ, said the business was investing in long-term changes, and expected employees would work from home 20-40 per cent of the time in the future.

"We've had a Flexible Working Policy in place for many years but lockdown with all our staff working from home has been a big adjustment," Williams said.

The company had acted quickly to stop the "blurring of the lines of work and home life" so staff could switch off from work at the end of the day.

"We've recently implemented 'no meeting lunchtimes', asking all staff to refrain from scheduling meetings between 12-1pm to allow our teams to take a break."

For staff who do return to the office, it will be a different space Williams said.

"Our workplaces will have more hot desks available, with appropriate cleaning measures of course," she said.

"There will be … more collaboration spaces as people use the office as a place to connect and interact with each other."

Andrew Barnes, Perpetual Guardian founder, and four-day-week champion, said most businesses would keep some components of remote and flexible working in their models.

Andrew Barnes says working from home and the 4-day-week are both about productivity. Photo / NZ Herald
Andrew Barnes says working from home and the 4-day-week are both about productivity. Photo / NZ Herald

"There are many cost savings for businesses in doing so, added to the increased productivity and the fact that they have already arranged the technology and systems to support their staff being away from the office," he said.

Large open-plan offices, spread over several levels were expensive and not necessary Barnes said.

"It is entirely likely that businesses will reduce the amount of physical office space they have, especially in central city locations."

Barnes said offices will have to accommodate social distancing in the short term and include staggered start, break and finish times.

In the long term, there will be a change of design with smaller offices, multiple branches or spaces closer to home, and more spaces for teamwork events, meetings, and the face-to-face and social aspect of work.


Barnes said the working from home model and the four day week (where 100 per cent of the work is completed in 80 per cent of the time for 100 per cent salary) complimented each other.

"At its heart, the four day week is a conversation about productivity and we need to understand about this in our businesses now more than ever."