Like many businesses, Vocus Group had nearly all of its staff working from home during the level 4 and level 3 lockdowns.
And now, like many, it's trying to feel the best way forward - a new way of working that will capture the productivity benefits that many found working from home, but also retain the networking benefits of working in an office.
Sure, you can hit Zoom or teams, but workplace creativity is often incidental.
"Our biggest challenge is how to maintain the water-cooler conversations and the dynamics that happen in a business from walking around the office," said Vocus Group director Mark Callander.
To help plot the immediate future, Vocus NZ surveyed its 600 staff.
Callander freely admits he was a bit shocked when only 5 per cent said they wanted to return to the office fulltime.
Of the rest, 46 per cent said they would like to work solely from home and 49 per cent said they would prefer a home/office combo.
Of those who wanted a hybrid setup, 20 per cent wanted to spend just one day a week in the office, 46 per cent wanted two days, 28 per cent three days and 6 per cent four days.
The people have spoken, and it seems the boss has listened.
Callander says Vocus NZ will likely move to a model that has staff spending a mix of home, office and remote time.
"We're looking at the layout of our offices. Do we build large collaboration spaces?"
The details are still being worked out, but Vocus seems destined to be one of an increasing number of companies that will move to a hybrid model, and maintain it post-pandemic.
Vocus's survey results were similar to those at Kiwisaver manager AMP, which found 70 per cent of workers preferred a combination of working from home and the office, while 22 per cent said they wanted to work primarily from home.
AMP now plans to embrace flexible working full-time, and abandon its offices in the Auckland and Wellington CBDs for smaller digs in the suburbs.
JB HiFi is another that says working from home will now be a permanent part of the mix for head office and admin staff.
"It's one thing for companies to leave an experienced workforce at home to get on with things but what about the next generation?" https://t.co/zr05Aa2ttV— Chris Keall (@ChrisKeall) June 13, 2020
AUT Professor of Human Resource Management Jarrod Haar sees the new, post-Covid flexibility as being a tipping point for a number of companies to embrace the four-day work week championed by Andrew Barnes - which could, in turn, dovetail nicely with the Government's efforts to boost domestic tourism.
However, Haar also told the Herald that, for many businesses, the ultimate aim of a better work/life balance could be better achieved with more general flexibility over where people worked, and when. Remote working had proved more productive than most employers thought, and remote working tools had proved their worth over level 4 and level 3.
Callander says the rapid transition to working from home in March was eased by a programme, initiated shortly before, which piloted giving all call centre staff work-from-home capability.
And it was also able to keep its helpdesk operations running smoothly because of a longtime policy of NZ-based service, Callander says. Rivals Vodafone NZ and Spark both had helpdesk operations temporarily overloaded in the early stages of the outbreak after offshore partners in India and the Philippines respectively had their operations disrupted by government-mandated lockdowns.
Vocus will formally launch its WorkAnywhere initiative for staff over the coming months.
Like similar moves elsewhere, there would be potential savings in areas from commuting to office space, but Callander says there are also costs.
"We have invested more than $500,000 in new equipment to facilitate working from home," he says.