COMMENT:

The Herald's Cooking the Books personal finance podcast is here to get you the tips you need to weather the financial storm. Hosted by Frances Cook, with a new money expert featured on each episode.

Covid-19 has taken years of buzzwords and forced them to become reality.

"Flexible working", "remote working", "digital nomads". The future arrived with a thump as we were forced inside our homes to escape a pandemic, and those who could, tried to keep working from there.

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Listen to the Cooking the Books podcast here

I'm no different. Sitting on my living room floor, facing the couch to mimic the soft, sound-proofed walls of a professional studio, using a gaming headset with the best quality microphone I could get because the other microphone options were all sold out before lockdown.

I've held podcast interviews over zoom, edited the audio on my laptop, and silently grabbed my cats as they tried to storm over the keyboard mid-interview.

And I wondered to myself as I made coffee in my own kitchen, and listened back to a podcast that was almost, almost as good as what I used to produce in a studio; could this be my new normal?

Your career is your biggest financial asset, and has a huge impact on how we live our lives. So as many of us quickly learn which tools we need to successfully work remotely, we can't help but think if this leads to a future with no commute, no open-plan office with the constant interruptions, and Zoom meetings where you pair a smart shirt with comfy track pants.

Perpetual Guardian founder, and four day work week advocate Andrew Barnes, sure hopes so.

On the latest episode of the Cooking the Books podcast, he said many bosses and employees would now be learning that working from home was often more productive, not less.

"Open plan offices are possibly the most damaging environment for businesses that's ever been developed.

"You statistically get interrupted once every 11 minutes, it then takes you 22 minutes to get back to full productivity.

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"So this is what's interesting about people working from home in the post-Covid world. Yes, you have to manage interruptions from your children, possibly from your spouse, or your dog. But when you are actually able to work, you are able to work without interruption.

"One of the things that we found is that when we gave people quiet time, that was quiet time in the office when you put a little flag in a pot to show 'I need to concentrate for an hour', that was often the equivalent of three hours of normal work.

"Now you're getting that when people are at home."

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There are some obvious drawbacks. One, not every job can work flexibly. Sometimes you simply have to be in front of people, as hairdressers, supermarket workers, and nurses can tell you.

Another issue is the creativity that sparks when people bump into each other. The traditional break room chat can lead to solutions for problems you didn't even know you had, and that's hard to replicate when you're at home bumping into no one.

Barnes said the solution was likely a hybrid work model, where most people came into the office about once a week for team bonding and meetings.

"There are benefits to getting people together from time to time. You can do so much over the screen, but sometimes you do need that human interaction."

Listen to the full interview on the Cooking the Books podcast. You can find new episodes on Herald Premium, or subscribe on iHeartRadio, Apple podcasts app, or Spotify, or wherever you get your podcasts.

If you have a question about this podcast, or question you'd like answered in the next one, come and talk to me about it. I'm on Facebook here, Instagram here and Twitter here.

Covid19.govt.nz: The Government's official Covid-19 advisory website