More companies in the Bay of Plenty have adopted working from home policies post-Covid which allow staff to choose where they will be based.
Business leaders believe workplace flexibility was here to stay and the benefits were outweighing any downsides - with less time spent in traffic sited as a major positive.
Trustpower People & Culture general manager Sara Broadhurst said it could have a third less staff in its Tauranga head office on any given day, compared to numbers on the floor before Covid.
She said the company already had an Activity Based Working programme which it further developed following lockdown.
"Roles such as our contact centre and telesales team which have traditionally been viewed as 'in the office' jobs now have more flexibility in terms of where they work from than we might have imagined a year ago. This is down to our people and business' ability to adapt swiftly when we've needed to."
There had been benefits and challenges ... "'but Trustpower was open to experimenting and learning what will work best for our people and our business".
Response from staff had also been positive.
"People feel like they have a better work/life balance. Skipping the commute is giving people more time in their day to focus on that balance, whether that's walking the kids to school or popping out for a walk at lunchtime."
Bay of Plenty Regional Council people and leadership director Karen Aspey said before Covid it had also begun work on supporting an inclusive workplace.
"A benefit of this thinking was that staff already had much of the technology they would require [such as laptops instead of desktop computers, and software such as MS Teams to encourage online collaboration] to be able to work from somewhere other than a desk in an office."
This continued after Covid following guidance and had been working amazingly well.
"The feedback across the organisation has been nothing but positive. In some cases it's enabled staff to reduce their commuting times for some of the week and this fits in with our Climate Change Action Plan. In other cases it's allowed them to work around the needs of their family."
Tauranga Chamber of Commerce chief executive Matt Cowley said workplace flexibility and remote working was here to stay.
"It has shifted from being a health defence [to the pandemic] to be a staff satisfaction tool. People are now trusted by their employer to deliver the outputs while not being in the office."
Not everyone can or wants to work from home.
But it was a small way employers can help retain key staff, he said.
Rotorua Chamber of Commerce chief executive Bryce Heard said technologies existed pre-Covid but the pandemic sped the uptake of those tools and took them from the fringe to mainstream.
The next phase should logically see a move away from input based payment systems (wages) to output based payments systems (contractors).
"Paying people by the time they attend work is an archaic system which has its roots in the industrial ages. What the employer needs is outputs."
Outputs were a measure of productivity and has many advantages, he said.
"It saves the need to measure time and attendance, it takes away the ceiling on earnings, it recognises and rewards the good performers and it allows flexibility for people to work from home when it suits them."
Priority One chief executive Nigel Tutt said many companies had staff working from home, largely for a few days each week and the pandemic has accelerated this change.
"The circumstances will depend on the company, who will weigh up arrangements that provide a good mix of productivity, staff wellbeing and team interaction."
An ACC spokesman said you are still covered by your employer if you have their permission to work from home.
A WorkSafe spokeswoman said employers and workers should work together to ensure the health and safety of those working from home.
While there are limitations in what businesses and organisations are able to control, their obligations remain.
"Responsibilities include ensuring the home environment is safe to be working in to start with and that any equipment supplied to workers is safe to use. Businesses are responsible for providing the equipment workers need to do their jobs from home.''
Equipment supplied should look after the workers' health and safety needs – this can include items such as an adjustable chair or monitor for a laptop screen, she said.
"Workers have a responsibility to identify and manage risks that come with working from home, for example taking regular breaks and getting up and moving, or ensuring their workspace is clear of hazards."
Five ways to avoid your home office becoming a danger zone
1. Get physical
Be sure to get up and move often, whether it's a walk around the house, some gentle stretching or push-ups in the back yard.
2. Wrangle loose toys and cables
You probably have a few extra power cables snaking around your workspace. Use velcro straps or twist ties if you have them to bind cables neatly together, then tape them to table legs or skirting boards to keep them clear of walkways.
3. Shift heavy furniture with care
If you're moving around desks or tables to refresh your workspace, do it carefully. Injuries while moving furniture are more common than you'd think. On average, there are 12,000 new claims for furniture-related injuries each year, with back injuries being the most common. Remember to bend your knees, not your back, and brace your core.
4. Raise that laptop
Raise the laptop screen to eye level using household items like shoeboxes or books. Consider adding an external keyboard and mouse to help set yourself up as you would in your office.
5. Connection is important
Stay connected and social with friends and colleagues through video calling or phone calls. If you haven't already, consider starting a daily virtual quiz or a weekly shared virtual morning tea and enjoy conversations about life outside your home office. - Source ACC