Really putting the ‘remote’ into remote working

Working from home is a new reality for many, but it need not be just for employees. What if the boss moves out of town first?  By Cathy Parker.
The workplace changes during the Covid lockdowns and the rapid assimilation and development of ‘work from home’ into a mainstream option has changed many workers and businesses attitudes to where work needs to be done from.

In the aftermath some businesses have fully embraced the remote work paradigm and others are looking at hybrid work, where staff work some days from home and some from the office.

 In some cases though either staff or the business have embraced an even more extreme definition of ‘work from home’ in that the worker is in a different city or even different country to the ‘office’.

For instance in the magazine publishing space, I now know of three publishers (including myself) running medium sized businesses who have relocated to other New Zealand cities with either their office or the rest of the team still based in Auckland.

Reasons can include family, lifestyle or just being sick of Auckland with the traffic and lockdowns!

In these cases, they make regular trips (say monthly) for internal and or external meetings.

In my case the business had actually moved to a fully remote scenario pre Covid, with everyone working from home, this especially suited publishing where around a third of the team were already freelance contractors working from home and most of the rest of the staff were hybrid working.

I have found that with some good planning you can usually schedule two or three meetings the same day and catch up with a few other team members with other meetings via Teams or Zoom.

Certainly, for me, the lifestyle in Tauranga is much better than Auckland – cheaper houses, less traffic, slower pace, better weather and one of my daughters lives here.

With fibre internet and cloud-based software there is no real need to be in an office for many businesses in which case it does not really matter where you are located.

At the more extreme end is the option of staff working from overseas. Obviously this only works if in-person meetings are not a necessity, but does open up a whole new market for potential employees.

Kea New Zealand CEO Toni Trulove said recently, when speaking to Mike Hosking on 1ZB, that overseas based Kiwis could be a partial solution to the labour shortages plaguing Kiwi businesses – especially in the IT area where there are currently 10,000 unfilled roles. She added that of Kea’s overseas members around 16 percent work in IT.

One of the challenges faced is negotiating overseas payroll, tax and employment legislation, another is that some New Zealand businesses retain a negative view of Kiwis who have left the country.

Advantages can include that potentially, with the time difference, you can have teams operating 24/7 with work shared between them; and it may be a great alternative to starting a full offshore operation to attract offshore-based talent.

Working remotely from another city or country may not work for all businesses, or all roles, but the opportunity is now there for those prepared to think outside the box (or city!).  

Cathy Parker is the director of Adrenalin Publishing, which owns Management magazine. She also sits on a number of boards.
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