February Featurehttps://theflyer.co.nz/wp-content/uploads/February-Hero.jpg15001162The Flyer MagazineThe Flyer Magazinehttps://theflyer.co.nz/wp-content/uploads/February-Hero.jpg
BUT NOT SO FAR AWAY
Remote worker numbers have burgeoned since last year’s Covid lockdowns forced businesses globally to rethink how they work in order to keep staff safe and maintain productivity.
Many self-employed businesses had already operated remotely with flexible work hours prior to the Covid-crisis, however, the crisis has brought about a huge increase in flexible work options. Staff have grown to enjoy the freedoms that the lifestyle brings and hesitant employers have learned to trust their staff in this new digitally mobile environment, adapting this growing trend to their business models.
Team Remote working on the Earnslaw.
High-profile entrepreneur and founder of Ziptrek Ecotours, Trent Yeo, says by late last year the Queenstown Lakes District had surveyed a subset of remote workers which equated to around 140 individuals. However he believes there are many more yet to be identified who are newly flexible, or new to the region, otherwise the district couldn’t support its more than half a dozen co-working spaces.
A trained architect, entrepreneur, thought leader, sustainability advocate and former TEDx event organiser, Trent sparked up the idea after reflecting on New Zealand’s lockdown. His intention was to build a remote work festival in Queenstown Lakes which challenged traditional work mindsets and encouraged the sharing of ideas between remote work experts, displaced workers and companies making the transition. He teamed up with creative curator and speaker coach DK, fellow TEDx organiser and founder of Creative Leadership NZ and Creative Welly, and the RemoteTogetherNZ festival was born. Covid disruptions prompted the November festival to be deferred to six days next month (March 8 to 13). Also an event and business local entrepreneur, Scott Kennedy brings his wealth of operations skills to the festival which will feature a jam-packed 40-plus events across 10 different Queenstown venues.
“It’s about creating our ideal working future – opportunities and solutions,” says Trent. “But work is not only about productivity. It’s also about embracing wellbeing, community, collaboration, creativity and balancing all of that with family and lifestyle.”
“When we entered lockdown we started to recognise the importance of place – our home and family,” says Trent. “We can’t forget this as we build out into the future.”
Organisation and time allocation are proving more important than ever in this new working environment and most employers are learning to be more flexible, he says. “There are three types of employers: those who’ve fully embraced this with new policy, all the human resources, legal and recreational aspects addressed; those who begrudgingly allow it and the ones who say, ‘No, get back to work now.’”
“Flexible workplaces bend towards the people and the people ultimately make up the business,” he says.
Every remote worker creates different rhythms depending on their life and family needs, and adequate wellbeing breaks need to be incorporated into that schedule. One Queenstown remote worker says she loves having the flexibility to start work at 6am, be very productive for two hours, then head to the gym and meet a friend for coffee after, before heading home with a fresh burst of enthusiasm to finish her work day. Socialisation is key, she says, with many people missing that connection and interaction over the office water cooler or while grabbing a coffee in the staff kitchen. That’s why it’s important for flexible and remote workers to consciously factor regular social time and exercise into their schedules.
RemoteTogetherNZ already has a Facebook Group for local remote workers, which helps with this connection, as do co-working spaces and remote worker-friendly cafes locally. Remote Wellbeing Network founder and long-time international remote worker, Jen Middleton, formerly of Queenstown, has built an international business around this. She’s among the high-profile festival speakers who will address wellbeing as it’s vital that the health, communication and mental wellbeing of workers and businesses is supported. Jen specialises in practical and empowering internal communication strategies and coaching tips to help navigate forward through this changing remote and distributed workplace environment.
There’s been a very positive response to the festival from around the country and Trent says they’re hoping for at least several hundred registrations.
“We’ve designed this as a ‘workcation’ and there will be remote working spaces set up at festival venues with mindfulness, exercise and yoga breaks incorporated,” says Trent. “We’re really hoping that this event will feed our region’s thirst for opportunity – a little phoenix feeder.”
It’s all about making the new global flexible working trend sustainable moving forward – adapting to a new lifestyle while also maintaining productivity and wellbeing, he says. “We want to help businesses review, redesign and reset for a whole new world of work.”