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Editorial

To remote or not to remote

June 7 2022 by David Gibbs

To remote or not to remote

Green shoots are everywhere, figuratively speaking anyway, and business is finally picking up as the streets fill and international flights return once more. As this is happening, many businesses who have sent employees home to work remotely, ours included, are starting to figure out whether to continue or transition back to full-time in the office. It’s not an easy decision and even harder to implement. 

Many bosses overseas, further down the post-Covid path than Queenstown businesses, have tried to gently entice staff back and then quickly moved to a full-throttled demand to return. They’ve come up against a backlash from employees.

Mind you, some of the requests are thinly veiled threats. Elon Musk reportedly told his management team at Tesla last week they should spend ‘at least’ 40 hours in the office each week, or quit. When asked for comment on Twitter about people who thought this was antiquated, he tweeted: “They should pretend to work somewhere else.”

Apple have also experienced a massive revolt with their return-to-work policy with key teams, including their critical leaders, resigning. Personally, I think it’s fascinating that these companies renowned for creating technology that enables people to work from anywhere, are demanding their own workforces come to the office.

In Queenstown, I know a number of employers who are grappling with this issue and there is no easy answer. After two years of fighting to survive, businesses now want to welcome the teams to the office and grow back together in a post-pandemic life, but the streetscape and non-existent parking, if you are downtown, certainly complicate the discussion.

On the other hand, the past two years have been a revelation, showing we can do many jobs from home, sometimes more productively. And while working on the dining table isn’t ideal, being at home makes it easier to juggle work life and family life, especially when the kids are at school. It also makes it harder to catch Omicron.

With staffing pressure mounting and the immigration visa requirements getting even more draconian, the temptation is definitely to delay making any decisions that could aggravate staff, who are very much still in post-Covid fatigue mode. Losing any talent to another company that offers remote working options would be a disaster. That could increase pressure on other staff, decreasing overall productivity, effectively voiding any disadvantages from remote working.

So, many businesses are continuing to work in a hybrid model.

There are pros and cons, of course. Discussions with our team highlight more family time, no commute, no parking issues, fewer interruptions are improved work/life balance. But the downside is there is no off-button with work hours being all hours, which I’m not sure long term is right either.

I’d love to have the crystal ball right now.

David Gibbs
Queenstown Media Group

- David Gibbs