Published on Works November 30, 2023
Works resident Harriet Riley is researching ways that distributed teams can make remote working work well. In her role as HR Consultant for Hive, she’s promoting effective, practical strategies to support New Zealand’s remote employees. Works Managing Director, Leon Mooney, recently sat down with Harriet to learn more and explore how coworking can be leveraged as a powerful tool to attract and retain talent.
“The labour market over the past few years has been very candidate-driven,” Harriet says. “There has been a lot of negotiating power for employees taking on new roles. One thing that candidates are saying strongly is that they want remote working options, and about 70% of New Zealand employers have policies that allow for this.” The primary drivers for the shift toward remote work include better work-life balance, fewer carbon emissions and more accessible opportunities, Harriet says. “We’re seeing some people and businesses are now consciously trying to reduce their commuting requirements for both convenience and environmental reasons, and from a diversity and inclusion standpoint, more people can work for you if they have flexibility around where and when they can do that work.”
Works also provides a safe landing pad for remote workers relocating to Christchurch, Leon says. “We’re seeing a lot of people moving south now due to the cost-of-living crisis. Works can give them a desk and a community from the day they arrive, and we can stick with them as they grow and potentially transition into one of our external, satellite spaces.” Indeed, this is how Harriet, herself, first found her way to Works. “Coworking is a great option if you’re new to a city because it immediately throws you into a whole new community. My husband and I moved from Wellington to Christchurch because we wanted to be closer to family and we wanted to relocate to a region where we could afford to buy a house. I quickly realised that working from home all the time just wasn’t the right fit for me, and I would have had to think about leaving my job with Hive if it weren’t for the opportunity to base myself at Saltworks. That aspect of the staff retention piece is really important, I think. Not only does the social connection of coworking keep remote workers happy and engaged, but it can also enable staff to remain in existing roles even after relocating.”
Hive’s research findings have led to several practical strategies to better support remote workers, Harriet says. “Something to be aware of is both a distance bias and a recency bias, which mean that you’re more likely to talk to people you are physically close to or you interact with often. One simple thing you can try to combat this is putting a team photo next to your computer so you’re reminded of who you can turn to for support. We also encourage our employers to be proactive in networking and relationship management. Remote employees need to know who their key stakeholders are and how to remain connected with them. As a team it can be helpful to have a discussion around the best communication methods for each person and situation. Having a lot of touch points is helpful; we encourage a daily standup of some sort, even if it’s only for 10 minutes. It’s also important to level the playing field when you have distributed teams, so if you’re having a meeting where some members are together and others are remote, we encourage the entire team to dial in, regardless of their location, because it ensures that everyone has the same meeting experience.”
Harriet has also been exploring what has come to be recognised as the Loneliness Epidemic, and how coworking can help mitigate this. “What we’re seeing is that remote working can exacerbate loneliness, particularly amongst our younger generations, and that coworking can be a very powerful tool in loneliness prevention.” The research bears this out, with 83% of remote workers reporting that they feel less alone after becoming part of a coworking space, 89% saying that coworking has made them happier, and 79% reporting that coworking has expanded their social networks. 1
The productivity statistics are strong as well, with 84% of coworkers saying that they feel more motivated when working in a coworking space. 2 “We have one resident with a team that is distributed across the South Island,” Leon says. “He has said that he’s amazed by the output of his Works-based team here in Christchurch. They have a blanket policy which allows them to work from home 3 days a week, but most of them come to Works every day anyway, just because they enjoy the environment and can get more done here.”
The Works approach to community curation is purposeful, Leon says, and always evolving. “We never stop learning new ways to support our residents. We want the remote workers who are based here to feel like a valued part of their teams, and we enjoy helping their employers plan local events and community activations for them. We also pride ourselves in being responsive to suggestions for how we can better support all of our residents to keep them engaged and happy. We want to be an advocate and help them grow. In the end, it’s all about the people.”