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How flexible working is helping in the battle against climate change

A unique solution is developing in the race to battle climate change – and it’s one that involves leaving the ugly commute to work behind. As more people begin to make the shift from city working to working closer to home, the more we begin to see the benefits. Newly released environmental data commissioned by Regus shows that by 2029, outer city office spaces will reduce 2.5 million metric tonnes of carbon entering the atmosphere annually. This equates to 1.2 million transatlantic flights between New York and London each year.

In 2019, office provider Regus, appointed research and market analysis firm Development Economics to identify the socio-economic benefits that could come with working out of the city. The study found that local economies are set to skyrocket as the trend of working closer to home rapidly grows.

Here in Aotearoa, the number of business owners choosing the regions rather than the big smoke to grow their company is expanding. Stats New Zealand has shown an incline each year with the regions paid employees count. From February 2018 to February 2019, statistics have shown a 3.5 percent employee increase in the Bay of Plenty, 2.7 percent increase in Otago, 2.6 percent increase in the Waikato region and Auckland trailing behind at a 2.3 percent increase. The statistics most likely being linked to the growth in regional businesses.

New Zealand country manager for Regus Alexander Sykes says, “Commuting can be uncomfortable, unfriendly, and incredibly time-consuming. It is also a huge source of global pollution. In an age where every business and individual has a responsibility for their environmental impact in the world, commuting into major cities looks increasingly old fashioned.”

Growing a business closer to home comes with challenges yet tremendous reward. Not only can the prospect result in a shorter commute, having a business in a region will cause less carbon emissions and can gather a supportive community following.

Within the next decade, the migration to flexible workspaces outside of major cities could contribute more than $254 billion globally to local economies. Over the course of a year, the establishment of a flexible workplace in a suburban location will save 7,416 in commute hours, reduce 118 metric tonnes of carbon dioxide and create 218 new jobs.

By 2029, the New Zealand workforce will have significantly evolved. A flexible workspace model will see 13,900 people working and will provide net additional employment opportunities amounting to over 7,600 jobs.

“Over the next decade we expect to open many more locations in smaller towns, cities and suburban areas. Our vision is that, in the near future, there will be a professional workspace available on every corner ending the idea of commuting for good. This will benefit our personal health, as well as that of our planet” says Sykes.

After spending years working in the busy capital of Wellington, Dot Kettle and partner Georgia Richards decided to ditch their government jobs in the city for a 100 acre property in Nelson and a flexible working lifestyle. Discovering their property was perfect for growing peonies, and the benefits the flower can have on skin, the pair then began their business Purepeony.

Testing the healing power of peonies began on the couple’s children who suffered from the common skin condition eczema. After witnessing extraordinary results it was only natural to begin sharing with friends and to sell peony products at Nelson’s markets. Soon enough the products were attracting interest and support, ultimately providing enough momentum to transform a home project into a thriving business.

Building a business in a region proved to be critical to the success of Purepeony due to a number of factors. Nelson’s research and development of natural products and the organic sector assisted immensely in the initial stages of the business. Cawthron Instiute granted the pair a Callaghan Innovation R&D to assist with the development of the peony root’s healing properties and create the final products. Equally, the business would not have gained the success it has without the climate of the region or the local support.

“Nelson has such a supportive business community,” Kettle says.

With recent studies claiming a flexible workplace will cause positive environmental change, Kettle and Richards’ shift from the city only further proves this. Kettle’s converted garage is now the office and the hub of root processing and harvesting, meaning the commute to work is not much of an issue. With work being so close to home, the two have reduced their time spent driving and more importantly, reduced their carbon footprint.

“Instead of a 45 minute drive to work, I now have a two minute walk from my house to our converted garage,” Kettle says.

Kettle and Richards’ priority with their business is to work towards helping people, while also helping the planet. The two are strong advocates for businesses that are doing good in the world and are involved with SheEO, a global community supporting and celebrating female innovators.

In recent years Purepeony has managed to extend their reach significantly by growing their online presence and having their products stocked in 150 pharmacies and other key stores throughout the country. Looking forward Kettle says they would like to reach as many Kiwi families as possible and to extend the range of Purepeony products.

“We want to make sure everybody has the chance to try a natural product first to help heal skin before resorting to chemical options.”

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