Extreme Work Flexibility: Employee based 8,000 km from the Office
Jonathan Cheng – IT Consultant
Employers have become more amenable to flexible working arrangements in order to attract and retain a diverse team of good people, thereby future-proofing their organisations and avoiding significant staff turnover costs.
Common measures these days may include flexible hours, parental leave options, working from home and study support.
Few companies, however, would entertain the idea of an employee being based more than 8,000 kilometres from their office and their client base!
When Sydney-based Jonathan Cheng raised the topic of moving to Seoul in South Korea to support his wife’s career and meet family needs, he was not expecting his employer to suggest his work could continue from afar.
But Tardis Group prides itself on exploring new ways of working, both in-house and with its clients and their teams. Jonathan is an IT Consultant with the human capital firm and his seniors could see the value of his years of service and well-established client relationships.
Jonathan had joined Tardis several years earlier after a chance meeting and conversation with the Group’s IT Manager Tim Washbourn, during Friday evening drinks at a Sydney bar. He was in his final year in a Bachelor of Business, majoring in Commerce and Marketing and was considering a career in human resources. He was called in for an interview the next business day and was soon on the job.
‘IT recruitment is quite different from finance and pharmaceuticals where everything works really quickly,’ Jonathan said. ‘It was daunting at first.’
‘Some IT clients like to do everything by technology – they say there’s nothing you can’t do by email or Skype. They are tech savvy and they want to use technology as much as possible. You need to be high adaptable, have flexibility and speak their language and that’s how you start to build trust.’
That trust has led to significant repeat business that’s been able to continue from Seoul, mostly embracing the same tech.
‘I mainly work for Australian clients which is where my personal data base is established,’ Jonathan said.
‘I do travel back and forth about three times a year to visit my clients and candidates, but a lot of clients don’t mind doing everything over the phone. I also have the support of my colleagues in Sydney if required.’
Jonathan has adjusted to the time difference in Seoul – which is one or two hours behind Sydney – depending on whether Daylight Saving is in place. He notes significant cultural differences.
‘I’m from Australia where we’re a lot more laid back. People might converse in the grocery line,’ he said.
‘In Korea, it’s every man for himself. There’s the understanding that if you don’t go for it yourself, no one’s going to give it to you.’
‘The city is beautiful in its own way. In Australia the sky is blue, the grass is green and there’s very little pollution. In Seoul the winters are dark and cold, it can get to -20 degrees some nights.’
Next month Jonathan will be on the move again, seeking some solitude from Seoul’s big city. He’s moving to the ‘Hawaii of Korea’, a pristine island in the Korea Strait called Jeju, with resort beaches set amongst mountainous volcanic landscapes.
The good news for clients and candidates, once again he’ll be taking his job with him.