Remote working opens door for return home
Karen Thompson left her home in Invercargill for the bright lights of Brisbane more than thirty years ago. She always thought she would return home one day but it wasn’t until the pandemic turned spare rooms into remote offices, that she was given the opportunity to bring her job, her partner and her dogs back to New Zealand.
When Karen first moved to Brisbane she originally planned to stay for just a few years. More than three decades later, when she and her English partner, Richard, found themselves working from home due to lockdowns, they realised the time was right for a move back to Aotearoa.
“I work for a specialised software company, and what I do is very specific. Before the pandemic our company did have a flexible work culture, but lockdowns had a big effect on that remote culture. It opened up opportunities for me and for my team. I moved back to New Zealand, one of my colleagues has moved to Portugal and we have just hired a new staff member in Sydney, it’s really changed the way our company operates for both current and future hires.”
Moving from Brisbane, a city of 2.6 million to the South Otago town of Alexandra which has a population of just over 5,000 has been a lifestyle change but Karen says she enjoys being back in small town New Zealand. While she has family within an hour, neither her or her partner knew anyone in the area where they settled so Karen has been making an effort to meet people.
“I have just started volunteering at Riding with the Disabled. Joining a club or charity is definitely something I would urge others to do as it really helps you meet people. There was a point where I thought ‘I don’t know anyone and I don’t have any friends’ but you just have to get involved and make an effort to put yourself out there, Kiwi’s are really friendly and it’s really easy to start making new friends.”
And while she’s making new friends in Central Otago, Karen says an important part of moving home was also making sure she stayed connected with her Aussie mates.
“We had this big party planned to say goodbye but then we had to cancel at the last minute because of covid restrictions, so we didn’t get to say goodbye to a lot of people. It felt a bit like we abandoned them. I make a really big effort to stay in touch, that’s where social media is so good. I also make a point of sitting down and calling people every week or so who don’t use social media.
Karen’s advice to other Kiwi looking to return home is to make sure they plan ahead and allow lots of time for the move.
“I think our biggest challenge was organisation, relocating is such a huge job and there is so much paperwork. When we arrived we moved into a friend’s cottage with our three dogs while we waited for our shipping container of stuff to arrive. It took three months to turn up and during that time the cost of shipping changed and we were hit with another bill. My advice to others would be to allow yourselves plenty of time and plan everything out as much as possible.”