Veer Khanna is a credit analyst at Westpac NZ and co-leader of the company’s youth network. After a little over a year at the bank, he’s looking forward to seeing his colleagues in person — and to a hybrid working model that allows flexibility.

JEREMY HANSEN  You’ve spent a lot of time working from home lately. What does the ability to work from home mean to you?

VEER KHANNA I think it helps quite a lot. Not everyone lives super-close to the city. When I was living at my parents’ and I had to come into the city, it’d take an hour. Since then, I’ve moved closer; now it only takes around 25 minutes. But for the people that live far away, it’s helpful for them and makes a lot of sense. I’m currently a credit analyst, so most of my work is behind the scenes, financial and credit analysis, working on lending applications and talking mostly to internal stakeholders only. Contacting people like the relationship managers and other team members can easily be done over Skype or Teams. So, I haven’t really felt the difference of working from home too much. For me, a good thing with work from home was just catching up on my sleep and having more time for myself. The days that you do work from home you can fit in all of your errands – do your grocery shopping, washing and the like.

JH What would your preference be if you had the choice of working style?

VK I think probably two or three days working from home. In the office a lot of time gets spent on catching up, so it’s quite hard to try and do the same amount of work as you would have if working from home. On the other side it’s always nice to see everyone in person and catch up and have that physical sense of a team around, which you don’t always get from contacting people just from Skype.

JH Could you have a stab at quantifying what that in-person contact adds to your personal wellbeing and that of the organisation as a whole?

VK If you’re getting started in a new company or in a new role, I think having that physical presence helps. I feel as though it’s hard to build those relationships virtually, whereas if they’re already built in person, then it’s easy to carry it on. With training, I was lucky to be able to go into the office and learn; you just tap someone’s shoulder, and you can ask questions. I think when it’s completely work from home, you feel like you’re annoying that other person because you can’t see them.

JH Are you confident in the ability of organisations to build a positive working culture virtually?

VK It’s just about having those regular catchups and feeling like you can rely on your team members as well. With my team, every day at 9am we have a standup where we all talk about what we’re getting up to for the day. At times, we’ll have our cameras on so you can see everyone. So, it feels there are people there, that it’s not just random voices that I’m hearing. Sometimes we also do online games together, a small quiz or something like that. Then you’re able to have fun with the team and laugh and joke around which helps grow the bond and work towards a one-team mindset. So, I think it’s just about acknowledging the fact that you have mates around and it’s just not random people that you talk to just on Skype.

JH What gaps can this style of working lead to for a team, if working styles become so different that the connection becomes challenging?

VK I remember last year, after the first big lockdown, everyone was doing one or two days’ work from home. The biggest challenge was we didn’t fully set up a schedule of who’s going to be working from home on what day. That meant we’d only see some people once a week. But, after realising that, the team works on a more scheduled approach which helps ensure everyone sees all the team members more often, which helps build a sense of team.

JH Working from home potentially works better for people who have larger, dry, warm homes than people in flats who might be working in their bedrooms. So what’s your experience of that and your colleagues in the youth network being like?

VK I have my work set up in my bedroom, which is sometimes good – if you end up sleeping in a little you can roll out of bed and quickly log on. But at times logging off and having that separation of what’s work and what’s life gets too blended which isn’t too great either. It’s something that’s harder to separate if you don’t own your own house or don’t have a separate work room that others may have. It comes down to what you make from what you have.

JH If you were looking for a new job, what part would the location of an office play for you? Is the central city more attractive than other destinations?

VK With the city, what’s quite good is there’s just so many restaurants and bars and cafes around. With my current role, when we did go to the office normally. This opened up the opportunity to have coffee catch-ups with your teammates, boss or colleagues from other teams. We had the option to go to an array of cafes to easily planning after-work drinks. And that really helps the team morale and team culture, which is quite nice. But in terms of looking for a new role, I don’t think location makes too much of a difference – there are a lot of factors such as transportation, traffic, parking or public transport that can make or break someone’s day. Furthermore, an article I read wrote that flexibility is a top priority for a lot of people, and some would happily decline jobs if they don’t get offered flexibility. It’s now very much an expectation.

JH  Auckland is known for being demographically stratified, in that it’s a diverse city but that diversity isn’t evenly spread through the city’s neighbourhoods. Does the central city feel diverse to you?

VK I think that would be true. With Auckland CBD, there’s so many apartments, there’s two universities there, a lot of international and domestic students, and you get people working in so many different industries, so people from all backgrounds are here. 

JH There’s a lot of talk at the moment about the balance of power between employers and employees. Do you and your generation feel like you have the ability to influence change in your organisations?

VK It’s opened up a lot more. Previously the younger and inexperienced staff would not be chosen for projects or be asked questions about big ideas or organisational culture but now you see that shifting to being more open and reciprocal, which allows for mutual growth for the company and the staff. There are a lot more opportunities for my generation to get ahead and get amongst creating change. I think something that a lot of us want is contentment from our roles, and I think if the role doesn’t provide that, or at the least keep you developing and learning for the next role, then you might seek a role in a different organisation.

Click here to read the other interviews in our City Futures series.