Rachel Brown appreciates flexibility but mostly chooses to work from Anderson Lloyd's Britomart offices because of the benefits it offers for connection and learning. She also says her generation is more attuned to the possibilities offered by "non-standard" career paths, and therefore more likely to switch things up.


We interviewed her as part of a series talking to five Auckland workers under 30 about their preferred working styles, the importance of wellness, and how they stay connected.

MELINDA WILLIAMS A lot has changed over the last few years in terms of the way that we work. How do you work these days in terms of flexibility, and how is that working for you?

RACHEL BROWN At the moment I‘m mostly working in the office. We’re renovating at home, and staying elsewhere, so working from home is more of a hassle sometimes than it's worth. My commute's pretty easy as I'm on the ferry. Anderson Lloyd provides great flexibility. If I do need to work from home, they're very happy with that. But coming into the office provides me with a good routine and I prefer it. It puts me in the right headspace. So, I'm basically full-time in the office. Sometimes I do have appointments or a busy day, and if that’s the case, I can easily work from home. That might be once every two or three weeks, so not often.

MELINDA From your point of view, what benefits does working in the office give you?

I can't speak for others, but I personally found working from home harder for learning. I think that while the flexibility is there, I feel more involved when I'm coming in to the office. That's not to say that I have to come into the office, as that‘s not the case. But I think there is an acknowledgment across the board in the industry that as a junior it’s beneficial for your learning and development to be in person if possible.

MELINDA  How about the social aspect of the workplace — is that important to you?

RACHEL You may have already guessed, but I'm quite extroverted. If I work from home for too long, I can start to feel quite isolated. I don't love it. During Covid we all had to and you get used to it, but for me it definitely took a toll. At Anderson Lloyd, where I work now, we do team-wide and firm-wide activities reasonably often and it is great to be in the office and around for that. And also just being in Britomart, being around the city is great. Good food and coffee.

MELINDA Is your office location quite important to you? Or is that something that may be important to you as you progress through your career?

RACHEL Yes. Auckland's a big city, and commuting is something that people really have to factor in. When I moved to Auckland, I was at another job in the CBD, but it wasn't as close to main public transport hubs. When I moved to Anderson Lloyd and started working in Britomart, this made life even easier. This year I have had to utilise both the train and the ferry to get to work and that doesn't impact me being able to get to the office. I don’t have to walk somewhere further; I catch the train and I'm here, or I catch the ferry and I'm here. This has been immeasurably better in terms of making my days easier.

MELINDA And when you're choosing to work from home, that’s mostly around when you needed to do deep focus work? Or it is also about convenience?

RACHEL If I have an appointment near home then sometimes it won't make sense for me to come into the office and then go back home. If I've booked my dog into the vet, for example, I’ll work from home. Sometimes if I've got a really busy day planned I might work from home so I can keep going without distraction. But I find I can do that deep focus work in the office, too. And if I'm on a project with other people, it's nice to be in the office because you can talk to the people face-to-face about that project. The flexibility to work from both home and the office is definitely more of a lifestyle convenience thing for me.

MELINDA Does it make a difference having that extra four or five years of experience under your belt?

RACHEL I think working from home as a young person in some cases can be very different from someone more established in their career. A more senior colleague may have a nice house with a proper office and they can shut the door and have quite an ideal work environment.

MELINDA What do you appreciate most about flexible work?

RACHEL I think there are some positives in the sense that, pre-Covid, if you weren't feeling 100 percent you probably still came to the office because you weren't sick enough to take a sick day, and you may potentially have made your colleagues sick, too. Now that it's more common for people to work from home this is less likely to happen. I think pre-Covid, no one was used to people regularly working from home, and so there was, I think, an element of distrust generally when someone said they were working from home. But I think Covid really taught us all that you can do your job from home well.

 But, like I said, working from home isn't necessarily easy. I had friends during the pandemic who were working from their bedroom or the dining room in their flat for the entire lockdown. That's not healthy, working and sleeping and eating in the same room. I really felt for them. I worked in my lounge and my dining room. Again, not ideal, but had to do it. There's no separation though, from where you eat, where you relax and where you work.

MELINDA If you could describe your ideal workplace set up, how would that look for you?

RACHEL Obviously location is important. Being close to public transport is ideal. I've lived in Christchurch and Wellington before and in Auckland, the commute plays a bigger role. I think end of journey facilities are really important, so people can utilise multiple ways to get into work. They can run or bike if they feel like it. They can walk, they can take the scooter or they can catch the bus or train. They don't have to drive. There's a good shower in the office here, which is well-utilised.

I think the ideal workplace is somewhere there's space for different working styles, including some pods for focused work. On the other hand, I have found open-plan to be really valuable. In a law firm context, it's great as you get direct access to your supervising partners and it’s really good for learning, just being around them and hearing their conversations. But you need a mix of both, right?  I also think having spaces that foster social connection as well, a space to connect with your colleagues and have a catch-up chat.

MELINDA What about the qualities of a space in terms of light, aesthetics. Is that important to you?

RACHEL Yes. I really like the Australis Nathan building where Anderson Lloyd have their Auckland office. Natural light is important, where you can actually see the sun in the day. I quite like the heritage feel in here. It doesn’t feel like a typical office. You want to be here. I like that there's great spaces to hang out and character within the office environment.

MELINDA  Do you think there’s been a big shift in the way that young people perceive their career paths?

RACHEL I talk about this with my friends and colleagues so often. First thing, obviously it's down to each individual, right? But in terms of trends … I've shifted jobs a couple of times for various reasons, and I remember my parents wondering why I was leaving a job that didn't necessarily align with what I wanted out of my career, but was otherwise fine. For my parents' generation, you stayed in a job for a really long time, for the security. I think what young people are better at doing these days is looking at what works for them and not being afraid to be brave and to pursue that.

I think there has been a huge amount of exposure for young people to different career paths, due to social media and the internet. This means young people are more open to different opportunities and non-standard career paths. I also think that with the pandemic we lost three years, give or take, of our 20s, and a lot of people felt that. So I think the sentiment now is, go and live your life a little bit, and try to find a job that you can work really hard at and do well at and supports your aspirations, but it's not necessarily your first priority in life. Not all young lawyers want to be a partner of a law firm and that's completely fine.

Now that we have the convenience of working from home, I think people expect a level of convenience from the office as well — those end of journey facilities I mentioned earlier, for example. I think employers need to go a little bit above and beyond in terms of what they're offering in the office space to counter the fact that working from home can be so convenient. A lot of people my age are heading overseas now to do their OE as well. I know this happened a lot pre-Covid but there is now a backlog of people who have been stuck in New Zealand for the last three years. The question is 'How can we make this an enticing place to work for people, for young people? How can we make them want to be here?' easier in person as well.

Photos by Geoffery Matautia.