On the 13th of May this year, I became a statistic.
My family and I packed up our apartment, picked a removalist I wouldn’t recommend to my worst enemy, put 85% of our belongings in a truck, and left Sydney for the country. When we got out of the car 2 hours later we were in a brave new world- Kangaroo Valley, the home of many a great golf weekend, and many a great romantic weekend, but never my actual home before. Given I’d been in Bondi for 13 years, this was a change.
In a deeply personal account, below I have covered a few of the key points around how I’ve managed living and working 153km away from my office in Surry Hills.
How I make it work
Weekly schedule – every week I do 1 day in the city. I leave my house at 5:30am, and return at 8pm. I do this on a Monday, and I thoroughly enjoy being back in the big smoke (everyone does talk so fast though). It works well- I drive to Bowral station, jump on the train for 2 hours (and can work there) and do the same/opposite on the way home. I come up for any other meetings as needed and apart from that I WFH.
Working from home in a cramped apartment, where the kitchen table is the office, and the entire house is an echo chamber for someone making calls, can be very challenging. It can make it feel like you don’t WFH, rather you live from office. Given there is more space in the country, there is simply more space for an office! Having a dedicated office with a great work set up that I can close the door on when I’m done for the day has ensured I have felt like I can get a break from work.
But what about the Benjamins? (money, not me)
When COVID hit I immediately reduced my wage by 20%, and said goodbye to all bonuses for the time being. My partner is also on significantly reduced pay as she is on maternity leave. Living in the country, there is simply less to spend your money on- housing, either rent or mortgage, is a lot cheaper. I also can’t get Deliveroo/Menulog/Uber Eats. I simply use my card less and we have been lucky enough to not feel the pinch.
I love seeing my friends and family. I’m one of 11 kids, which means if just my immediate family lived in Kangaroo Valley, we’d make up 1.5% of the population of 879 people. Thank god they don’t, because this town ain’t big enough for the 11 of us. My social life has changed- instead of seeing people after work or on the weekend for a few hours, people now come and stay with us for a night or two. Given we have the space, this is a comfortable arrangement. It’s a different social life but I’m still enjoying it.
The other side of social life is that every single person in town stops to say hello. I don’t think we’re particularly interesting- it’s just that there’s no one else to speak with! It’s been amazing getting to know people who are 50+ years older than I am- and all seem to be so active. In a short anecdote, my neighbour knocked on my door at 3pm on Tuesday last week, and asked if I’d like to share a beer with him on his stone wall. He seemed flabbergasted when I told him that I needed to continue working! To be fair I think he’s been retired for 20+ years.
Has been for my partner Lucy- looking after our son Leo (first tooth yesterday and absolute champion of a baby. If I talked about Recruitmore as much as I talk about Leo, Elon Musk would know about my business). Being so far away from a support network or close by day care options has been isolating at times. I have never had more respect for women or men who look after their babies!! Full time job, with no commission cheques and no days off.
Is how much I’ve turned into Ace Ventura. Obviously, kangaroos are on my street once a week, and I see them every day. I’ve seen 3 echidnas, countless (live) wombats, including a mother and joey as snapped above, I’ve seen flocks of over 200 cockatoos, I’ve seen superb wrens, had arguments with expecting plovers, made friends with ducks and also (most surprisingly) caught a red-browed finch (see below for evidence, me flipping the bird to all you big smoke folk). As Spring has started I’ve been blown away as the Valley has really come alive.
To any employers out there that are considering what their work from home policy will look like in the coming years, if you don’t need everyone in the office all the time, my personal opinion is that you will benefit from allowing people to work remotely up to 80% of the time. I guarantee that some of your team would enjoy the change that remote living can bring.
Signing off, Ben “Country” Cantrall.
PS. I think you can eat a lot of peaches in the country, I just haven't as yet.