Do you think that flexible working is a great concept but that it can’t be applied to retailers? Businesses that promise availability to their customers need people in the office full time to answer the phone and handle their queries, right? Well, not necessarily. I talked to Huia Burt, Co-Founder and Director at Electric Kiwi, NZ’s fastest growing company, to share her story.

Electric Kiwi started its journey five years ago as a small start-up in Auckland. They embrace a culture of flexible working and what’s more, in 2018 they were the winner of the People’s Choice Award from Consumer NZ and overall winner of the Deloitte Fast 50 award for New Zealand’s fastest growing company. Needless to say they’re doing something right!

How do they do it? Talking to Huia it’s clear to see that the adoption of a flexible working culture at Electric Kiwi has been somewhat organic – a sign of the new era of working.

For those of you struggling to implement a humming flexible working culture, an organic approach might seem hard to digest, especially in a retail environment. Here are the three key things I took from how Electric Kiwi does flexible working, and how they plan to embrace it as the business continues to grow.

1. They maximise automation.

Huia says that their entrepreneurial mindset of maximising automation played a key part in allowing a culture of flexible working to develop.

“We’ve focussed on automating daily business processes as much as possible to ensure our people are working on high value activities which enhance our customer experience. This means we’re not tied to manual process timetables and gives everyone space for critical thinking, which can be done at different times and in other locations.”

2. They made a conscious decision to be fully cloud-based.

Being a retailer we need to work to customer volumes so our service team are on shifts to ensure the needs of our customers are always being met. That being said, we are fully cloud-based so our people can work from anywhere. It’s good for them, it’s good for the business and it’s good for business continuity planning too.”

Electric Kiwi has a software development base in India, and a sister electricity retailer has recently launched in Australia using their proprietary IT platform, so they now have offices in Auckland, Brisbane and India with one employee based in Tauranga and three in Newcastle.

“Even when our team member from Tauranga comes to the Auckland office he is still working remotely from the perspective of our teams in Australia and India. This just goes to show the power of technology in an era where work is more about what you do rather than where you do it.”

3. They lead by example.

Their culture of flexible working is led by the business owners and managers which sets the tone for the rest of team. People have a choice of where they work, but more often than not their team prefer to be in the office.

“There’s a number of reasons people choose to be in the office. Given the younger demographic of a large portion of our team, some of them prefer the social aspect of being in a team environment, some of them live close by so they don’t have to commute, and some don’t have the space required to work from home. They also know that just because they’re in the office doesn’t mean they have to stay until 5pm. What’s important is that the choice is theirs. It means that when people are in the office they’re engaged and happy, which is good for collaboration and knowledge sharing.“

So what are the next steps for Electric Kiwi? The plan is to keep growing by creating awesome experiences for electricity customers. While on the journey so far there has been a concerted effort to create a great company culture, the development of flexible working has been organic and they are now at the turning point of considering how they can formalise it, and leverage it to attract new talent and retain their people as the business grows.

If you want to discuss how you can implement or formalise flexible working at your workplace then get in touch with the team at Freerange Works on 0800 04 FLEX or email: