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Is the flexible workplace the perfect solution?

Do you dream of an international career but cannot find a work-life balance? David Haubold (MA ’11) has his own recipe for the perfect balance.

2015.09.09 | Julie Løndahl Petersen

David studied at Aarhus BSS and graduated with a Master’s degree in Corporate Communication in 2011. After graduation, he returned to his native country Germany for work but his Danish girlfriend pulled him back to the city. David wanted to work within an international environment and had his eyes set on a job at the digital bureau Nitro Digital. He had cooperated with Nitro Digital through former employment at a German medical company. The issue was that Nitro Digital has its head office in London and David had a baby on the way and his girlfriend studied in Aarhus, so the time was not right to relocate:

”I had worked freelance for them and I was offered a fulltime position. I could not move so I asked for an arrangement to be made. They are highly flexible so we worked out a solution together,” says David.

Three weeks home, one week out

David and Nitro Digital agreed that during each month he works from home in Aarhus three weeks and works in London for one week to participate in meetings with clients and colleagues and to be a physical part of the team.

”I am a Digital Marketing Analyst and do analyses and a great deal of research. For example, I analyze keywords and social media, usability interviews with the target group, website analysis and improvement. In fact, it is one of the reasons why it works well working from home as most of the work I do is research. I don’t have to talk to clients all the time and I can engage myself without having to participate in meetings all the time”, David says.

The arrangement has been ongoing since October 2014 and when travelling to London every fourth weekend the process is always mapped out:

”It is always from Sunday to Friday. I fly from Aarhus Sunday afternoon and return to Billund Friday. I always use Airbnb for accommodation in London. Even though the company covers the travel expenses, the hotels are expensive in London so I prefer Airbnb. The big advantage is that there is a kitchen most often; not because I do much cooking but at least I can make breakfast there”, David says.

Self-discipline – even when the sun is shining

It is not new to Nitro Digital to have employees around the world. In addition to David in Denmark they have an employee in Sicily and some employees in Poland and New York. The department David is part of consists of seven people all located at the London offices but it is not a problem for David that he is physically far from his closest colleagues:

“One of my greatest concerns when I started was that I would not be a part of the team at the office but I have a great team and a capable leader so it works really well. And my presence a week every month helps a lot. I feel like part of the team and it works much better than I initially thought”, David says.

Even though David’s office is a desk in his bedroom he has a strict self-discipline. It is necessary to make his job work and separate it from his daily life with a wife and newborn child in the house:

”My daughter is two months old. I feared that it would be hard to concentrate with a baby in the house if she screamed all the time but I work at my desk and close the door while my wife takes care of our daughter. It is a great advantage compared to working in an office from morning until evening because I see my daughter more but it requires self-discipline to work from home. I have a set schedule for when I am ‘at the office’ and when I am ‘at home’. I start at 9 am and work until noon to have lunch with my family and then back to work until evening”, David says and continues:

“You are much more efficient when working from home than at an office. Often, you sit in a large office space filled with people and there is always noise from people talking on the phone. Sitting at home creates peace and quiet enabling you to work more focused. You need self-discipline – even when the sun shines. It comes naturally if you have plenty to do. We are a busy agency with deadlines to keep for clients.”

Handling practicalities

It is not all straightforward to work alone from home every day and only communication via digital platforms. For example, it is hard to participate in big group meetings via Skype and you miss out on a lot of the daily solidarity and lack input, according to David. The practicalities with contracts, salary and taxes are another issue. Davis has spent a great deal of time on dealing with formalities, figuring out what taxes to pay and where, convincing the unemployment insurance fund to approve this job and creating a system where he invoices Nitro Digital for his time in Denmark and is paid permanently for his time in London. But there are also financial advantages by receiving your salary in British Pound:

”At first I was apprehensive about the salary not being sufficient since the cost of living in Denmark is significantly high but the pay level in London equals the Danish wages. And I am paid in British Pound. This is an advantage to me as the British Pound has increased its value compared to the Danish Krone.”

The perfect solution?

When asking David if he recommends others this model, he says:

”I recommend it to others in a similar situation where flexibility with relocation is limited. It is important to prioritize physical presence and show your colleagues that you do your work and work as hard as them. You also have to consider all the practical elements and the job has to be appropriate. If you are constantly needed at meetings it is not possible. But many academic jobs are relevant for working at home”, David says.

Find David on LinkedIn

Read about Nitro Digital

Collaboration, Alumni, External target group, Aarhus University