No fixed timings, share in profit: Working in this New Zealand startup is bliss

A gaming company in New Zealand is luring employees from around the world by offering unlimited paid annual leave, a share in the company’s profits and no set work hours.

world Updated: Feb 20, 2017 11:56 IST
New Zealand startup,Working environment,Dean Hall
Rocketwerkz founder Dean Hall. (Twitter/Dean Hall)

A gaming company in New Zealand is luring employees from around the world by offering unlimited paid annual leave, a share in the company’s profits and no set work hours.

Dean Hall became famous in international gaming circles for being the lead designer on the popular zombie apocalypse video game DayZ.

After searching the world for a location for his new gaming studio, Rocketwerkz, New Zealander Hall settled on the small university town of Dunedin on the south island’s east coast, where property is cheap and creative start-ups have become a core part of the city’s identity.

Rocketwerkz’s flexible work culture -- which includes unlimited leave, a share in the company’s profits and Hall’s salary capped at 10% above his highest-paid employee -- is now drawing talent from around the globe, with Hall receiving 300 Facebook messages of inquiry since a local newspaper wrote about his unorthodox office last week.

A view of the Rocketwerkz office. (Video screengrab/

Last year, when the company was still in its infancy, kittens would also make a regular appearance in the office as a form of combating stress, and Friday afternoons are generally reserved for sports and games to end the week on a playful note.

“The first time I heard about the idea of unlimited paid leave in places like Silicon Valley it was about the problems it caused, that a culture had sprung up where employees took no leave,” said Hall, a former air force officer for the Royal New Zealand Air Force.

“So to address that our staff are issued the standard New Zealand annual leave of four weeks, but they can also take unlimited leave in addition to that. My time in the army actually influenced my ideas around this, where people are your greatest asset.”

Hall’s company, whose headquarters are situated in the industrial wharf area of Otago Harbour, wedged between a brewery and salt-stained fishing trawlers, currently employs 40 staff, though Hall projects his team will grow to 100 by the year’s end, with the ambition to make New Zealand’s nascent gaming industry as big as its now flourishing film industry.

The youthful CEO argues that despite his work culture sounding like a quick route to missed deadlines and empty desks, it is designed to give employees the autonomy they need to manage their personal lives, whether that entails going to the bank or health appointments during work hours, or staying home to mend a rocky relationship or grieve for a dead pet.

“By giving our staff unlimited time to sort out any issues with their homes or personal lives, it means when they do come to work their mind is unburdened and they’re ready to focus,” says Hall.

“And by having the freedom to deal with the life stuff, which can frankly be complicated, they begin to associate work as an enjoyable place to be, where they perform at their best and have the freedom to be completely creative.”

Emily Lampitt, from Britain, is a 3D junior artist who has been with the company for a year and half.

She says the flexible work culture was a huge factor in her decision to move to the bottom of New Zealand, and she has used it to visit family at short notice, or take long weekends by leaving early on Friday’s.

“The flexibility here has made me feel much more relaxed, and it really has made my life easier,” she says.

“That internal-stress I used to feel in a traditional hierarchical work environment has gone, so when I am at work now it is because I want to be, because I am passionate, not because I am afraid of my boss or watching the clock.”

This month opposition leader Andrew Little visited Dunedin and said if Labour was elected to government in the September elections, it would invest $10m in the Dunedin gaming industry, with the goal of eventually making it a $1bn industry.

First Published: Feb 20, 2017 11:47 IST