Business Irish

Tuesday 20 August 2019

'We're saving €100K a year and staff are much happier' - could working from home be the future?

Connections: Broadband speeds will rise across the State’s rural areas. Picture: Steve Humphreys
Connections: Broadband speeds will rise across the State’s rural areas. Picture: Steve Humphreys

Gabija Gataveckaite

WORKING home home could be the future for Irish businesses, with one company saying they're saving over €100,000 per year and have happier employees.

As we assess issues like achieving a work-life balance for staff, spiralling housing costs and the much-anticipated National Broadband Plan in the works, some have argued that we need to re-think traditional business models.

General manager Ann-Marie Fleming, who works in a telecommunications company in Cork, is currently trailing out a system in her workplace which has seen all of the staff work from home since March.

She explained that the working from home scheme has been successful with employees thus far.

“We have staff coming from Tipperary, Waterford and satellite towns as well as people in suburbs of the city,” she explained.

“Two months ago we sent everyone home.”

She explained that ever since the move, not only is the company saving over €100,000 per annum on renting and overhead costs, but the staff are much happier working from home as they find themselves to be more productive.

“One girl is saving €50 diesel a week as she used to commute for an hour each way every day,” she said.

“She has more time for her fiancé and child now as she’s not stuck in traffic and sitting looking at red lights.

“People are happier and our staff are more productive. They’re more likely to work longer hours as we’ve heard from our staff that they’ve to train themselves to turn off the computer at 5 o’clock.”

She added that the improvement in rural broadband will allow employees to work from home more efficiently.

“The rural broadband would give people options to work from home -photographers, architects, small businesses or people working on small projects as well as those who are in really rural places,” she said.

“We have had a lot of contracts over the years from people who work from home and are contractually obliged to work on minimum speed internet.

“Internet is so much more than Netflix and gaming now, it’s like your electricity and heat,” she said.

More employers are offering options for their staff to work from home, with Bank of Ireland being the latest to follow suit.

As part of a ‘transformation’ of its culture, the bank recently initiated flexible working schemes, which includes working from home and outside of the traditional 9-5 working day.

“Colleagues have reported that it has contributed to a substantial reduction in commuting times and also stress levels,” said a spokesperson for BoI.

“There has been a very positive reaction to the flexible working schemes rolled out to date, with 82pc of participants actively making changes to their own working patterns,” the spokesperson added.

Aidan Sweeney, Ibec Senior Public Sector and Regulatory Executive explained that because talent is mobile, the entire country should offer a good place to live, work and invest.

“Providing broadband across the country allows the widest possible pool of people to fully access to current opportunities and future possibilities offered by digitalisation. These cut across sectors and play to the strengths of urban and rural areas,” he told Independent.ie.

“Not having to commute long distances, often stuck in traffic, makes working from home attractive.

“The challenge of housing and its affordability in major urban centres can make working in rural areas more attractive. Access to high quality broadband would allow more people to avail of this,” Mr Sweeney added.

Irish start up Abodoo aims to drive the concept of working from home forward. The company strives to match people who work from home with an employer that is interested.

According to its website, the start up aims believes that “companies can grow and communities can thrive by allowing professionals the freedom to work and live where they choose. Technology now allows that choice and through Abodoo we aim to offer real life changing opportunities and true work life harmony.”

Offering the option of working from home should be a ‘no brainer’ for employers, according to Ross McCarthy, Vice Chairman of Irish Small and Medium Enterprises Association (ISME).

He explained that when it comes to day-today tasks of certain businesses, an improvement in infrastructure aids in smaller companies attracting talent that has been priced out of Irish cities.

“Do we all need to be under the one roof? Absolutely not,” he said.

“Video conferencing is the way forward.”

Working from home provides a “massive reduction in costs and overheads. But it can only work if businesses have the infrastructure and the broadband.”

He added that small businesses are more likely to offer flexible working options as they’re much more aware of team metrics in comparison to corporations.

“SMEs have to be more flexible, have to be less rigid than corporate,” he said,

“SMEs have a much clearer grasp of team metrics- every month, everyone gets paid at the start of the month and we know if we’re on track or off track.

“Corporates can be very slow to react, they don’t track productivity as well as they think they do.

“They don’t understand productivity’s impact on profitability.”

While the road to a flexible working environment is long, he explained that progress across businesses varies.

“Some businesses are further ahead than others, some will never get there.”

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