The Irish flunk at e-working

13 Oct 2008

In the decade or more since Irish executives have been encouraged to work from home to cut down on travel, help the environment and achieve a work-life balance, it seems we are among the worst in Europe when it comes to teleworking, preferring to go to work every day.

According to a new e-working service, E-working Ireland, only 2pc of Irish executives telework at least one day a week, compared with 21pc of their counterparts on the European continent.

The new website has been established by Centrecom, a one-stop shop aimed at helping businesses set up their employees to work from home. The company works with technology firms such as Citrix, eWork Solutions and Continuum, as well as various broadband and telecoms providers.

According to Christopher Plockelman of Centrecom, the problem is Irish executives don’t want to telework despite the prevalence of broadband, traffic bottlenecks and long commutes.

“In every company we’ve worked with that has a teleworking strategy we’ve discovered a very low take-up from employees. The Irish just want to come to work.”

Plockelman agreed that trust between bosses and workers may be an issue. “Monitoring the situation, we’ve found that either companies don’t trust employees or employees don’t want to be out of the office environment for fear of missing out or appearing not to be working hard enough.”

While Irish-based companies such as Eircom, Fujitsu, Diageo, Heineken, Deloitte and Microsoft have formal e-working strategies in place, Ireland’s failure to embrace e-working baffles Plockelman.

“The country has broadband, and virtual private networks (VPNs) mean you have access to everything in the workplace from your home office. You’d think in these recessionary times that companies would want to reduce bills.

“We’ve studied commuter groups and you’d think that workers would rather circumvent infrastructure bottlenecks.”

While e-working isn’t new and has been promoted in recent years by state bodies such as Enterprise Ireland, Plockelman believes that in general e-working is under-promoted in Irish workplaces.

“Contrast this with organisations like Diageo, which gives e-working a lot of energy and effort to ensure productivity and that workers have work-life balance.

“We definitely do feel it is under-promoted. Ireland has reached a stage where the communications infrastructure can support e-working, the problem is making companies aware and getting it into the thought process of managers that letting staff stay at home either full-time or part-time is good for business.”

Of those who do e-work, Plockelman said that one or two days a week at home is the most prevalent form. “But even that is statically below average. What we do find is people bringing work home with them and working at home in the evenings.

“Ireland could take an opportunity to meet its environmental objectives. Also, while we’re in a recession, e-working could be promoted to reduce overheads and ensure work-life balance and job satisfaction.

“Although we’ve emerged from a huge recruitment boom, teleworking or e-working could still be promoted by organisations as a job perk that doesn’t cost the company a lot of money,” Plockelman said.

The new website contains white papers and reports on e-working strategies, as well as information on legalities and tax implications.

By John Kennedy

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years