Teleworking fails in Ireland

24 Oct 2003

New research commissioned by Microsoft has revealed that teleworking so far in Ireland has been a failure, with only 4pc of Irish office workers adopting it and only 18pc of Irish companies making teleworking facilities available.

The research study, entitled Ireland at Work: Inside the Knowledge Economy, which was conducted by Amarach Consulting and aimed to coincide with today’s launch of Microsoft Office 2003, found that 25pc of Ireland’s workforce are office based and that three out of four office workers have internet access. Gerard O’Neill, managing director of Amarach Consulting, said: “Irish office workers are on the front line of the knowledge economy. Some 95pc of workers rate themselves as being competent in using a PC.”

The survey of 520 Irish office workers found that the overwhelming majority of Irish businesses now use email for internal and external communications. The average office worker sends 19 emails per day and typically receive 27 emails per day. Nearly one in ten office workers receives more than 100 emails per day. Spam is a growing problem for Irish office workers. Just under a third of office workers surveyed state that they feel overwhelmed by the amount of email they receive on a daily basis.

In terms of productivity, 85pc of office workers feel that their PCs have increased their levels of work productivity.

Work-life balance was assessed in the study and most Irish workers were happy with the balance and don’t mind working occasional extra hours to get the job done. Two thirds would prefer an increase in salary for the same hours in work rather than shorter working hours for the same amount of money.

However, in terms of flexible working options and the advent of teleworking, which was aimed to encourage better life and work styles, only 4pc of Irish workers take part in teleworking opportunities with 25pc preferring to take flexible working hours.

“The fact is that people still prefer working in an environment where they can interact with other people. In terms of their main method of communicating with team members, 42pc of communications at work are done through informal face-to-face conversations, mostly around the water cooler,” O’Neill explained. Formal meetings account for 40pc of communications at work with phone calls at 8pc and emails at 7pc.

Leon McCarthy, marketing manager at Microsoft Ireland, explained that while office workers have embraced technology, the industry can’t rest on its laurels and that providing technologies and tools that enable collaborative and group working will be the next wave. “There is a huge frustration in terms of productivity at this point, if most of the office day is spent in face-to-face communications, how can technology be harnessed to boost productivity? The industry is endeavouring to support changing work patterns and new ways to use technology. People like interacting.”

In terms of the failure of teleworking in Ireland, O’Neill said that may soon change. “We are at a tipping point where we are waiting for change to happen and that may happen through the use of key technologies and they are web and broadband. The key will be ubiquity and access. Eircom says it has 100,000 broadband customers. When broadband becomes more readily available and less costly it could prove the tipping point,” O’Neill said.

Microsoft unveiled its Office 2003 product set this morning at an event in University College Dublin. The new edition, with new products included such as OneNote and SharePoint, focuses heavily around collaborative working and digital rights management as well as boosting productivity amongst office workers.

According to Microsoft general manager Joe Macri, Office 2003 was largely created in Dublin at the company’s European Product Development Centre in Sandyford where 250 people worked on the product for the past two years in over 27 different languages. Some 825,000 copies have been shipped in the past two weeks to 20 countries from Microsoft’s supply chain hub at the European Operations Centre, also located in Sandyford.

Present at this morning’s launch was Kevin Johnson, vice-president of group worldwide marketing at Microsoft, who highlighted the high level of XML (extensible markup language) technology used to enable more collaborative working ranging from live document sharing to instant messaging. “InfoPath, for example, enables workers to author business forms that are XML-driven and allow them to directly and automatically input into business systems like ERP and CRM systems. The idea is to foster more participation amongst the workforce.”

By John Kennedy