Wednesday, 2 September 2015

Increased uptake of flexible working worth €2.5 billion to Irish economy

A survey commissioned by Data Solutions, the leading Irish distributor of IT solutions, has found that a higher uptake of flexible working among Irish knowledge workers would add €2.5 billion to the Irish economy, through increases in employment and productivity.

The survey uncovered huge cost savings and monetary gains potential for the Irish economy. Working flexibly two days a week on average would save Irish knowledge workers €252 million annually in transportation costs. The cost of commuting for knowledge workers, including fuel and transport tickets, is on average €47 per week, the survey revealed.

Overall, the survey dispels the common misconception among non-users that flexible working negatively impacts professionalism, access management and job progression. Instead, the results show that 42% of flexible workers are willing to work extra hours each week, which is worth a potential €827m to the Irish economy each year. Of these, 61% would be willing to work up to eight hours extra a week, remotely. At 86%, the majority of knowledge workers claim flexible working drives productivity and increases output.

The survey discovered that unemployed and economically inactive knowledge workers, such as those who are unemployed, disabled or students, would be encouraged to return to work if remote working conditions were available. Interestingly, 71% of unemployed or economically inactive individuals want to re-enter the workforce. This group provides the largest potential for economic gains potentially adding €1.64 billion to the Irish economy.

According to the results, the ability to work from any location would allow 84% of unemployed or economically inactive individuals to return to work, when working in a specific office location presents its own challenges.

Flexible working also improves employee work-life balance and allows employees be happier in their job. Of respondents, 91% said flexible working positively affects their ability to manage personal and professional commitments while 68% agree it makes them happier in their job. The findings revealed that flexible working would provide an additional 2.8 hours of leisure time per person per week.

While there is a high awareness of flexible working among Irish knowledge workers, there is room for further adoption. Of all knowledge workers, 92% are aware of flexible working environments, however just 4 in 10 currently utilise them. The findings showed that middle managers, specialists and senior managers are much more likely to utilise remote working compared to employees in entry level positions.

The Data Solutions survey also found anecdotal evidence from companies that flexible working would provide overhead cost savings to the organisation. Some HR managers pointed out that some company cultures, such as start-ups, currently do not facilitate flexible working arrangements as it is necessary to have staff on-site to get the work culture right.

Michael O’Hara, managing director, Data Solutions, commented on the findings, “The results, which will be presented in full at the upcoming .Next Computing Forum, are extremely interesting as they have thoroughly shot down misconceptions associated with flexible working. Instead we can clearly see the huge benefits of flexible working to the individual, the organisation and to the Irish economy.

“What is concerning is the high number of workers who are aware of the option of flexible working, but who do not utilise it. Given the potential savings, earnings and monetary gains to be made in this area, companies clearly need to review their flexible and mobile working arrangements and ensure they are getting the most out of them.

“The survey has given us a strong understanding of adoption rates and attitudes of organisations when it comes to flexible working. It has also given us a look at the potential to be uncovered, especially among unemployed or economically inactive individuals. Irish businesses and Irish business leaders have an exciting opportunity ahead to further contribute to the economy, improve the work-life balance of employees and gain from flexible working.”

The survey was commissioned by Data Solutions and carried out by the UCD Michael Smurfit Graduate Business School Marketing Development Programme. It was carried out in March 2015 via face-to-face interviews among 200 knowledge workers, 20 HR managers in companies that employ knowledge workers and 50 unemployed workers. ‘Knowledge workers’ refers to those whose main capital is knowledge and includes accountants, engineers, architects and doctors. Unemployed and inactive workers include students, home-makers, disabled and retired.

The .Next Computing Forum, with special MC Aoibhinn Ní Shúilleabháin, takes place on Thursday, 8 October 2015, in the Light House Cinema in Smithfield, Dublin 2. Find out more and register your attendance here