We recently conducted a study in Ireland in association with iReach Market Research – indicating a significant disconnect between the surge in personal and smart mobile devices in the Irish workplace and policies in place to support flexible working. Seventy three per cent of the 336 businesses questioned indicated that their organisation does not currently support a flexible or mobile working culture, citing “loss of control” as the biggest fear. Of those respondents, most significantly, 57 per cent are not considering changing the working culture to adopt flexible working at all.

This latest study indicates that whilst workers across Ireland are riding the consumerisation wave, Ireland PLC’s attitude to flexible working is lagging behind; for a country mooted to be the cloud capital of Europe, this needs to be addressed.  Mobility in the workplace can help to improve the reputation of businesses and improve talent retention.  With employees demanding mobile working to give them greater flexibility in their working lives, a better work life balance and the ability to work from anywhere, at any time – it is more apparent than ever that businesses now need to respond accordingly.

Breaking the nine to five, office based mentality is the fastest route to, for example, a reduction in sick days as a result of family matters – as well as significantly boosting productivity and ultimately enhancing an organisation’s reputation to attract and retain talent.  Flexible working can have a noticeable effect on businesses’ profitability and employees’ work-life harmony, as well as significant cost-saving benefits.  As this study demonstrates, encouraging businesses to take a more progressive stance will reap dividends in the longer term.

Amongst the 73 per cent of respondents that don’t have a policy in place, inertia or inability to embrace change appears to be a significant hurdle; aside from the fifty seven per cent of those that indicated that their organisation is not considering adopting a flexible working culture at all, a further 37 per cent are undecided and only a mere 6 per cent intend to introduce a policy in the coming years. By contrast, the recent Citrix Workplace of the Future report, which surveyed 1900 IT professionals worldwide, indicated that by the middle of 2014, 83 per cent of organizations globally will have embraced flexible working.

The biggest deterrent preventing companies from introducing a more formal “anywhere, anytime” policy is loss of control highlighted by almost 40 per cent (38 per cent) of business leaders surveyed.  Other deterrents include:

  • Lack of budget (17 per cent)
  • Concerns for decreased employee productivity (12 per cent)
  • Confidentiality of client information (four per cent)
  • Trust of employees (four per cent)

Additional findings indicated that, whilst many businesses have yet to embrace flexible working, cost savings are a prime motivating factor for considering such a policy (57 per cent of respondents).

Ultimately, the good news is that the technology is now in place to address many of these concerns and create a new more effective way of working.  Next, we need to evolve the organisational culture in Ireland. Although there is an inherent reluctance to adopt flexible working, forty three per cent of respondents actually recognised a good work/life balance as the most important benefit of introducing a flexible working policy. It is important to capitalise and expand on that glimmer of positive recognition to drive broader change.