Working From Home: Creating A Flexible Workforce in Ireland

With almost everyone working from home, the spotlight is cast on broadband speed and reliability. Because of the increased need for quality connections, Virgin Media Business is waiving the minimum 24 month contract on our Homeworker product.

Instead, you can now enjoy a 30-day contract for all new broadband installations with pricing from €45 a month and offer speeds of up to 500Mb. And while we all try to adjust to this new work from home situation, did you know that many Irish workers are already used to this lifestyle?

Back in 2017, a study by Virgin Media Business revealed that many Irish SMEs were embracing the trend of flexible working conditions. In fact, 61% of companies surveyed employ staff that split working days between their homes and the office.

These organisations surveyed for the study reported that 25% of their employees are working remotely at an average of three days a week.

In 2020, work from home became a necessity. With Covid-19 forcing most Irish businesses to have a remote work setup, both employers and employees are starting to discover the joys (and pains) of work from home.

What does it mean to have a flexible workforce?

 

Having a flexible workforce means being physically and technologically prepared for your employees to be working remotely. This situation may be new to many Irish workers but do you know how many people actually work from home in Ireland?

According to a report in The Irish Times in 2018, it is estimated 216,000 people in Ireland work from home, or from a co-working space. It is also not surprising that many young workers prefer to work for companies that can adapt to their lifestyles.

A survey by PwC revealed that for millennials, work is a thing, not a place. For them, flexibility is not just about being home to do chores or take care of the kids. It’s about employees shaping their jobs in ways that fit with their daily lives, which could mean working remotely or shifting hours when needed.

 

What does remote working mean?

 

Remote working can mean two things. One, that an employee is based in another city or country which qualifies him or her to be a remote worker. The second explanation is that an employee who comes in the office regularly can work from home every now and then, usually as a perk given by employers.

 

What is the difference between remote and work from home?

 

Does remote working mean working from home? Well, you may hear people use these terms interchangeably but for some businesses, it can mean two completely different things.

As mentioned previously, there are businesses that regularly employ workers from different locations such as virtual assistants. They would often refer to their offsite teams as remote teams — people who regularly work outside the office.

On the other hand, employers who give their workers the option to work from the comfort of their homes for a day on a weekly or monthly basis don’t necessarily refer to these workers as “remote workers.” They can be remotely working that day and the term “work from home” is more often used in these situations.

 

What are the laws or regulations about work from home?

 

In Ireland, there is nothing specific in general legislation that prohibits a person from working alone (or at home). However, Section 19 of the Safety, Health and Welfare at Work Act 2005 requires the employer to undertake a risk assessment, and so this shall determine whether or not an employee may work alone.

This broad legislation can be applied to the practice of providing flexible working conditions and acts as a good set of guidelines for employers to follow.

 

What are the responsibilities of employers in a flexible working environment?

 

Many employers will take their employees at their word that they have everything they need in their home to create a workstation, but sometimes their home internet mightn’t match the speed or bandwidth of the business broadband available in the office. This can create inefficiencies down the road.

Equipment can be tested and security precautions evaluated, leaving management to decide whether they need to agree to a bring your own device (BYOD) policy or whether the company should pay for equipment to be installed in the employees’ homes.

Also, because the home office is now an extension of the workplace, health and safety concerns can come into play. To avoid potential liability, management should ensure there are no physical health and safety risks. This could include making sure there are no problems with fumes from electrical equipment and adequate ventilation. Water hazards must also be secured.

For extreme cases when the government advises or commands private businesses to implement a work-from-home scheme, assessing the situation of each and every worker may be a handful. However, what business owners can do is to reassure their employees that they will be supportive in addressing their needs.

For example, if your employee needs some home office tools (an extra desk, an extra monitor, laptop accessory, etc.) or fast and reliable broadband suitable for work, then employers should be ready to shoulder the costs.

 

What are the expectations from employees?

 

The era of flexible working conditions requires a flexible staff. Employees might get to log on from their armchair, with their own coffee machine close by, but they are now expected to have a more diverse digital skill set than ever before. It’s a golden age for the ‘all-rounder’.

In 2017, 70% of businesses surveyed said that experience with analytics software is a plus for new hires. In the same survey, computer programming was also highly valued, with 60% of Irish SME managers expecting their non-IT staff to have some tech know-how.

Aside from having the necessary skills that equip employees for this situation, it is also a given that employees should submit their deliverables on time. Having a clear schedule or project management software can make this clear and fair for everyone.

Proper working hours should also be agreed upon by both parties. If employees working from home have to run errands or have other personal business to attend to, it would be to everyone’s benefit if these hours are blocked off in a calendar that’s visible to the team.

 

The pros and cons of remote working

 

Like any work setup, work from home has its advantages and disadvantages. This may differ per industry, but the basic ones will be detailed here:

 

What are the benefits of working from home?

 

It’s a case of you reap what you sow for Irish employers, as those who allow their staff to work away from the water cooler believe that there is a notable improvement in morale. According to the study, 86% believe that allowing employees to work from home makes for a happier workforce.

With a large proportion of jobs requiring just a phone and a computer to enable employees to carry out their duties, it’s very easy for remote workers to get up and go. With email and instant messaging systems there is no reason that an employee’s regular KPIs can’t be established, agreed upon and reviewed during their working from home days.

When it comes to vital equipment, for the most part companies can buy additional licences for their employees so they can access the same software packages from home. It goes without saying that specialist requirements can change from industry to industry.

Employees can also opt to use their own devices which allows employees to carry out business tasks and access company data, using a device they have purchased themselves. This includes smartphones, tablets or laptops which the employee already owns.

However, employees using their own devices to work can cause major headaches for IT support. Instead of providing IT support for a few thousand standard computers, they find themselves struggling to be able to support any kind of device, depending on the individual employee.

There is also a problem with company sensitive data being accessed at home and ensuring that security can be maintained.

 

What are the disadvantages of remote working?

 

One of the few downsides that companies have found with implementing flexible working conditions for their employees is arranging meetings between staff working in the office and those working at home. Creating harmony between the workflows of in-office and at-home staff must be addressed.

If a staff member working from home feels they are most productive between the hours of 2 a.m. and 6 a.m. this obviously won’t do for conference meetings. Working hours can be pre-arranged between managers and telecommuting employees. There are two popular ways of regulating this: making the at-home working hours match 9 a.m. to 5.30 p.m. or letting staff give notice of their flexible work week seven days in advance.

 

What are the tips and tricks to make work from home easier?

 

Employers and their staff who are new to this setup will likely need to accept that there will be an adjustment period. But there are plenty of ways to make working from home more efficient and enjoyable:

  • Establish concrete working hours. Agree on working hours so that employees don’t overwork or underwork. You may also use a time tracking process or software to assist with this…
  • Respect one another’s time. Everyone working from home is faced with a different situation. Some people may have to do chores or take care of kids at a certain time so it’s better if employees are transparent about these blocks of time.
  • Keep communication lines open. Working together may put a strain on the culture of the team so try to stay in touch by arranging video calls or through a group chat.
  • Give support when needed. There could be instances when an employee may need a tool or a device for their home office so that they can perform their job to the highest standard. Employers should be prepared to support them whenever needed.

Is working from home the future of employment?

 

The simple answer is yes. With millennials and Gen Z taking over the workforce in the next decade, many of whom consider a flexible work environment more as a “need” than a “want”.

Aside from that, the Covid-19 pandemic which had governments advising offices to shift work to home was a reality check for a lot of industries. There should be plans in place in case this happens again and investing in technology that allows teams to seamlessly connect should be a priority.

Virgin Media’s 30-day home office contract can just be the answer to a company’s needs regarding this. We are waiving the minimum 24 month contract on our homeworker product. Instead, enjoy a 30 day contract for all new Broadband Installations with pricing from €45 a month and speeds of up to 500Mb:

Step 1: Go to our homepage and browse our products

Step 2: Get in touch with us via mobile: 1800 941 941

or email: commercialsales@virginmedia.ie

Step 3: Ask about our homeworker offer