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The flexible solution

How modern communications technology is facilitating the development of new and more flexible ways of working, but hearts and minds have yet to follow


‘Offering flexible and remote working can help attract people and retain them’


“The technology now exists to enable people to work wherever and whenever they want,” says Three head of business product, marketing and operations Nicola Mortimer. “It has advanced so much in the past 10 years. We have seen the advent of smartphones along with vastly improved connectivity on both fixed and mobile networks. Combine this with the cloud and you real can work wherever you want.”

But why isn’t everyone doing it? “What is missing is the culture aspect,” Mortimer claims. “There is a gap between capability and culture, the technology is not the hindrance. There is still a fear that if people are not visible that they are not working. We have to change the culture to measure outputs, not presence.”

She believes market realities will help to force this change. “We are heading for one of our lowest ever unemployment rates and that will make it much harder to get talent. Offering flexible and remote working can help attract people and retain them. There are other benefits as well. You can have people from different parts of the country and even from different countries working for you without the need for them to come into the office.”

Althaea Federlein of Iconic Offices says the change is already happening. “The mindset is changing,”she says. “It used to be that people needed to see you to believe you were working. Now employers don’t care where and when the work is done as long as it’s excellent quality. We are seeking a lot of flexible working now. Lots of big corporates are setting up hubs away from city centres where people can work away from the main office. We are working with a client to set up a hub for them in Dublin at the moment. This will enable their people to work from a different part of the city. It’s not about clock-watching anymore.”

PwC director of people and organisation Gerard McDonough warns that flexibility can have hidden costs. “Flexibility can be good and bad,” he says. “It’s good that flexibility takes out cost and enables new ways of working but there is a challenge around loss of engagement. You have to ask how interested people who work in this way will be in the organisation they are working for. The really important thing to do is channel some of the savings into ensuring that there is still a connection, that people still feel part of a team and part of a collective culture.”