Amongst the trends likely to grow in the business place of 2018, remote working seems a concept becoming ever more established.
As recently as 10 years ago, this was an isolated world inhabited by writers, artists and design operators.
On the back of advances in cloud technology, enhanced communications and ever-increasing internet speed, the numbers of those opting to work full or part-time outside the office continues to grow. That said, however, the results of the Ricoh Ireland 2017 Workstyle Innovation Survey reveal that only 37% of workers have the authorisation and access tools to work remotely.
With so few employees able to work away from the office, Irish companies are missing out on the main benefits of mobile working, among which are the ability to attract and retain the best talent, increased productivity and improved customer service.
The research, which involved 175 IT decision-makers, found more than half of respondents citing technology issues as the main barrier. The other two most quoted obstacles were a rigid culture (49%) and the unwillingness of senior management to embrace it (43%).
“There is still a significant number of employees who have limited or restricted remote access to work materials and tools. There’s a digital revolution taking place throughout the world and Irish businesses need to be a part of this, or they will be left behind,” said Chas Moloney, director of Ricoh Ireland and UK.
With the importance of work/life balance, the appetite for mobility and accessibility among workers has never been greater.
“It is of utmost importance that organisations take full advantage of the latest technologies in order to
enable their workers and allow them to effectively and securely work where and when they want,” added Mr Moloney.
While such systems and mobile devices are helping workers to be productive and collaborative, 85% of organisations are finding it increasingly difficult to manage and secure business documents.
Over two thirds of IT departments do not have visibility of all business documents and more than half are not aware of all personal devices being used to create work documents — both of which raise serious concerns for companies with the implementation of the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) next May.
While almost three quarters of businesses claim to be compliant already or making progress towards compliance, 28% of companies do not believe they will be GDPR-compliant by the date the legislation is due to come into force. In addition, 40% of companies have not made the digitisation of all critical information policy and over a quarter of organisations do not have secure procedures to manage hard copies of confidential business information.
“Companies need to address and embrace digital change to remain competitive and agile, but they also need to ensure that critical information and business documents are processed and stored correctly. If they fail to do this, they could be opening themselves up to financial and reputational risk,” said Mr Moloney.
Interestingly, in its The Year in Job Search report, employment site Indeed revealed that the number of Irish people searching for jobs using the term ‘remote’ surged 171% — driven by technology advances that have led to companies adopting more flexible approaches to remote working.
“The trends highlight ongoing changes in the way Irish people work,” said Indeed EMEA vice-president Gerard Murnaghan.
“For employers, remote working has become more of an option for staff as technology and broadband speeds advance. From an employee’s perspective, remote working gives them a flexibility to overcome things like childcare commitments or challenging commutes, or to simply maximise their productivity and time.”
Mr Murnaghan added that the increasing numbers searching for part-time work points to the way that work lives are being shaped by wider social change.
“People live much longer now and, when they reach retirement age, they want or need to keep their foot in the door of the jobs market. This is leading to increasing demand for flexible, part-time employment options, which allow people to continue achieving career goals and provide ongoing financial security,” he said.