Remote working: a future for Ireland?

The benefits are many; possibilities for all, plenty.

Prelude

This article is for abstract thinking and statistics. The intention is to raise the question of why can’t we change the way the standard week works, aimed at providing solutions and trying not to focus on what can go wrong. The inspiration behind it was the book Remote by David Heinemeier Hansson and Jason Fried. If you want to know more about the concept check it out.

Intro

Ireland is a small, well educated country with a certain set of circumstances. The majority of the population lives on the east coast. A large majority of the total workforce commutes to the capital Dublin.

It is becoming a technology hub for multi nationals of all descriptions due to many reasonable benefits; workforce, technical infrastructure and of course the European connection.

With the multitude of attractive qualities to multi national companies, this has created its own number of unforeseen problems with the value structure of Dublin and the rest of the country.

The main issues within its bubble revolve around certain aspects; The imbalance of demographics to the east half of the country. Secondly, how this is helping to create unbalance, for workers and infrastructure.


Why:

The price of living in Dublin is currently the highest it has ever been. The effects are being felt by the neighbouring counties. This has not only resulted in a higher cost of living, but also creates a lack of disposable income for local economies. (and we all know what happened the house prices went too high in Ireland!)

It is now acceptable to live over an hour an a half commute from the front door of your home to the office front door. This is just one example, there are greater distances covered; so if we take that on the daily basis, in one week it is fifteen hours per week spent commuting to and from the office. Nearly two average work days spent traveling every week. Surely this could be spent with something more productive?


As the lure of a city’s hub holds importance to multi nationals, it also accelerates renting accommodation problems within the city locality, it leads to a lack of suitable housing for the local members of the community. Thus driving the renting prices upwards.

Also, the lure of technological based industries is a contributing factor for migration from other parts of the country towards Dublin. This leaves large socio-economic holes in many rural areas around the country. It can help to develop mis appropriation of certain basic facilities thus driving an imbalance of standards in less densely populated areas.

42% Of Ireland’s GDP is accounted for by Dublin. In comparison, London accounts for 20% of the UK’s. -Dublin Chamber Commerce

Dublin has a unique status of strength within the Irish economy, the need is there now to distribute this around an opportunity for developing a stronger more balanced overall economic model.


Another contribution to the cost factor for companies, is the need to pay higher salaries to keep staff is on the rise. Which leads to a drive of overall “staff migration” for workers to maintain a decent living standard within the rising expensive prices of the city.

A recent survey shows that people see remote working as a perk, and a benefit to there life balance.

36% would choose it over a pay raise.
80% of employees consider telework a job perk.- Global Workplace Analytics

These are some measures of views towards remote working. It shows us how strongly people feel towards the overall shifting dynamics of digital workplaces.

Mentioned above are some examples of positive views of the overall concept, and I think it shows how strongly people are appreciating for the idea. Can this be the initial catalyst for companies to change?

These are just some interpretations of issues which have arisen in Ireland, due to not being addressed at a services level. Does the responsibility lie on the industries that are driving these factors? or the government? Is it worthwhile for individual companies to lead a cultural shift outside the walls of the office?

It is my belief that these are some of the questions we all have to begin to ask, if we want to implement a change for good.

To develop any long term solution will require contribution from companies who have the capacity and experience implementing long term strategic plans. Most companies try to participate in local communities by sponsorship of events of all varieties. Maybe their contribution with problem solving skills rather than financial backing could be more valuable.

The limits of governmental attempts are short term, due to the life span of their tenure. What I mean by this is they tend not to last more than one or two terms, their strategic development plans may not see fulfilment due to economic constraints of global economy or the party which replaces them may remove the structures in place.


I know changing the governmental approach is the logical approach, but it may not be as practical. You are left to rely on one system to change entirely, while they maintain existing dependancies. The problem here is a single point of failure, if you attain services from experienced companies it can work on a modular level, so if one company fails, not everyone fails.

The answer to that question is not the important debate, the important question is, are they the ones that can help fix it.

I believe it needs both government and company to participate in the overall progression for citizens. It requires assistance from government to help the large companies in executing there vision and providing the infrastructural level of support necessary.

How to change:

The answers (unlike life) do not all fall within a medium article, but are here merely to instigate discussion in the larger scheme of things. We can all wallow on our own situation of what is wrong, but it requires a larger buy in for generating solutions from a broader audience.

Back on a team level now, every team will have a different approach and different methods that balance best for each. It will require each team to develop these on an individual level.

Large digital technology companies hold a very powerful influence when approaching the development of a solution.

Dublin is home to 10 of the top 10 global ICT companies and 9 of the top 10 global software companies. -D.C.C.

This shows the strength of the sector within the region, if a small percentage of the disposable income is to be spent in different regions throughout the country, it can have a greater influence on much needed smaller communities.


This may be one possible factor that can change the socio economic shape of Ireland and lies in how they do/can incorporate the concept of remote working.

1.8 million people currently live in the Greater Dublin Area, a region comprising Dublin and the counties of Meath, Kildare and Wicklow. -CSO 2016

This is almost half of the population living within a small part of the country, the imbalance has lead to ageing demographics. Such as Killarney in Kerry having the oldest average age of 40.8 years, Balbriggan in Dublin, the youngest has an average of 30.8 years. (The Irish Times, July 2016) The numbers lead from west to east, oldest to youngest.

If people do not have to vacate where they are from in search of work, it will offer an opportunity to provide a sustainable community for all regions.


Depending on the type of digital development a company partakes in, is a major factor of whether or not it is feasible.

For example, if a company produces physical products with a digital interface it will more than likely require a physical artefact space. If they produce a website or an application there is capability for teams to produce products using a remote model and solely for a screen platform.

The benefits of a positive work life balance is much greater in a workforce who can work remotely, it is also a sign of trust between the employer and employee. It is proven to produce a higher yielding returns on productivity.

According to a recent report from Inc. Magazine. Workers tend to be 20% more productive when they get to tackle creative projects remotely.
92% of employees are concerned with the high cost of fuel and 80% of them specifically cite the cost of commuting to work. -G.W.A.

There are countless studies aimed towards these factors, the number of benefits are quite extraordinary. There are studies stating that it also promotes greater overall health of the workforce, while keeping older members in the team for longer periods.

This can create a better overall balance within the team and lead to greater knowledge transfer between all members of the team.

Conclusion

With digital products being involved and changing the everyday fabric of our life, it is time that we changed the manner in which we develop them. To provide understanding of any good product requires being capable of adapting it to our everyday life.

If products change the way we live our life, is it not time they revolutionise the way we work? Not on a small scale, but an overall systematic change.

The capabilities of modern technology have never been stronger, we could have a by product from their initial production; an economic change within a national level.

It is not the technology holding us back, its the mindset, it has to be a long term aspiration and requires commitment from everybody.

We now can shape our communities around how we can choose to produce technology.

Every company wants to be ethical and look after their workers; is it time to embrace the opportunity?

Technology only works the way we tell it to, lets change where we tell it from.

Big thanks for the reading! I hope you found it interesting and the inspiration for it was Jason Fried, his book Remote was the inspiration behind it.

It needs love to keep living! you can get me on twitter if you have any questions.