Flexibility pledge pays off in Ireland

Flexible work practices benefit recruitment and retention in regional and national government organisations, a senior minister in the Irish government told delegates at Telework 2000.

Noel Treacy, minister for science, technology and e-work, said the Irish civil service had enjoyed greater staff loyalty since teleworking schemes were first introduced 20 years ago.

But it has only been in the past two years that the benefits of teleworking have been measured as part of the Irish government’s e-work awareness campaign, which encourages industry to lead by example and adopt telework practices.

The Irish civil service’s workforce of about 3,000 are now involved in job-sharing schemes made possible by telework.

It has also pioneered a term-time leave scheme for parents looking after children or dependent adults, which allows them 10-13 week breaks each year.

Although initially unsuccessful, the scheme took off after salaries were paid on a pro-rata basis in equal amounts split over the course of the year.

Treacy said, “Recruitment has benefited and our employees have greater control over their lives – it has also introduced more older women back into work.

“If our government does not take the lead then we have lost the argument about teleworking.”

The Irish government has introduced a code of practice to educate business leaders about introducing teleworking.

“We want to become world leaders in teleworking,” said Treacy.

Paul Cohen, founder of Surrey Workstyle, a Surrey County Council project aimed at using teleworking to free up office space, said mastering HR issues were crucial to the success of any teleworking project.

“This is a hearts and minds issue,” he said. “If people are not able to use the technology and adapt to new working practices then customer service suffers.”

Surrey’s project involves using four workstations for every five employees to cut back on office space. Surplus office space has been sold off to raise capital.

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