Teleworking: An Examination of the Irish Dichotomy
Keywords:Telework, Working from Home, Workplace Flexibility, Work-Life Balance, Telecommuting.
AbstractChanging demographics and labour market structures are placing increased pressure on identifying work/life balance solutions, while global competition is forcing companies to look beyond traditional solutions to search for competitive advantage. Recent rapid technology developments facilitate a strategic application of teleworking, which, in suitable organisations, would appear to alleviate both of these issues. Despite this, the limited evidence that exists in the telework literature indicates a dearth of telework in Irish companies, and recent research on the reasons for this, form a gap in the literature. This study, empirically examines the key factors that influence the extent of telework in Ireland. Qualitative data has been gathered from thirteen semi-structured (eleven face-to-face) interviews with a combination of current and part-time teleworkers and managers. The exploratory approach employed, provides the opportunity to gain an invaluable perspective from participants with personal experience of working from home. The data gathered during this current study, offers some unique insights into teleworking in Ireland and highlights challenges which appear to be particular to the Irish context. While telework is seen in a positive light, by the respondents in this study, socio-cultural barriers to telework are identified. A recurring theme, emerging from this research, highlights the pervasiveness of a traditional management style, and an Irish culture of mistrust, which poses a particular challenge to those wishing to engage in telework. This current research also reveals a particular Irish need for social affiliation, through workplace interactions, which may account for the prevalence of ‘part-time’ teleworking in Ireland. Given the attitudinal challenges to telework within Irish organisations, the research findings suggest that there would be clear merit in piloting telework initiatives with carefully selected candidates. Multinationals and young dynamic businesses which remain open to innovative work practices, particularly in the services and technology sectors, are ideally positioned for such an initiative. Coupled with the extension of broadband, a successful outcome, with government sponsored PR, could pave the way for expanding the practice of teleworking in Ireland. This research would be of particular benefit to organisations and individuals considering the option of telework in the future.
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