Derry city is a hub for innovation and enjoys an empowered support system through local Chambers, EU bodies and Cross Border Economic Partnerships. Strategically remote, intelligent planning and investment has boosted the region’s status and supported on-going competitive development. Economic sustainability seems to be a concern behind the support but remote living and static work arrangements are very much a problem of the past in many UK regions. It’s time the north west caught up because they no longer face a geographical disadvantage. The environmental benefits must be embraced and encouraged to truly sustain the area.
Flexible working practices have taken off in popularity in mainland UK lately. The most popular option, also the most beneficial to business and to staff, is the flexible home working option. Various flexible working patterns are possible and include part-time job sharing, hour compression/staggering as well as home working. The DVLA and Northern Ireland civil service focus very much on forms of desk-sharing, while others such as the Ofsted case study look at more radical change where government employees are mostly based at home.
In terms of benefits, business gain on time worked and productivity as the time spent commuting is transferred into extra working time. Staff appreciate the opportunity to work from home and avoid commuting, especially when offered a distinctly professional office space in their back yards. The carbon savings from reducing travel are significant and when added to the low carbon footprint of a sustainable office pod, they become substantial. Without business rent and rates to pay, purchasing home offices as moveable business assets is a no brainer, financially.
Improvements to technology over recent years, such as remote access, mean that employees can gain access to work servers from home. Affordable garden offices are thankfully available in Northern Ireland now, so the need to pay surplus delivery costs to ship the purchase across the water from mainland UK no longer applies. This development will facilitate many more home-workers, both government and SME, to benefit from flexible home working in a tailor-made space. The largest savings for businesses will come about from relinquishing rental of office premises and the energy expenditure therein, in favour of home working.
Filtered down through all levels of business in the north west region, flexible working initiatives will save costs, time and improve the loyalty and health of our workforce. Mobilised by the lack of commute and motivated by a stress-free work space, productivity and efficiency improvements need not be bound by figures but can expect to rise above 40%.
Tailor-made garden offices enable companies to provide a more efficient cross-border working environment with impressive carbon footprint reductions which relieve pressure on transport infrastructures. Employers have begun to feel the pressure from local Government and European regulation on environmental obligations and employee rights and aspirations. As part of an accommodation and environmental policy, home working enables a company to meet these challenges head on.
EURES partnerships between Donegal and Derry will succeed at increasing the competitiveness and sustainability of the North West Economic function by encouraging modern remote working practices. If there is one way to strengthen the North West’s SME sector and develop the capacity of executives, it is to inform and support employers to take up flexible home working policies and negate the daily commute. As a result, the north west of Ireland’s economic structure will be a player in national and international competitiveness.