High-speed broadband, remote working and boosting work/life balance
High-speed broadband continues to be a major topic of discussion – not just within the telecoms industry, but throughout the country, and particularly in rural Ireland. Access to a good quality broadband connection of course brings with it many benefits. For businesses, it can offer new ways to market and sell goods and services, while for families it means a school project can be well researched, or less time spent watching Netflix buffering! But high-speed broadband is also changing the world of work, by making remote working easier than ever before.
According to IDA Ireland, some 216,000 individuals were working from their home desk for a remote employer last year. There are a number of reasons why people are opting to work remotely and why companies are facilitating such a change.
Wellness and work/life balance have increasingly become areas of focus for both companies and employees. Everyone knows the benefits of having a balance and the negative effects stress can have on our health. Employers are conscious that, in order to get the best out of their staff, they must create an environment where each and every team member can excel. And this doesn’t necessarily mean chaining employees to their desk or requiring them to always be in the office building.
At the same time, the current housing and rental crisis is also driving the transition to greater take-up of remote working. With more and more people no longer able to afford to live in the major cities, in many cases people are living in so-called ‘commuter counties’ and driving or taking public transport to their place of work. But commuters often spend longs hours each day on the road, and this can have a negative impact on their work/life balance, increasing stress and fatigue levels and resulting in lower-quality work when they do make it to the office. For those trying to pay more attention to their own personal wellbeing, the stress of high rents or mortgage repayments, or hours spent in the car, can result in companies losing some of their best employees as they decide to relocate to more rural areas in a bid to enhance their work/life balance. But with the potential for high-speed broadband to facilitate more versatile remote working options, this doesn’t have to be an issue.
When employees have a reliable broadband connection available in their home or in a local digital hub, it gives companies much more flexibility. Once an employee can get their job done on a laptop or desktop computer, they can effectively work from anywhere in the world. Most businesses in Ireland have enabled video conferencing to connect offices in different cities, and the same principle can also be applied for those working remotely. The potential benefits for businesses adopting a proactive approach are huge, and include higher staff moral and less absenteeism.
The Government are also seeing the logical and economic benefits in enhancing broadband connectivity in order to allow for more remote working. More workers working from home means they can spend more time in the local area, helping to enrich the community. While rural Ireland has traditionally suffered from depopulation and the exodus of its young people when faced with a downturn, new ways of working would allow more people to live and work in the area where they grew up. This could also help rebalance economic activity across the country. Of course, remote working won’t be suited to every business or employee, but for those who can make a success of it, the benefits to their work/life balance can be exceptional.