Mobile Working: How Flexibility Breeds Opportunity for Irish Employers

Three Business Customer
On: 6 Apr 2017
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Aubrey Nuzum, Three Customer

Three customer Aubrey Nuzum, MD of Aubren Ltd. – an indigenous Irish company that designs and makes products in the international air handling, cleantech and meditech sectors – looks at whether mobility creates more opportunities than problems for employers.

Mobile working is not just about a flexible working day, but a flexible employer too.

If you don’t always work at a desk in an office, where does work time stop and leisure time begin? The definition of the working day is now more `up in the air’ than ever. When I founded Aubren Ltd. in early 2000, flexible working was more likely to mean staying at your desk after 5.30pm, than working from home, taking business calls at the weekend, or emailing from a plane. Now that the business is expanding – with partners from Algeria to Zimbabwe and customers around the globe – the capability for employees to be connected and contactable anywhere, at any time, is essential to our growth and success.

Common Sense Required

I think mobile working means people are working more of the time, but in a discreet way. They wouldn’t turn up to the office for twelve hours a day, but with the flexibility of mobile working they often work far more than eight hours. There is some responsibility on employers to encourage a balance, and some on employees to work with common sense and maintain their own work-life balance.

At Aubren Ltd., the global nature of the business means the office hours in Ireland don’t align with many of our customers’ hours. I circulate an email annually to all employees, acknowledging the fact that they may receive emails at all hours of the day and night. I tell them that if they can answer an email when it arrives, good. If not, please would they do so when they can.

In France, legislation demands that employers negotiate a `right to disconnect’ with their employees. At VW, all phones are turned off at 4.30pm and not turned on again until 8am. It would be unfortunate if similar legislation needed to be introduced here.

Email vs. Voice

Dealing extensively with the Middle East, brings its own particular problems that demand flexible working solutions. The working week there, for example, is different to most countries. Their weekend is Thursday and Friday, or Friday and Saturday.

Enabling our customers to reach our employees on their smartphones allows communication outside Ireland’s Monday to Friday working week, and gives us the flexibility to deal with the customer when the customer wants to deal with us.

Even so, with most communication being by email rather than voice, the intrusion into life outside office hours is limited and controllable. We wouldn’t use voice calls to interrupt people on their days off, whether they are employees or customers. People can keep track of emails and respond at the earliest possible opportunity.

The End of the Office?

Our team would be lost without their smartphones. They’re out on the road, in the marketplace all the time, and we don’t want them wasting time repeatedly coming back to the office.

On the other hand, people working together in the office can brainstorm, come up with new ideas collaboratively, and spot faults or obstacles that might be missed by one person working from home alone.

There are downsides to mobile working and the infinitely flexible working day, but in my view the benefits outweigh them. We just have to make sure employers don’t abuse the flexibility, or it will screw it up for all of us.

Discuss your business mobility with our Business Advice team on 1800 200 017, or request a call back.

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