Remote work frictions cost Irish firms €3.3bn a year

Office workers in Ireland are losing more than 21 minutes a day searching and exchanging documents and this adds up, warns IT player Auxilion.

While broadband and the ability to work remotely have been the saviour of businesses and economies worldwide throughout the Covid-19 pandemic, the inability to communicate in person is taking its toll.

A study by IT services player Auxilion has found that Irish businesses are losing €3.3bn per year as staff struggle to find and share documents.

“The tools are already out there to enable people to collaborate in real-time, access files securely and swiftly, and realise the benefits offered by remote or hybrid working”

This is based on staff losing, on average, more than 21 minutes per day searching for and exchanging documents.

Conducted by Censuswide and involving more than 500 office workers in Ireland, the research also reveals that male respondents waste more time per day on this activity compared to female respondents – spending 25 minutes compared to around 17 minutes.

According to Q1 2021 CSO figures, the number of office workers in Ireland is approximately 1,395,500 and the average labour cost for an employee in Ireland is €29.64. With an average number of minutes lost per employee according to this survey of 21.31 minutes per day, and based on 45 weeks being worked per year, the estimated cost for Irish businesses is approximately €3.3bn.

Own goal: Lack of training on work collaboration systems

Man in grey suit sitting on green chair.

Donal Sullivan, CTO, Auxilion

Difficulty gaining access to or finding work files and systems was found to be the third biggest blocker in terms of effective collaboration with colleagues, as a quarter (25pc) of office workers cited it. The biggest blocker is not being able to talk in person (44pc), followed by people not being as available as before (30pc).

Meanwhile, 22pc of workers said security concerns using communication tools is a main blocker to collaboration with colleagues.

Looking for and sharing files isn’t the only activity that takes up considerable time, with staff sending, on average, around 62 minutes per day on virtual meetings. Furthermore, this is unlikely to ease in the future with three quarters of respondents (75pc) believing their organisation will continue to use virtual applications when restrictions ease.

However, more than a fifth (22pc) of office workers say they don’t feel their input is as valuable in online collaborations as it is in person.

The study also found that 41pc of workers have had a family member or partner accidentally appear on camera during a work meeting, while a pet made an appearance for a third (34pc). A similar proportion (35pc) of workers have done a virtual work meeting in their pyjamas, with more than a quarter (27pc) joining one while in bed. Some 26pc have lied that their wi-fi crashed to get out of a meeting.

As for the most annoying virtual meeting habits, these were revealed as forgetting to go on mute (44pc), always joining the meeting late (35pc) and eating on camera (32pc). The worst time of the week for a virtual meeting is Friday afternoon (36pc), followed closely by Monday morning (35pc).

In terms of the most popular collaboration tool, Microsoft Teams is the platform of choice with 59pc of respondents using it for work. Although some 57pc say they hadn’t received proper training on how to effectively use their work collaboration systems.

“There is absolutely no reason Irish workers should be losing so much time out of their day trying to find files and work with colleagues – and that’s not to mention the €3.3bn it’s costing businesses,” sad Auxilion CTO Donal Sullivan.

“The tools are already out there to enable people to collaborate in real-time, access files securely and swiftly, and realise the benefits offered by remote or hybrid working,” he urged.

“Of course, staff also need to know how to use these tools effectively so there is an educational piece that companies need to address. But if they do embrace this type of digital thinking, backed up by the best technologies and the right strategies, it will not only empower workers but boost business output and support company growth both now and in the future – whatever, and wherever, their future workplace is.”

John Kennedy
Award-winning editor John Kennedy is one of Ireland's most experienced business and technology journalists.