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European perceptions of remote and flexible work

The 3rd Nextra eEurope Report

Small business in Europe are seen as the engines of growth. They contribute substantially to the creation of new jobs, and the development of innovative services and products.

But to what extent are they embracing new methods of work, and the technologies which underpin ebusiness and the "new economy"?

Nextra, the communications service provider, have been carrying out research focusing on these issues. The Nextra eEurope Report aims to get a picture of

  • flexible and inflexible work practices and attitudes

  • their effect on work-life balance

  • usage of technology

  • comparisons between countries on these issues

Flexible work, long hours and home-work balance

The study found 52% of respondents working more than 45 hours per week. And most people (82%) felt that work invaded their evenings and weekends (64%). But the vast majority (85%). claimed not to be too troubled by these incursions. The participants were all from middle and senior management - so it seems long hours are seen as something that goes with the territory.

The main ill-effects reported are "mental strain or disorder". For participants as a whole, 26% reported this. But the figure rises to 40% amongst those who work more than 60 hours per week, illustrating a correlation between long hours and symptoms of stress.

Who's doing it

Sweden, as one might expect, has the greatest number of people working form home for at least one day per week. But there are some surprises in the report about which other countries SMBs lead the field in terms of remote working. Respondents perceptions were as one might expect.   

  Actual ranking   Perceived ranking
1 Sweden (51%) 1 Sweden
2 Czech Republic (48%) 2 Germany
3= Slovakia (40%) 3 UK
3= Norway (40%) 4 Norway
5 Germany (34%) 5 Austria
6 Austria (32%) 6 Italy
7= UK (24%) 7 Czech Republic
7= Italy (24%) 8 Slovakia

The major surprise is in the low position of the UK in this ranking of people who work at home at least one day per week, and the relatively high position of the Czech Republic and Slovakia.

The UK did, however, head the list (along with Norway) of respondents who want to work remotely.

Why people aren't doing it

The report identifies organisational barriers to the implementing or remote/flexible work. The main reasons given were:

  • lack of prioritising from management (43%)

  • inadequate corporate IT systems (43%)

  • corporate expenditure issues (43%)

  • technophobic employees or end-users (41%)

  • poor implementation of new products and solutions (35%)

Most respondents felt that remote working was not encouraged by managers.

The report also analyses investment in remote working solutions - the amount invested and the types of IT and telecommunications used.

Challenges for interpretation

Focusing on smaller and medium sized businesses this study was bound to come up with some different results to those which focus on or include large organisations. Some of the findings are  clearly at odds with findings in other studies - not least that UK managers don't work especially long hours. Most studies find completely the reverse. 

There is also much scope for further work to interpret the findings - for example, one suspects that what counts for "working from home" varies considerably, with various shades of technology involved.

We look forward to further debate and studies in this field.

The Nextra eEurope Report aims to find out just how much Europe small and medium sized businesses are getting to grips with remote and flexible work, and the new technologies associated with them.

The survey covers 8 European countries, and comes up with some surprising comparative  findings which challenge some of the usual assumptions about which countries are leading the field.

Click here to download the report in pdf format (288Kb)





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