Telework Isn’t Working: A Policy Review


  • Michael Hynes National University of Ireland, Galway


teleworking, e-working, Ireland


Towards the latter end of the last decade there was growing recognition that Ireland’s transport and mobility patterns were unsustainable in the context of their economic, social and environmental impacts and consequences. The State had been spatially transformed during the “Celtic Tiger” era with (sub)urban sprawl, fuelled by Ireland’s chronic car dependency, a feature of everyday life. Commuting to and from work increased noise and air pollution, traffic congestion and contributed considerably to carbon emissions augmenting globally negative anthropogenic climate change. In an apparent shift in transport policy, the government published Smarter Travel in 2007 where more environmentally sustainable modes of transport, such as walking, cycling and public transport, were encouraged to combat the country’s unusually high levels of car dependency. An essential feature of the Smarter Travel initiative was telework (e-Working). Working from home has the potential to reduce, or eliminate, the daily commute to and from work and was regarded by policymakers as a crucial element in reducing Ireland’s unsustainable patterns of mobility whilst continuing the pursuit of unhindered economic growth. However, telework remains marginalised in business terms and lacks the regulation and guidelines essential to legitimise it for employers and employees that wish to work from home. A neo-liberal approach to the practice adopted by policymakers is evident and in the absence of legislation employers retain sole discretionary decision making powers over telework schemes and home working conditions. Indeed, many key decision makers fail to appreciate or recognise the potential benefits that may accrue from telework, which is leading to ad hoc and disorganised arrangements to the detriment of this method of working. Telework appears destined to fail even before it has been given a chance to shine as an economic, social and environmental tool of sustainability.






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