Times are a changing

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Municipal authorities, universities and a range of other public and commercial bodies across the UK are benefitting from MultiTime’s advanced flexible working solutions. MultiTime is the UK subsidiary of FlexTime, which was established in Dublin in 1983 by flexitime pioneer Ciaran Rowsome.

While the benefits of flexible working may be widely accepted and appreciated today, that was not the case back in the 1970s when Rowsome first started in the industry. ‘The concept originated in Germany in the late 1960s when Messerschmitt looked for a way to address the problem of thousands of workers arriving and leaving sites at the same time every day. They hired a behavioral psychologist who asked the simple question: “Why nine, why five?”’

The idea of people starting and finishing at different times was slow to catch on, however. It was almost an evangelical job in the early days trying to convince people of the benefits,’ Rowsome adds.

But the concept caught on and FlexTime now has over 400 customers, with more than 5,000 implementations and over 200,000 users for its software, which is developed in-house in Dublin. The company supplies to government, manufacturing, financial services, universities, health and other sectors across Europe and also provides services to other regions, including North America. In Ireland, its client list spans a broad range of private and public sector organisations, including the Irish parliament.

The company entered the UK market a decade ago with the establishment of MultiTime in London. ‘Enterprise Ireland were of great assistance in the early days,’ Rowsome recalls. ‘They made their London office available to us to hold meetings with prospective clients and partners.’

The London Borough of Lewisham was among MultiTime’s first major UK local government clients. ‘Our experience of working with UK local authorities is very good,’ he says. ‘They are quite department focused, which suits us because our solutions are so adaptable. Some councils tend to start with a small project with us and then build on that.’

Lewisham offers an excellent example of how MultiTime can add value to the core flexitime solution. ‘The council has a bus service which is used for special needs children and elderly clients and others,’ he explains. ‘The bus drivers and special needs assistants who operate the services need to have specific skills and qualifications to deal with different user groups. If one of them is absent or late it can lead to cancelled services, with knock-on effects across the system.’

The MultiTime system keeps track of all of those skill sets so that relief drivers and assistants can be immediately allocated with the right qualifications to where they are needed, to prevent service disruptions. That solved the problem for the council.

‘This is the type of module we can design to add value for customers. Birmingham University asked us if they could use our cards and system for their car parks. We developed a programme for that, and the university is now taking in more money from their car parks as a result.’

MultiTime solutions also support the agile working programmes which are being rolled out by local authorities as they seek to improve efficiency along with their ability to attract and retain talent. ‘Local authorities are significant users of flexible working,’ Rowsome notes. ‘They can often be based in areas which are quite awkward to get to and they are trying to attract staff to come and work for them. In some cases, those staff visit people in the community and also different sites during the day. So our system can enable them to go directly without spending hours going to and from the main office first. It also allows people to come to work later, or much earlier. They might go to work, go back home to pick up the kids from school and look after them for a few hours and then come back to work. And they can key in and out using their mobile phone. That kind of ultra-flexibility can help councils attract more people to work for them.

The company has also been working with customers to support remote, hybrid and home working  arrangements ‘Home working doesn’t suit everyone,’ Rowsome points out. ‘We have designed a module to record who’s at home and  who’s in the office, The system also allows staff to request days in the office which some customers need.

The company’s next development project is an employee engagement and attendance module to help overcome the sense of isolation associated with home working. ‘Enterprise Ireland has supported us with that project, and we hope to have that ready for the market in the second quarter of next year.’

Original Full Dec. 2020 article in the MJ incl. a really interesting piece from Laura Brocklebank – Enterprise Ireland