Flexible working

Flexible working seems to be a hot topic at the moment, whether it’s to juggle work with other commitments, or to achieve a better work/life balance. People have moved beyond the days of being a wage-slave, and have realised that free time is often more valuable to them than a high salary.

Some employers do have policies to consider and accommodate requests if they can. However that flexibility doesn’t seem to get translated into staff recruitment. When it comes to professional people (with the possible exception of public sector employees) every job advertised seems to be for a full-time role. If you do a job search for part-time work, the only offerings will be low-paid sales, admin, or hospitality jobs. Nobody advertises for a part-time Project Manager!

Of course, flexible working comes in many forms. There are flexible hours or compressed hours arrangements out there, where you still work the same 35-40 hour week, but you have some freedom about the exact hours you work. Then there’s reduced hours, where you might enter into some kind of part-time or job-share agreement with your employer.

It’s these reduced hours arrangements that seem the most elusive. Some employers will make concessions for working parents, and indeed parents returning to work after parental leave are entitled to ask for a change in work patterns.

However, generally flexible hours and flexible working is generally at the discretion of individual employers, and is not covered by legislation in Ireland. 

So if you’re in a professional role, and you would prefer a 3-day week, what can you do:

  • Check if your employer has a flexible working policy. They may have one even if they don’t promote it, as some employers don’t image that anyone other than working parents would want flexible arrangements.
  • Ask your manager. If there’s no policy, your employer may still consider a reasonable request. It’s probably a good idea to meet with your manager armed with a bunch or reasons why flexible working would be good for both you and the company.
  • Keep asking. The first time you ask about it, you may be refused because the conditions to allow it might not be right. But things change over time, and there’s no harm leaving it a few months and asking again. It will give your manager more time to consider options.
  • Resign and go somewhere else. Unfortunately if you are in full-time employment, you do not have a statutory right to change to part-time work. And so, sometimes you need to vote with your feet and go and work for a more flexible employer.

Applying for a new job

I’d be interested to hear if anyone has experience of asking about flexible or part-time working hours during the recruitment process. I’m sure there must be some employers or hiring managers that would be open to it, but how would you know?

Maybe employers should include in their job adverts whether or not they are open to considering new employees at reduced hours. It would help avoid some of the uncertainty.

And maybe employers also need to reconsider their existing flexible working policies. I’ve seen some that state you can’t even apply for flexible working arrangements until you’ve completed a minimum length of service which seems overly restrictive to me.  It may well force some people to take a new job at full-time hours, against their preference, in the hope that they can try to negotiate reduced hours later.

Using taxi hailing apps at Dublin Airport

There’s been some discussion recently about whether taxis should be forced to accept card payments.

When arriving at an airport you would have thought it would be especially important that taxis accept credit and debit cards – but it seems there’s no requirement on the taxis licensed to pick up at Dublin airport to take cards.

Here’s a recent tweet from the Dublin Airport twitter account in response to a question on the matter:

One obvious way to ensure you can pay by card is to book a taxi using one of the hailing apps such as myTaxi. But there doesn’t appear to be anywhere in Dublin Airport for passengers to get picked up by app-hailed taxis.

Only certain pre-approved taxis are allowed to join the official airport taxi rank, and so app-hailed pickups often take place at other random parts of the airport – at the departures drop-off area, at the bus stops, or on some random side-street. The taxis aren’t allowed to wait in these areas, so they circle the airport until their passengers are in position and then swoop in collect them.

I tweeted Dublin Airport to ask them if they had a designated area for pre-booked taxis to pick up passengers, but they never replied to me. I guess their answer would be that they would prefer that taxis park up in the short-term car park, and come into the terminal to collect passengers – but they would say that, because they generate a lot of revenue from their car parks!

Also as a passenger I don’t really want to pay the additional parking fees for my taxi.

So what’s the solution?

Maybe Dublin Airport needs to think about providing a designated area (perhaps where all the buses park up and wait) in the airport for app-hailed taxi pickups – one that allows taxis to wait for a few minutes for their passengers to arrive.

6 Ways to Improve the Performance of your WordPress Blog

How fast does your WordPress blog load? Have you tested performance on mobile as well as desktop? Did you know that performance is one of metrics that Google uses to rank sites?

When talking about performance its important to remember that around half of all traffic these days comes from mobile devices, and these devices can often be on limited data connections. So when you look at site performance (as with web design these days) you should adopt a mobile-first strategy.

I used a tool https://testmysite.withgoogle.com/ to check on the performance of my WordPress blog, and it reported that my site takes 7 seconds to load over a 3G connection – which apparently results in me losing a quarter of visitors that simply give up before the site ever loads!

Google has a goal that its sites should all load within half a second. That level of performance might not be achievable for everyone, but we can all do better.

So how do you optimise your WordPress site to load more quickly?

1. Keep pages small

A testing tool like GTmetrix can tell you how fast your page loads, and how big your page is. If you are loading lots of images, videos and scripts, then the size of your site could be huge – and therefore slow – without you realising it.

My site comes in at just over 1MB which is actually pretty good. If yours is more in the range of 3-5MB (or even more!) then you need to start thinking about page size.

Reduce the number of posts displayed on your page. Do you really need to show 10 posts at a time? I have my site set to only show 5 posts at a time, and by halving the number of posts I also halve the page size!

Also think about whether you need all the content served from 3rd-party sites, such as Facebook or Twitter, that could be slowing down your site.

2. Minify your code

Use code minifying plugins such as Autoptimize to reduce the size of your HTML, javascript and CSS files by removing all unnecessary space in the source code. It won’t have any effect on the way your page looks, but it will reduce the size of the files being served.

3. Optimise images

A picture paints a thousand words, but it can also slow you down!

Loading lots of large images can be one of the primary causes of poor site performance. So consider the number and size of any images you display. Obviously for a photographer’s portfolio site you’re going to need to show large high-quality images – but you don’t need to show them all on one page.

Use a plugin such as Smush to automatically optimise images as you upload them to your site. It will reduce the file size of your images without losing any of the quality.

4. Eliminate unnecessary plugins

It’s tempting to keep installing more and more plugins to help add new features to a site – but every time you add a new plugin, it’s more code for WordPress to have to run before it can render your site. So have a clear out and get rid of any plugins you don’t need.

It’s also a good idea to minimise the number of plugins and themes you have installed for site security. The more plugins and themes from different authors you have installed, the higher the potential sources of vulnerability to hacking.

5. Select your hosting account carefully

Not all hosting providers are the same, and although most will allow you to run WordPress from your account the performance of sites can vary wildly from one host to another.

If you’re shopping around, look at hosts that have specific WordPress optimised hosting. I like SiteGround as they have optimised their hosting to serve WordPress sites as fast as possible.

And if you’re getting a lot of traffic to your site, then ditch the shared hosting and get your own virtual or cloud server. It will give you a lot more resources to serve a lot more people at once.

6. Upgrade PHP

PHP is the programming language that WordPress runs on, and many hosting providers use an older version of it by default. However if your host allows you to upgrade to a newer version (or they can do it for you) then your site will get a good performance boost.

When upgrading from PHP 5.6 to version 7, WordPress performance doubles!

Source: http://www.zend.com/en/resources/php7_infographic

Immigrants for Yes

On the 25th May 2018 the Irish citizens will be asked to vote on repealing the 8th amendment of the constitution to allow legislation to be created to legalise abortion.

A lot of the discussion ahead of the referendum has been about Irish women and men. But there is a significant portion of the population that has been left out of the debate, and are not allowed to vote in the referendum next week, but are none-the-less affected by its outcome.

According to census data for 2016 there are around 535,000 foreign nationals living in Ireland – that’s 11.6% of the population. These are people who work, make their lives, pay their taxes, contribute to society, send their children to school, and access health care of Ireland.

The average age of immigrants is lower than that of Irish citizens. Nearly half of non-Irish nationals are aged 25 and 42 (child-rearing years), in comparison to only a quarter of Irish nationals. And so the abortion issue disproportionately affects immigrants much more than Irish people.

And yet only Irish citizens are allowed to vote in the referendum.

Non-Irish nationals face the same crisis pregnancies as Irish women – but potentially face bigger problems accessing safe abortion services. They may not be as wealthy as Irish people, face language barriers, and may also be restricted from travelling to countries like the UK because of visa problems.

And so, for the one-in-ten that have no voice in the referendum, we call on the Irish citizens to vote YES for us. For yourselves. For all the people of Ireland.