Recently, there has been an abundance of research conducted on the Irish nation’s attitude towards remote working. Although the nature of remote working of late has, in effect, been forced on us, in general employees have indicated that they have found the arrangement to be a positive one.
A recent study of 350 organisations, conducted by Amárach Research and The Executive Institute, about home working during Covid-19, found that 93% of remote workers have been experiencing similar or higher productivity levels compared to when they worked in a centralised office environment. The survey also found that 93% of respondents would like the opportunity to work from home post-restrictions. 19% would even be willing to take a 10% wage reduction to make this happen! A similar survey run by AIB/Amárach Research found that of the 1000+ adults questioned, over 80% would like to spend at least of part their week working from home when normal life resumes.
These two reports offer perhaps some of the most robust evidence for the current appeal of remote working in Ireland. LinkedIn members have also been conducting their own polls on the matter, which anecdotally we have found to echo the same sentiment. The average Irish worker has found working from home to be a positive and productive experience. We are firm believers that good people equal good business. If your employees are happy and healthy, then your business will prosper as a result. Therefore, it makes sense to listen to what they are saying.
Challenges of home working
Home working is not without its challenges, many of which we have discussed in detail previously. One of the most commonly reported issues has been from parents who have had to share their home working space with their children. Hopefully, this challenge is only a temporary one while schools remain closed. Should remote work become the new normal in Ireland, we will still have to work around school holidays and other seasonal disruptions, yet for many this may prove to be an easier arrangement than having to find childcare while parents leave the house to go to work. Interestingly, in the Amárach Research/Executive Institute study cited above, remote workers living with a partner and children actually reported higher levels of productivity than those living alone. However, no further detail on the ages of these children was provided and sharing a workspace with toddlers is likely to be quite a bit more taxing than sharing with teenagers!
From an employer’s perspective, however, deciding on whether or not to implement a permanent policy for remote working requires careful consideration. There will be a number of areas for employers to address, such as data security, wellbeing, communication practices, inclusion, as well as whether remote working should really be considered ‘work from home’ or ‘work from anywhere in the world’. Employers will be wary of introducing any kind of formal policy that may leave them open to accusations of inequality or susceptible to cyber threats. This can cause a lot of employers to either ignore the need to formalise their remote work policy, or to request employees to return to the workplace earlier than the government’s recommendations. However, both scenarios could be a recipe for disaster, and leave employers open to criticism and litigation.
In response to the mass movement to home working brought on by Covid-19 restrictions, the Department of Business, Enterprise and Innovation published guidance for employers and employees on the practicalities of short-term home working. The department is now looking to update and refine this guidance in order to shape public policy on home-working. To do so, they are asking employers and employees to make a written submission on the following:
- Is the current guidance suitable?
- Does the current guidance provide clarity?
- How could the current guidance be improved?
- Are there further areas on which employers need guidance?
- Are there further areas on which employees need guidance?
The closing date for submissions is August 7th, so you just have time to get yours in, either via email or post. Further information can be found here.
Flexibility is key
A key point to remember for any employer implementing a formal policy for remote working is that what employees are really craving is flexibility. Many of the studies that have been conducted have shown that the majority of employees do not wish to give up their office spaces entirely. This may cause some frustration for employers, as it means that moving to a fully remote office – thereby saving money on rent and facilities – might work against them, despite the positives of remote work. However, both employers and employees now have a unique opportunity to properly assess how well remote working has worked in order to find a solution that fits for them. Although many employees would like to have the option of attending the office as they choose, there will still be some who prefer to work remotely full-time, and some who prefer to work from the office full time. For the employees who would like the option to split time between home and the office, it may be beneficial to operate this on a scheduled and staggered basis, so that only a certain number of desks and chairs are needed at any one time, though this will need to be assessed in terms of health and safety, at least while the pandemic is ongoing.
Insight HR has developed a home working guide specifically for employers to provide to their employees which looks at topics such as home office ergonomics, time management and more. We have also been helping busy HR professionals to develop policies on remote working and other types of much-needed paperwork.
Get in touch to receive your copy of the guide to remote working, or to speak with a member of our team about how we can help you in this area!