Over 80% of people working from home during pandemic want to continue doing so - study

The director of Employer Relations with Ibec, the Irish business organisation, has said that the ‘new normal’ for Irish workers is going to be “quite different” with more people working from home on a regular basis.

Maeve McElwee was responding to a survey conducted at NUIG which found that 83% of people currently working from home, would like to continue to do so.

Ms McElwee told RTÉ radio’s Today programme that the findings were not a surprise.

“This is something that we've been saying is a continuing trend for some time. Even before the virus, we had been in discussions with employers - looking at the whole question of the future of work, a lot of what came up in the survey is what we have seeing for employers across the board.”

Alma McCarthy, professor of public sector management in NUIG said that the top benefits cited by 7,241 respondents were no traffic and no commute, the reduced cost of going to work and greater flexibility to the working day.

The survey was conducted at the end of April and early May, she said.

“The timing was useful as people had moved from the initial emergency reactive stage when we were all forced to work remotely where we could. People had gotten into a bit of a routine.

"51% had never worked remotely before for any period of time - of those 78% want to continue for some or all of the time.”

Ms McElwee said Ibec thinks there will be a significant permanent shift to working from home following the crisis.

“It will be a considerable time yet before we see a lot of people who are in a position to work from home to actually move back into office work. I think this will be with us for a little while longer.

“I think our new normal will be quite different. We will see people working remotely on a much more regular basis. There's lots of things that we need to take into account.

"Some jobs are very suitable to working at home, some jobs, with some adaptation will be very suitable to working at home, it has been a great opportunity for employers to learn what works well and what doesn't work well.”

However, Ms McElwee warned that for some working from home is not preferable, there is issue of wellbeing, of contact, “the productivity and collaboration that happens naturally when people come together.

"It will be up to employees and organisations to find what balance works well.

“At the moment employers are just trying to manage their companies through this crisis, for now lots of people are challenged with just managing through the day-to-day.

"Where people have caring responsibilities productivity can be challenging. Some employers are concerned that staff are burning out.

“We do know that it is important how we manage this return to work in a safe way so that we don't see a surge of cases, lots of employers are hearing the message that where you can continue to work from home, you should do so.

“It's really important that employers and employees engage with the whole range of advice that is coming through, that they have the best facilities that they can manage.

"Identify if there is equipment in the office that people could use at home.”