hit. The country closed. We were advised to work from home and that is exactly
what thousands of us, who still had work, did.
Ikea ran out of home office desks. Broadband groaned under the pressure
while slippers and pyjamas became office attire. Finally, the nation understood what the Green
Party had been saying all along as the natural world blossomed with less
traffic and a reduction in emissions. Our own transport costs plummeted as our
commute became a short walk from the kitchen to the ‘office’ in the back
bedroom. We embraced remote working. So
much so, that many people have not returned to the Company buildings. Ireland has certainly embraced the move to
remote working. It will be interesting
to see if people will continue to work from home, choose to return to the
office for some of the time or will there be a race back to full time working
from Home or living in the Office?
There are negatives
to remote working. Some people report not being able to wind down
after the working day. Work can spill over into down time as the office remains
open, on the same lap top, in the same room. Child care can be an issue as
toddlers burst into Zoom calls with the latest booboo on the knee or just to
say Hi! Cats can walk on keyboards and a
great deal of discipline is needed when welcome visitors arrive during work
hours. On the work front, getting quick
answers to seemingly simple questions can be drawn out into games of Chinese
whispers over messenger and emails where a quick face to face conversation
might clear up all outstanding problems in a flash. Financially speaking, the
tax allowance is pretty paltry, considering the high cost of working from home.
(Currently just €3.30 a day in tax credits for full time working from home) Internet
charges, electricity will reflect the 24 hours surge as you move from office to
home. Meanwhile back at the office, the company is
paying for your coffee, tea, water, heat, light, pens, paper and even the loo
rolls. Zoom, Hangouts, Microsoft Teams and Skype meetings are convenient but
are also fraught with bad internet connections, people on mute, participants
speaking over each other and all those disconcerting background noises of wardrobe doors closing. But the most
difficult thing can be the isolation factor. A lack of interaction between
colleagues can be detrimental to the team spirit. Collaborative work is difficult. Training in
new staff can be very challenging and generally keeping the friendliness and
camaraderie of working alongside one another is difficult when the staff team
is scattered over four counties.
to Working remotely
Ah the positives
are many! There’s ‘no commute’ time. There is no traffic jam time. There’s
plenty of play my own music time. Throw away the high heels and the scratchy
neck ties as the dress code is determined by what can be seen on a video call
and what you feel comfortable wearing. Tea
breaks can be had in the garden. Lunch breaks are a time to throw the washing
on, feed the goldfish and spend time chatting to the ones you love and live
with. Fuel costs are down. Fuel emissions are down and wear and tear on
the car is lessened. Your work day may
be better organised as early risers are able to begin working earlier in the
day and vice versa for the night owls.
That ‘chatty Cathy’ in the office is not around to distract you with
incessant work and non-work related conversations. The
Whitaker Institute and the Western Development Commission found that 85% of
people surveyed for a recent report want to continue working remotely after the
Covid-19 pandemic has passed. More than half of those surveyed said they had
never worked remotely before and more than three-quarters would like to
continue remote working either some or all of the time after it ends. Only 12%
indicated that they would like to work remotely on a daily basis, while 42%
said they would like to work from home several times a week. This may well be the way forward as we change
our work practices to a more blended home/office balance.
Future working conditions may
reveal a very changed world as many Irish companies and their employees rethink
the benefits of a blended work/home balance. Prof. Alma McCarthy of NUI Galway said:
“Productivity does not necessarily correlate with presence in the workplace.
What we do is more important than where we do it for many roles. A mind set
change is needed by managers and employers in terms of managing work remotely.
The crisis provided an opportunity for organisations and managers to rethink
how we work.” There may be benefits as
yet untold, for those who choose to work from home for at least part of their
working lives. Ireland’s new coalition
government have a proposal in the Programme for Government for the development
of a national remote working policy to facilitate employees to work from home
or from co-working spaces in rural areas. This plan includes tax breaks to make
it more enticing for remote working. The National Broadband scheme will see
improvements in internet access and speeds.
We have already embraced the changes that were forced upon us and found
them to have more benefits than we realised. Let’s take the best of remote
working and the best of on-site employment and find a new way that suits us,
our productivity, our wellbeing and the environment. If that means forgetting Zoom is on for your
‘no pants’ day at home or singing loudly and off-key in the office, well so be
it. This is our New Normal.