Love it or
loath it, working remotely is a real fact of life for many Irish employees.
At Dmac Media, we look at the joys and the miseries that remote
working has brought to our own staff and take a look at the practical aspects
of continued working from home, the tax breaks, the isolation and the way
forward for ‘blended working’ as the bricks and mortar office loses its
significance in work life.
When we packed our computers and files and headed home last March, leaving our office plants to wilt and gather dust, no one imagined we would still be working remotely some seven months later. The working habits of a lifetime changed overnight and have now, probably changed forever. At Dmac Media, all staff made the transition from busy office to their various homesteads at the end of March 2020, moving our phone system to a somewhat precarious App and trusting the work of an I.T. company to varying levels of broadband. It has been challenging. Over the months, we as a staff team have found the experience surprisingly rewarding and/or extremely frustrating. It suits some people completely and it is an anathema to others. Internet connections have had some effect on this with a number of employees barely able to answer phone calls while others have enviable download times. Those with young families embraced the flexibility of working at home, while stressing that door locks and separate work areas are essential to sanity and productivity. But even those who skipped joyfully from the office in the Spring are finding ongoing working remotely just a bit too remote, as isolation from work mates, dark evenings and lockdown fatigue take their toll.
Isolation: The group chat, a staff Whatsapp group and Zoom work calls have contributed in some small way to keeping the spirits of the staff team buoyant, but do not replace the camaraderie of being in the same office, sharing birthday cakes and hearing each others news on a daily basis. While those working home alone always reported a feeling of isolation and a lack of home work divide, as the months of pandemic lockdown have rocked on, even those with families at home are reporting a certain level of isolation. One staff member said on days when you work is going well, it feels good, but on those days when you run into work problems, you miss having colleagues who understand the issues and can add a bit of perspective, a freshly made coffee and perhaps a solution. The dark winter months are not helping the feeling of being cut off from the tribe. In a survey from IrishJobs.ie. when asked if they missed their usual working environment, 79% of employees working from home surveyed stated that they did. Socialising with work colleagues (89%) ranked as the main reason for this.
Commute: At the start of lockdown, when humanity disappeared back to their home office caves and nature took over the highways, we all realised the benefits of less traffic, of not driving an hour in lines of cars. As foxes were video’ed leisurely crossing the M50 and rabbits played in the car parks, we smugly vowed never to commute again. A quick review of Dmac Media staff has seen some small change in that opinion. Now, as a few workers take socially distanced desks back in the office due to their appalling internet connections and other needs, they report that the commute to work is almost a pleasure. There is, of course, very little traffic on the road at the moment. It is not this which makes the journey an essential part of the working day, but as one home working staff said, the trip to work, whether by car, bike or foot gives us a corridor between work and home. You can listen to some radio or music and arrive at the other end afresh. ‘Working remotely feels as if you never leave work, and in fact, you don’t!’
Flexibility: When you work for a flexible company like Dmac Media, it is not a big issue if you need to take time to take care of personal matters. An arrangement can be made for appointments etc. Working from home means you have a lot more flexibility and one or two of our staff are not convinced that this is a good thing. It might be too easy to do an hour late in the evening and look after that urgent family thing in the afternoon. Again, a work life balance is upset by being too available at home. This was, of course, a perceived bonus at the start of lock down home working, but now there is a desire to return to a more linear way of managing our working life. For one or two, who hated the home working at first, there seems to have been a normalisation and they report having got used to it. It is interesting to note that not one member of staff could categorically say that they wanted to work at home fulltime and on an ongoing basis and rather all were looking forward to a time when we could all be back in the office. It has to be said, that we are an awesome bunch of people in an awesome company, so this is not surprising. It also reflects the trend nationwide.
The Way forward
Ireland has one of the highest rates of home working during Covid-19 according to the European think tank, Eurofound. This adaptability of both employees and employers is commendable. The change to the working lives will no doubt continue. For staff of Dmac Media, a blended and flexible approach may be the way forward, when we are not governed by the threat of spreading virus’s to each other. In the newer normal days that we may look forward to ahead, the majority of staff would embrace an opportunity to work from home some days and in the office others. For now, that is a wish list and we are where we are. Keeping in touch regularly, sharing in the companies highs and lows and keeping the team together is our best option for now.
Tax Breaks: The good news is that for every day that you work at home, your employer may pay you €3.20 a day without deducting PAYE or PRSI or USC. If your employer does not make this payment, you can claim for allowable costs. Namely 10% of electricity and heat, 30% of broadband costs. Claims for 2020 can be made in January 2021. To claim this, simply ask your employer for a letter indicating the date on which you began working from home and the date that you went back to the office. (If you ever did go back.). Calculate the working days and use the following steps to calculate the credits due to you.
Calculate Your Electricity and Heat Tax Breaks for Working From Home
Simply multiply your utility bill by the working days. Divide by 365 and multiply by 10%
Calculate Your Broadband Tax Relief for Working From Home
Multiply the broadband bill by the working days, divide by 365 and
multiply by 305
If the cost is shared between two or more people, it can be apportioned
based on the amount each paid.