What employees want from the hybrid future of work

If they weren’t sold on remote working before the Covid-19 crisis hit, the vast majority of Irish workers are now, and most expect to continue working from home in the new normal as offices re-open.

A remote working report launched by Limerick tech firm ActionPoint has revealed that 68pc of people would like to continue to work from home at least two days per week once Covid-19 restrictions are lifted but there are some major security concerns to be addressed to make remote working sustainable long-term.

Headquartered on the University of Limerick campus, ActionPoint conducted a survey of over 80 Irish companies on how organisations and their workforce were adapting to remote working as a result of Covid- 19.

“The lockdown period of the pandemic has forced management to rethink how they measure performance and productivity”

Fewer than half of organisations polled had a remote working policy in place but an impressive 78 percent of respondents rate their organisation’s ability to work remotely as ‘good’ or ‘very good.’

“This underlines the agility and adaptability of Irish SMEs in embracing the new work environment,” said ActionPoint CEO David Jeffreys.

However, the report also reveals that a major gap in IT Security exists among Irish businesses with only 41pc of respondents using multi-factor authentication and less than half (47pc) use phishing protection. A massive spike in phishing emails and hacking related breaches since April means that businesses must be more vigilant than ever in securing their online data.

We spoke to Jeffreys about what workers want from the new future of work.

Short-haired man in suit.

ActionPoint CEO David Jeffreys

Would it be fair to say people who weren’t sold on the idea of remote working are converts now?

Absolutely. The ability to remote work is nothing new and the tools have been there for many years, so the challenge has been twofold;

Firstly, people have been living within their comfort zones, doing what they do the way they have always done it. They may have had an awareness of tools such as Skype, now Microsoft Teams, but never had an overwhelming need to use it, nor would they describe themselves as being proficient in their use. If they wanted to talk to a colleague, they just had to turn around in their chair.

Essentially, they had no need to use these tools so weren’t aware of their true potential.

Secondly, and arguably the bigger challenge to overcome has been trust. The age-old mindset of ‘seeing is believing’ has determined how we work. If the person is at home, are we sure that they’re not taking an extra tea break, or out tending their lawn? The lockdown period of the pandemic has forced management to rethink how they measure performance and productivity. As a result there is now an overwhelming acceptance that with the right working environment in the home, workers can be more productive with less interruptions.

Imagining what normal will look like as offices re-open, what will be the typical scenarios for workers – will they be likely to visit office for meetings and work at home the rest of the time?

There is currently a lot of debate about what the new working world will look like after we are permitted to return to the office environment. From our report, it is clear that a significant portion of workers would like to work at home for at least two days a week.

Now that the technology has been proven and there is management trust, it is very likely that most businesses will develop their work from home policies to facilitate remote working. We are anticipating a hybrid workplace where there might be core office days each month or week where workers will be expected to attend the office to ensure that there is no cultural disconnect within the team. Learning through osmosis by simply being present, is important for communications and culture, which is why it will be essential for workers to attend the office and not work remotely exclusively.

Furthermore, if we quote the report, one of the things that people miss most is social interactions with co-workers. Once we accommodate social distancing, I think we can aim to get that social connection back. 

Will the new normal have an impact on the amount of office space needed and will we see a return to people living in cities? 

Most definitely. Covid-19 has really changed what we consider to be “the workplace.” A lot of high-profile tech companies are moving to remote only for the foreseeable future.

For many companies, it’s remote now but in time will shift to the hybrid workplace.

This leaves us with either partial or fully vacant office space and presents a great opportunity for us to use this new space in our cities more efficiently. Perhaps what can’t be used for office space will be re-zoned for residential purposes? Doing so would help reduce the cost of accommodation, while less movement of workers between offices and home is good for the environment. So having the additional residential space would undoubtably contribute to our cities being more inhabitable.