Businesses plan for office reopening within 3 months

Most Irish businesses are planning for staff to return to the workplace in the next three months, new Ibec research claims.

Businesses across Ireland are beginning preparations for a gradual return to workplaces in the coming weeks and months.

The business lobby group Ibec says that the findings of a major survey of businesses reaffirms the urgent need for Government to provide clarity and timelines to support firms in safely returning staff to the workplace.

“As swift a return as possible to office work is also vital in order to preserve the future of the many Experience Economy businesses in our towns and cities that rely on office worker footfall for their survival”

The study found that 74pc of respondents have adopted some form of hybrid working over the past 12 months. 20pc had all employees working remotely while 4pc had all employees working onsite. Other arrangements applied in 2pc of respondent organisations.

Half of respondents said that for an initial period they will limit business travel both locally and internationally. Just under a fifth said that they would do this indefinitely.

According to the report, 45pc will stagger employee teams to ensure social distancing for a period, while 18pc will do this indefinitely.

Clarity needed on childcare and broadband

The survey also asked businesses to look to the next 2-to-3 years post-Covid and 70pc believe they will adopt new ways of working to facilitate flexibility. 61pc believe that they will make permanent changes to support better public health in the workplace. And 55pc will place greater focus on employee output rather than presence.

“Clarity from Government on the timing of graduated workplace reopening is now key for companies in order to reignite collaboration, culture and confidence in their workforce,” said Ibec CEO Danny McCoy.

“Government’s roadmap must be aligned with an ongoing review of reopening timelines that reflects the risk reduction that the vaccine programme is delivering. This means a potential earlier gradual return to workplaces than the previously flagged expected return time of September.

“Over a quarter of respondents (28pc) will plan their return to the workplace in line with Government advice and/or the finalisation of the vaccination rollout. A similar proportion (29pc) expect to return in September 2021 and one in five organisations expect to be fully back in the workplace within the next three months (21pc). Therefore, if Government guidelines provide for it, it seems likely that 78pc of respondent organisations could be returned to the workplace by September of this year

“In recent years we have witnessed emerging trends towards more flexible and remote working. Our survey results confirm that Covid has accelerated this trend, with four out of five respondent companies stating that they will operate a hybrid model of remote and onsite work to a degree when their offices reopen. 15pc of respondents will ask all staff to return onsite fully and 4pc will keep their staff remote working on a full-time basis.

“Almost three quarters of companies (74pc) say that the use of hybrid working will increase in their organisations over the next 2-to-3 years.”

McCoy said that while these trends signal the need for increased ambition in the delivery of necessary infrastructure such as remote working hubs, alignment with childcare facilities, and the National Broadband Plan, first and foremost Government must outline to organisations how and when they can begin efforts to gradually return their staff safely to the office.

“As swift a return as possible to office work is also vital in order to preserve the future of the many Experience Economy businesses in our towns and cities that rely on office worker footfall for their survival.”

By John Kennedy (john.kennedy3@boi.com)

Published: 17 May 2021

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