Why remote working is a pain in the neck for Irish workers

Not having the right home office set-up is contributing to growing pains for Ireland’s suddenly remote workforce.

New research indicates that not having a proper home office set-up is contributing to growing levels of unease amongst home workers who may be home-bound for many months yet.

A survey of 144 people working from home carried out online in the past week by Darby & Associates, a chartered quantity surveying firm, found that more than a third want to go back to the traditional office due to their current set-up.

“Worryingly, 20pc of respondents noticed an increase in back pain since starting to work from home”

The research comes on the heels of another batch of research last week by social network LinkedIn that revealed the mental health impact of working from home during lockdown. That research found that Irish workers who are working from home due to the coronavirus are clocking up an extra 38 hours per month – the equivalent of an additional working week 

LinkedIn’s research found that men and under-34s most likely to suffer from stress due to working from home during the pandemic. 46pc of over 55-year-olds miss their colleagues, over one-fifth (21pc) of all respondents feel lonely and isolated.

Despite this, post-lockdown, over half (51pc) want both flexible hours and the option to work from home. One-third of women (32pc) are exercising more and almost half of workers are spending more quality time with family.

“Covid-19 has impacted how we all work, not least those heroes on the frontline. Whilst it is a very different set of challenges, for those of us who are fortunate enough to work from home, we are seeing the impact this is having on our mental health,” said Lisa Finnegan, senior HR director at LinkedIn.

It’s all down to how well you are set up to work at home

While many have embraced home working as a positive and would probably grimace and grumble if they were summoned back to the office on Monday, the reality is that many suddenly remote workers weren’t set up correctly in the first place, adding to their discomfort and feelings of discombobulation.

“We believe from our data that the home set-up itself and lack of privacy is contributing to some people being less productive”

The survey by Darby & Associates found that 14pc of suddenly remote workers say that working from their home set-up is a struggle and that 35pc would go back to work because of their current set-up.

Only 15pc said they have a good set-up that would encourage them to continue working at home indefinitely.

“We found that 34pc of people were using a smaller desk and 37pc were using a kitchen table, island or other,” said Eoin Darby. “33pc of people were using an inferior desk chair that will ‘get them through the restrictions’ while 29pc use a chair they would never use in work. Worryingly, 20pc of respondents noticed an increase in back pain since starting to work from home.

When asked what changes they would make instantly if there were no cost implications, 79pc said they would want a better chair or standing desk. 30pc of those asked wanted more light, better Wi-Fi and better privacy.

“Privacy was a hot topic in this survey where a quarter or respondents were worried about intrusions on a work phone/video call,” said Darby.

Productivity levels varied greatly between respondents, with 12pc saying they were equally as productive compared with their normal place of work. 58pc said they were more productive while 30pc said they were less productive.

“We believe from our data that the home set-up itself and lack of privacy is contributing to some people being less productive.”

The survey asked what the respondent would do to improve their working from home setup. 22pc would like to upgrade an existing room, 18pc considered conversion of an attic space. 25pc cannot upgrade their space to work from home properly as 16pc were renting and felt upgrading their existing spaces was not an option and 9pc felt they had no space to upgrade.

“When we asked people in the survey if they would extend, renovate, or convert their attic 73pc of respondents felt the cost of building work would be their main concern followed by 29pc concerned about the disruption it would cause in the home. 19pc said the risks around Covid-19 and having tradesmen in their house would be a concern.”

Written by John Kennedy (john.kennedy3@boi.com)

Published: 19 May, 2020