Half of Irish employers require workers to be present in the office for two or three days a week.
Staff retention and recruitment is the main reason employers continue to offer remote and hybrid working arrangements, according to new research from Dublin Chamber in association with property firm Savills Ireland.
Wednesday has been reported to be the most popular day of the week for employees to work from the office, with employers recording an average occupancy rate of 61% to 70% on that particular day, with Tuesdays (51% to 60%) and Thursdays (51% to 60%) also proving popular. Unsurprisingly, Mondays and Fridays are the least popular day for office occupancy, with employers recording attendance of 10% or lower.
“Remote, hybrid and flexible working is now commonplace in most industries, however, the office will continue to be the epicentre of business activity and a hub for learning, collaboration, and collegiality – no business can survive without this”
Further findings from a survey of remote and hybrid working practices across 500 Dublin office-based businesses reveal that one year on since Covid restrictions were lifted in Ireland, about half of employers require workers to be present in the office for two or three days a week.
Mental health concerns
Three in four companies said their main concern around remote and hybrid working was that it made it more difficult for them to cultivate a positive team culture, while more than three in five said their main worry was that such arrangements made the onboarding of new staff harder. Three in five firms said their main concern was staff isolation or mental health.
Furthermore, despite most companies offering remote and hybrid working arrangements, the majority (76%) surveyed have not changed the size of their office footprint.
More than four in five firms note in-person engagement with colleagues as a top driver in encouraging employees to return to work onsite; followed by fringe benefits – such as meeting with friends after work, shopping or attending events (40%); and virtual meeting fatigue (39%).
“While there has been a gradual return to the office in recent times, remote and hybrid working remain a feature of the current working landscape,” said Mary Rose Burke, CEO of Dublin Chamber. “This has its advantages, particularly its ability to open up opportunities in the workforce for those who may have struggled to participate in it before.
“However, high employee expectations around hybrid and remote working have put pressure on many employers to continue offering remote and hybrid working options – despite the potential misalignment with operational demands and the reduced urgency and dependency on such practices as initially necessitated by Covid-19. This has led to challenges such as loss of company culture, individualistic, rather than team-based, approaches to working, digital presenteeism, and several firms facing difficulties training new recruits, as senior members of staff increasingly choose to work from home, contributing to a loss of on-the-job, experiential learning.”
The research also uncovered widespread apprehension of the new legislation on the right to request remote work, which is currently before the Seanad and due to be finalised shortly. Many companies are concerned about the administrative and HR burden which might arise from this new legislation.
“To date we’ve only had anecdotal research to go on, but this hard data gives a great insight into how the working landscape has changed across Dublin,” said Andrew Cunningham, director and head of Offices at Savills Ireland.
“As the gradual but consistent return to the office moves throughout the country, it’s important to look at the reasons behind the movement to ascertain the needs of the market. What organisations need from their premises now differs significantly from what they needed ten, or even five, years ago.
“Though there has been a shift to remote working, companies continue to offer the office element for a variety of reasons and employees continue to desire it. This survey sheds some light on the whys. Human contact is one of the main reasons employees wish to return to the office, according to the research. More than four in five firms (85%) note in-person engagement with colleagues as a top driver in encouraging employees to return to work onsite; followed by fringe benefits – such as meeting with friends after work, shopping or attending events (40%); and virtual meeting fatigue (39%).
“The research highlights the importance of a well-located office space – given that so many are motivated to return to the office to meet friends, shop or attend events – and this can be seen in the official take-up figures. For example, of the 242,800 sqm. of deals in 2022, 79% occurred in the traditional central business district (CBD).
“Remote, hybrid and flexible working is now commonplace in most industries, however, the office will continue to be the epicentre of business activity and a hub for learning, collaboration, and collegiality – no business can survive without this,” Cunningham said.