Workers fear a return to the office could put health at risk

Almost nine in ten (88pc) of the survey respondents, who work in professional sectors, see traditional office spaces as necessary.

Almost three quarters of Irish workers (71 per cent) have said they are concerned about returning to the office due the health implications of shared working environments, according to a recent survey examining the future of Irish workplaces by BNP Paribas Real Estate Ireland.

With the majority of employees across Ireland working from home since March, and it looks certain that this will remain until the end of the year, a major commercial real estate business has researched the extent to which workers are happy to swap the boardroom for the back room, in the longer-term. 

The survey found that 90 per cent (pc) of respondents are happy to work from home (WFH), given present circumstances, but when asked whether they would be happy to continue working from home in the future, less than half (49pc) said yes.

There are several key benefits to working from home, with 90pc of respondents stating not having to commute to work being the biggest benefit. An improvement in work-life balance mattered for 64pc, and the monetary savings was a significant factor for just over half (51pc) of those surveyed.

However, working from home comes with its challenges. Negatives included missing social interaction with colleagues (67pc), missing colleagues’ work supports (52pc), and distractions at home from children (35pc). Of those surveyed, almost 60pc of respondents lived with children in the household.

Other significant negatives of working remotely relate to a lack of suitable office equipment, like printers and proper desk chairs, as well as broadband provision, and IT network connection issues, like server security.   

The fact that people are coping with WFH in difficult circumstances, with kids around, connectivity issues and a lack of the tools and support to fully manage their role is testament to the commitment of Irish workers says Kenneth Rouse, managing director at BNP Paribas Real Estate.

“People are delivering on work commitments without the physical, personnel or even technological infrastructure of their normal workplaces. How long that can last is questionable, and organisations need to take decisions now to provide clarity on how employees are to continue”.


While the survey indicates that 71pc now worry about the health implications of shared working environments, 59pc believe their former office accommodation is a healthy place to work.

Switching off from work was another personal issue brought up by respondents as many are finding it difficult to separate the home and work environment. Workers are also experiencing an increased workload, additional pressure from management and a tendency to work longer hours.

Increased personal costs of office supplies, heating, electricity and personal phones were also highlighted as a potential issue, especially if workers were to continue managing a home office. 

When it comes to recruitment and training new hires, managers expressed their concerns around doing this virtually, while the challenge of motivating teams and ensuring employee wellbeing remains a concern.

Just 47pc of respondents say they would ask their employer about remote working on a full-time basis, and 86pc would opt for part-time remote working only. 

The office sector has seen a large-scale working from home experiment unexpectedly triggered, and we now need to look at what is best for both businesses end employees, says Mr Rouse.

“Employers and landlords are considering what the new world of office work will look like and how transition can be managed to maintain safety, productivity and employee wellbeing,” he added.

Almost nine in ten (88pc) of the survey respondents, who work in professional sectors, see traditional office spaces as necessary, but with distanced working, larger communal areas and lower occupation levels.

The BNP Paribas Real Estate Ireland work from home survey was carried out among over 500 employees of largely professional and financial firms in Ireland over the past two weeks.

By Stephen Larkin

Published: 11 June, 2020