Tools to facilitate working from home are fast becoming a key focus for workers, with many people offering fairly positive views of the newly dispersed Irish workplace.
Naturally, workers also voice important concerns across a range of issues in a run of recent workplace surveys. Overall, however, the emerging national picture is one of a workforce focused on economic recovery, while highlighting the aspects in need of considered attention.
For starters, 90% of employees would stay longer with their employer if working from home was an option, according to a survey by Workvivo, the Cork-based employee engagement platform which has customers all over the world.
Some 85% of employees are more positive about working from home in the mass remote work experiment since the onset of Covid-19. The global survey of 1,000 employees found that the new normal could be here to stay with 52% of respondents saying they would like to work from home permanently, while 36% would prefer a combination of both office and home days.
John Goulding, CEO of Workvivo, said: “Remote work was a major adjustment for businesses all over the world – but clearly we’re now seeing a very tangible and explicit desire and expectation for longer-term flexibility among employees. As companies work to attract and maintain talent, it will be vital to offer this flexibility to compete.
“With the workforce now distributed, it’s also crucial that employers consider how they’re communicating with their employees. Email and Slack aren’t enough to engage employees around what's important for the organisation. It’s more important than ever that employees feel part of something bigger than themselves, and the right technology can be a powerful enabler to ensure this.”
Results of the survey showed that overall productivity and communication seems to be increased on the most part.
Some 70% of employees claimed they feel more productive working from home. 63% said their employers are communicating with them more since they started working from home and 51% said they are communicating more with their colleagues too.
Workvivo contrasts these positives with a frequently cited pre-pandemic Gallup poll, which estimated that up to 70% of employees globally were disengaged at work, costing the worldwide economy $450 billion annually.
Since the Covid-19 pandemic struck, there are now more than 27 million cases globally and more than 900,000 deaths. Longer-term, Ireland shares the same concerns as other countries around massive government debt legacy and the ongoing need to manage social distancing protocols.
Cormac Fitzgerald, of Fitzgerald & Partners accountants in Kinsale, notes that Cork is proving attractive for recent inward investment, notably with UK businesses investing here.
“Some businesses are performing well despite the challenges and adapting and seeking opportunities as entrepreneurs do,” said Mr Fitzgerald. “We have seen a lot of UK SMEs setting up Irish subsidiaries and bases here in 2020 and working with lots of UK firms in this regard.
“Cork seems to be coping well thus far with the restrictions around the pandemic, with 6% of cases and the median age at 46. Fatigue is now setting in and we encourage our clients daily to keep going and staying resilient.”
The local business community also set up the Kinsale Digital Hub, a gateway hub at the very start of the Wild Atlantic Way.
“We have recently been approached to host some research in it as a research hub to help SMEs, startups and entrepreneurs to have a co-working base in the town and now embarking on our new innovative Doing Business in Kinsale App, which will help the town to recover and grow and highlight the great community groups and organisations with some key links showcasing Kinsale as a great place to live and work.”
Meanwhile, a survey conducted by Network Ireland has found that more than 40% of women say doing their job or running their business is getting harder as the pandemic continues.
In relation to the restrictions placed on businesses, the study of nearly 150 women also found that 41% say that social distancing and rostering/remote working were the areas which were proving most difficult to manage.
More than 60% have availed of state supports for business since March. Almost 85% say they haven’t turned to a financial institution for financial support. Of those who did, 70% say the assistance they got was in the form of a payment break.
Network Ireland's president, Louisa Meehan, said: “It’s striking to see that over 40% of people feel work is getting harder, six months into this incredible time for Ireland. The fact that 60% of people have sought state support to keep their businesses up and running shows how vital these programmes are as we face into a massively daunting winter.
“With nearly 90% of respondents looking to upskill, it’s crucial that appropriate avenues are highlighted and open to people who need enterprise-specific education to maximise the viability of their business.”
Almost half of respondents (49%) say business is going ‘better than expected’ since June 29. Some 33% of those who took part say they’re now operating their job or business at 80-100% of pre-pandemic levels. Another third say they’re at 50-80%.
The vast majority (88%) say their experience in recent months has prompted them to look at upskilling to benefit their career / business.