Most Irish businesses expect staff to be back in the office by September but to increase the blend of remote and onsite working over the coming years.
More than half said they will place greater focus on employee output rather than presence when offices reopen.
These are among the main findings of a survey by Ibec, the business representative group, as businesses begin preparations for a gradual return to workplaces.
Over a quarter of respondents said they are planning their return to the workplace in line with Government advice or in line with the vaccination programme, almost 30% said they expect to return in September, while 21% said they expect to be fully back in the workplace within three months.
“Therefore, if Government guidelines provide for it, it seems likely that 78% of respondent organisations could be returned to the workplace by September of this year,” said Ibec CEO Danny McCoy.
“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.
“15% of respondents will ask all staff to return onsite fully and 4% will keep their staff remote working on a full-time basis."
Mr McCoy said the findings also reaffirm the urgent need for the Government to provide clarity and timelines to support businesses in safely returning staff to the workplace and to help to “reignite collaboration, culture, and confidence in their workforce”.
And with almost 74% of respondents saying that the use of hybrid working will increase over the next two to three years, Mr McCoy said there needs to be "increased ambition" in the delivery of necessary infrastructure such as remote working hubs, alignment with childcare facilities, and the national broadband plan.
“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,” he said.
Others findings show that half of respondents will limit business travel both locally and internationally initially, 45% plan to stagger employee teams to ensure social distancing, and 70% plan to adopt new ways of working to facilitate flexibility.