Four out of five Irish business leaders are expecting resistance from workers to going back to the office when the Covid-19 crisis dissipates.
A nationwide survey from the Association of Compliance Officers in Ireland (ACOI) found 80% of organisations here are predicting widespread reluctance from their employees, with public health concerns lingering, as well as a new-found contentment among workers from being at home.
In response, the majority of the 300 organisations surveyed are bracing themselves for the societal change, and preparing for a transition to long-term remote working – or will do so in the coming months, the study found.
Michael Kavanagh, chief executive of ACOI, said: “In an overwhelmingly strong statement from our member survey, as many as eight in 10 believe the transition back to the office may not be as seamless as one would think. While the reasons behind this are varied, it’s clear that there will have to be a departure in part from the more traditional workplace model.
"Just 20% of respondents felt that employees would be keen to return to the pre-Covid way of working."
According to research this month from Eurofound, the EU agency for the improvement of living and working conditions, the number of remote workers in the spring of 2021 fell as more workers returned to the office.
Despite this, the desire to telework has not waned as most EU workers in the almost 47,000 sampled across the 27 member states expressed a preference to work from home several times a week in the long term, Eurofound said.
Ireland leads the way in terms of working from home, having one of the highest rates in Europe, at more than 40% by comparison with an EU average of 33.7%, by mid-2020, according to Eurofound stats.
Mr Kavanagh said the pandemic "has brought to the fore issues that we’ve been tip-toeing around for the past few years".
"There are pros and cons to both and not just for the organisations and their employees, but also on a greater socio-economic scale – city centres that once had a high footfall from their business district workers could now be decimated due to less traffic.
"Conversely, suburban local shops, retailers, cafes etc will see an upturn in business with more people lunching and shopping in their local area... It’s going to be a long road before the new work landscape is a well-oiled machine."