Irish Examiner View: Survey shows blended jobs model of the future

Over 80% favour 'hybrid' work
Irish Examiner View: Survey shows blended jobs model of the future

Seven in 10 people who worked from home during the Covid-19 crisis found the experience 'positive' or 'very positive'.

Today, Ireland’s largest-ever employee survey confirmed what we’ve been hearing for some time —there is an enormous appetite for remote working. 

Seven in 10 people who worked from home during the Covid-19 crisis found the experience “positive” or “very positive”.

More tellingly, most of those surveyed by Amarách Research for Fórsa trade union said they would like to see a blended approach, suggesting that the future of work will involve a hybrid of working remotely and in the office.

Who can say what lies ahead but this survey of more than 4,300 workers, mostly civil and public servants, mirrors findings from the private sector outlined by the Department of Business, Enterprise and Innovation in 2019. 

Taken together, they suggest that the favoured work model of the future is a mixture of home and office which, if done well, could mean that Irish workers will enjoy the best of both worlds.

We’re seen the advantages of working from home in sharper relief since March. It was a change already on the cards, but it was greatly accelerated by the pandemic. It came with many advantages, as outlined clearly in this survey.

The biggest positive factor, of course, was the one that forced us behind closed doors in the first place: reduced exposure to Covid-19. But there were many other benefits. 

The time regained from the daily commute was significant. In Dublin, for example, an average driver loses eight days and 21 hours in rush-hour traffic every year, according to the global TomTom traffic index.

Home-workers also reported better work-life balance, increased flexibility and increased productivity. Nearly half (45%) said it was easier to manage childcare, although the viral videos showing children interrupting Zoom calls tell the other side of the story.

The benefits of home-working to local communities was also palpable. Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown County Council responded to this by introducing a new cycleway along the coast in south county Dublin. 

In just seven weeks, the project went from idea to reality to facilitate the increased number of home-workers who were also shopping and moving around their own communities.

That is the kind of exemplary response that can turn challenge into opportunity. It is also a model of swift action in an emergency.

The Fórsa study is timely. It comes just as submissions closed on the State’s public consultation on remote working. 

The Government has acknowledged the need to refine guidelines in a number of areas, in particular health and safety, employment rights, the right to disconnect and data protection and training.

There are other concerns. The lack of interaction with colleagues was one of the biggest downsides to working at home cited by respondents to this survey and others.

However, the recent experiment in remote-working has also shown us the potential for positive change in so many spheres. 

There are significant benefits for workers and employers, and home-working goes much further as it has the potential to invigorate local and rural communities and reduce harmful emissions.

We have a real opportunity now to change the future of work for the better.

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