A report from Eurostat (June 2023) highlighted the level of remote working across Europe. It found that this grew in Ireland from 7% in 2019 to 25% in 2022, a significant increase reflecting the changes brought about by the pandemic. Ireland has generally lagged behind other European countries on this trend. Compared for example with The Netherlands, which topped the Eurostat list in 2023 with 50% of its workforce usually working remotely. But there is a strong sense that Ireland is now gearing to catch up.
The CIPD’s HR practices in Ireland 2023 report found that 42% of organisations had over half of their workforce operating in a hybrid manner. This hints at the benefits that organisations and their employees are seeing from hybrid working. Many organisations have responded to demands from employees to retain the flexibility they were accustomed to when working remotely over the pandemic. According to our research, the volume of organisations operating in a flexible/hybrid manner has increased year on year and is projected to increase further in the years ahead.
Meanwhile, our survey found that only 12% of companies said the majority of employees were working completely remotely, so full remote working has not become strongly embedded in the economy.
As Ireland is comparatively new to these ways of working, it is still defining how to implement them to best meet customer, employer and employee demands. Anecdotally, we are hearing examples of employees voting with their feet – changing jobs when they are required to come back on site five days a week. While it isn’t suitable for all types of work or organisations, working from home has advantages in terms of sustainability in reducing both travelling time and impact, both of which are increasingly important to both employees and employers.
We have also heard expressed the frustration experienced by employees when they are expected on site but yet find their time filled by online calls with little opportunity to meet and collaborate with colleagues in person. As organisations adopt new ways of working, we have identified the following emerging practices.
- Employers are asking employees to attend the workplace on specific days to connect with their colleagues. Certain days are nominated for particular teams or for all employees to be on site. The CIPD HR practices in Ireland 2023 report found that the most common pattern of hybrid working is for employees to be on site two or three days a week. More and more employees are being asked to attend the same days. This gives employees a reason to be on site and to know there will be others there with them.
- When on site, employees are asked to take part in collaborative activities. This covers options from face-to-face team meetings, wellbeing sessions, learning and development, to ‘town hall’ meetings, social events and so on. These are enabling employees to engage with each other, build relationships and help facilitate informal conversations and cross-functional networking to support wellbeing, performance and culture.
- Sustaining culture has now emerged as the biggest challenge from remote/hybrid working, identified by 71% of respondents in the survey. Bringing people together on site is used to address this and to support working together as organisations redefine and embed a culture fit for the future.
- How office spaces are used has also changed and organisations are now commonly bringing employees on site over the same two or three days a week. From a sustainability perspective, this also allows organisations to reduce their carbon footprint by closing their buildings on other days when they are nearly empty.
Provisions in the Work Life Balance and Miscellaneous Provisions Act 2023 that will give employees the right to request remote working and for carers and parents the right to request flexible working are yet to come into operation. But we expect that these developments will mean the trend of remote/hybrid working will continue to grow.
Relatively speaking, hybrid working is still in its infancy in Ireland as organisations experiment and obtain feedback on how different ways of working are benefiting individuals and organisations. Employers should clarify their principles around their practices, and invest in training and support for both managers and employees, for example, to understand what work is best done remotely and what is best done on site. Teamwork and collaboration remain a challenge for over 50% of organisations, so will need to be encouraged.
Advice for line managers on supporting and enabling hybrid working
Information on the law relating to flexible working, including remote working, work life balance and the right to disconnect
Read our submission to the Workplace Relations Commission's consultation on the right to request remote working
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