A recent survey by researchers from the Whitaker Institute at NUI Galway and the Western Development Commission (WDC) has shown that 83% expressed interest in continuing to work remotely. Over half of those surveyed (51%) had never worked remotely before the Covid-19 pandemic. Of those who had never worked remotely, 78% would like to work remotely for some or all of the time after the crisis is over.
The survey was led by Professor Alma McCarthy, Professor Alan Ahearne and Dr Katerina Bohle-Carbonell at NUI Galway, and Tomás Ó Síocháin and Deirdre Frost at WDC. These are the initial findings from the national survey of 7,241 individuals across a wide range of industries and sectors over a one-week week period in April-May 2020.
The top three challenges of working remotely included: Not being able to switch off from work; harder to communicate and collaborate with colleagues and co-workers; and poor physical workspace. The top three benefits of working remotely included: no traffic and no commute; reduced costs of going to work and commuting; and greater flexibility as to how to manage the working day.
The challenge of juggling childcare with work commitments was cited as a key issue in the open-ended comments received. The provision of better ergonomic equipment is one of the key changes suggested by employees to help with their well-being and productivity while working remotely. Many also report the need for more suitable workspace within their home and just under 1-in-5 (19%) identified internet connectivity as an issue.
In relation to current levels of productivity, 37% of respondents indicated that their productivity working remotely during COVID-19 is about the same as normal and 30% report that their productivity is higher than normal. 25% report that their productivity is lower than normal and 9% of respondents indicate that it is impossible to compare productivity as the demand for products/services/business has changed.
The majority (83%) of the 7,241 respondents indicated that they would like to work remotely after the crisis is over. Of these:
— 12% indicated they would like to work remotely on a daily basis
— 42% indicated they would like to work remotely several times a week
— 29% indicated they would like to work remotely several times a month
— 16% indicated they do not want to continue working remotely.
The survey indicates that 87% of those surveyed across all counties in Ireland are now working remotely because of Covid-19.
Speaking about the national survey, Professor Alma McCarthy said: “The findings of our survey indicate that employee preferences to continue working remotely will facilitate the opening up phase and aid with social distancing. The future of work post-COVID-19 is really interesting. The vast majority of respondents want to continue to work remotely when the crisis is over. Many roles and jobs can be performed effectively remotely.
What is the benefit of long commutes to work and sitting in traffic if we can leverage technology at least some of the week to do our work? Productivity does not necessarily correlate with presence in the workplace. What we do is more important than where we do it for many roles. A mindset change is needed by managers and employers in terms of managing work remotely. The current crisis provides an opportunity for organisations and managers to rethink how we work.”
CEO of the Western Development Commission Tomás Ó Síocháin said: “While a significant majority (83%) want to continue working remotely to some degree post-COVID-19, the figure is higher in the West and Midlands. Just over half (51%) would like to work from their home, with the balance seeking a mix of home, a hub/work-sharing space and the office. The preference of working from home or close to home in a hub/work-sharing space will allow individuals a better balance of work and home and generate and sustain economic activity in rural and regional areas.”
Respondents suggest a number of key changes and improvements that their managers and employers should make regarding remote working at present:
— Provision of better and more ergonomic physical workspace including the provision of a good (ergonomic) chair, provision of a printer, and better screens.
— Better management of video-conference meetings
— Reduce expectations and workload to more realistic levels
— Regular communication and check-ins
— Ensure provision of well-being supports
More flexibility in terms of hours of work to cater for caring responsibilities at this time.
The initial survey report is publicly available www.whitakerinstitute.ie. The research team will be doing further analysis and more publications will be available on the websites in the future.