The experience of remote working during the Covid-19 emergency has demonstrated that work can be carried out remotely in ways that are productive and cost-effective, all while being attractive to employers and their staff. Workers overwhelmingly value the flexibility that remote working can bring, while employers cite improved productivity and cost savings as potential benefits.
A recent survey, Conducted by Amarách Research on behalf of Fórsa, examining the issue has revealed a huge appetite for working from home, with more than 80% of respondents in favour, preferring a hybrid model with a blend of office-based work and remote activities.
The survey gathered the opinions of more than 4,300 workers and found that 86% of respondents were interested in working remotely.
Although most participants were civil and public servants, its findings broadly mirror similar research conducted by the Department of Business, Enterprise and Innovation (DBEI) last year, in which the majority of respondents were from the private sector.
The survey found that 70% of those who had worked at home during the crisis said remote working had been a positive, or very positive, experience. Reduced exposure to Covid-19 was the most frequently-cited positive factor associated with home working during the pandemic (81%), followed by improved work-life balance (70%), reduced commuting time (67%), and increased work flexibility (55%).
The data indicates that young workers however, while broadly supportive of remote working, experience a unique set of challenges.
Some 66% of workers aged below 30 found remote working to be a positive experience, compared with 81% when looking at all age groups. While almost three-quarters of respondents said their home was suitable for remote working, less than a quarter of those aged under 30 agreed, suggesting that younger workers face particular difficulties when considering home working, a phenomenon that is likely to present in all sectors of the economy.
Similarly, 40% of those surveyed shared their home working space with another adult for some or all of the time. Age and regional factors were significant with more than half of those aged below 30, and 53% of those based in Dublin, sharing home work space.
A lack of interaction with colleagues was the biggest single negative aspect of home working, cited by 69% of respondents. Almost half said they found it harder to find out what was happening at work, and a quarter said management communicated poorly during the pandemic.
Participants also cited difficulty in separating work from home life. These findings broadly mirror the concerns that surfaced in the 2019 DBEI survey.
Worryingly, just 28% of those who worked remotely said a manager had asked them about their home working set-up from a health and safety perspective. The union has now called for the Health and Safety Authority (HSA) to draw up specific employer and employee guidelines on remote working, assessing both physical and mental health risks.
In its submission to a Government consultation on remote working, which was delivered last month, Fórsa called on the Government to open a dialogue with unions and employers, aimed at strengthening the legal framework around remote working, including the possibility of a legal right for employees to seek remote working and other flexible working arrangements.
The submission also insists that those working remotely should benefit from the same rights, guaranteed by legislation and collective agreements, as comparable staff at their employer’s premises.
Considering this, Fórsa will host a webinar for members on 25th September at 1pm, exploring the future for remote working from the perspective of workers, employers, communities and the economy. Our panel of expert speakers will explore issues like productivity, health and safety, work-life balance, and staying connected with colleagues. Details of the event and registration links will circulate to branches shortly.
More information on the results of the Fórsa remote working survey can be found HERE.
Read Fórsa’s submission to a Government consultation on remote working HERE.
Read Fórsa’s remote working guide HERE.
It’s never been more important – or more easy – to get the protections and benefits of union membership. Join Fórsa HERE or contact the union HERE.