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Matheson: Remote working – COVID-19 and Beyond Survey Results

AUTHORs: Geraldine Carr Services: Employment, Pensions and Benefits DATE: 21/07/2020

As we learn to accept and adapt to the fact that remote working is becoming a longer-term reality for businesses, we recently hosted a webinar attended by a broad cross sectoral representation during which attendees had the opportunity to participate in a quick pulse survey for their views on the implications of the ongoing remote working environment in their organisations.

In our webinar, we discussed the practical considerations that employers need to bear in mind in light of the changed workplace.  This conversation was extremely topical and valuable for participants, as the results from our poll indicate that the majority of businesses regard remote working as a continuing workplace reality, with 66% intending to offer long term working from home as a permanent option for employees. This complements recent research by NUI Galway, in which 83% of surveyed respondents confirmed that they wish to continue working remotely after the current crisis abates, suggesting that employers and employees are largely aligned in their outlook on the continued practice of remote working.

With over half of the participants in our webinar poll reporting that productivity has stayed the same and 21% reporting an increase in productivity, it appears that the business case for remote working is clear.

What may be less clear is how businesses are going to set their employees up for longer-term or even permanent remote working.  The results of our poll regarding what has been provided by way of remote working aids and supports to employees may come as a surprise.  75% of our webinar poll said they had not provided a work from home allowance, a meals allowance or a wellness allowance nor had they paid for office equipment.  Only 14% confirmed that they had paid for office equipment to facilitate working from home.

Another interesting response to our poll relates to how often self-certified health and safety questionnaires are conducted in order to determine if an employee’s remote workplace is suitable from a health and safety perspective. Only 37% of the webinar poll participants have conducted such a survey, despite such an assessment being a key part of discharging an employer’s statutory duty to provide a safe place of work, and we suggest this is perhaps due to the abrupt manner with which the majority of employers were forced to transition their workforce to a remote workforce. In time, we would anticipate that assessments of remote work spaces will become commonplace, with both self-certification by employees and virtual assessments by experts (where warranted) becoming a regular part of an employee’s remote workplace setup.

This article was authored by Geraldine Carr and Eimear Boyle.