Urgent need for Government clarity on return to workplace, Ibec says

Four out of five companies say they will operate a hybrid model of remote and onsite work

Nearly 80 per cent of companies could bring their staff back to the workplace by September if permitted under Government guidelines, a new survey published by the employers’ group Ibec suggests.

Ibec said on Sunday that the survey findings reaffirmed the urgent need for Government to provide clarity and timelines to support businesses in safely returning staff to the workplace.

It said flexibility was needed to ensure organisations could return at the earliest convenient date.

Ibec chief executive Danny McCoy said clarity from the Government “on the timing of graduated workplace reopening is now key for companies in order to reignite collaboration, culture and confidence in their workforce”.


“Government’s roadmap must be aligned with an ongoing review of reopening timelines that reflects the risk reduction that the vaccine programme is delivering. This means a potential earlier gradual return to workplaces than the previously flagged expected return time of September.”

About 370 companies, across manufacturing, distribution and services, participated in the Ibec survey which was carried out between late April and early May.

“Over a quarter of respondents (28 per cent ) will plan their return to the workplace in line with Government advice and/or the finalisation of the vaccination rollout. A similar proportion (29 per cent) expect to return in September 2021, and one in five organisations expect to be fully back in the workplace within the next three months (21 per cent ).

“Therefore, if Government guidelines provide for it it seems likely that 78 per cent of respondent organisations could be returned to the workplace by September of this year.

“In recent years we have witnessed emerging trends towards more flexible and remote working. Our survey results confirm that Covid has accelerated this trend, with four out of five respondent companies stating that they will operate a hybrid model of remote and onsite work to a degree when their offices reopen. (A total of) 15 per cent of respondents will ask all staff to return onsite fully, and 4 per cent will keep their staff remote working on a full-time basis”, Mr McCoy said.

Three days

The Ibec survey suggests the approach to hybrid working would vary between organisations.

It said 20 per cent of respondent organisations expected employees to work three days onsite, with an additional 13 per cent expecting staff to be onsite for two days each week.

“Overall organisations see more collaborative and face-to-face work activities taking place onsite, with more administrative, routine or individually-focussed tasks taking place in remote setting.

“Employers are considering investment in IT, software and physical spaces to promote collaboration among employees on and off site.”

Mr McCoy said: “Almost three-quarters of companies (74 per cent ) say that the use of hybrid working will increase in their organisations over the next two to three years. While these trends signal the need for increased ambition in the delivery of necessary infrastructure such as remote working hubs, alignment with childcare facilities, and the National Broadband Plan, first and foremost Government must outline to organisations how and when they can begin efforts to gradually return their staff safely to the office.

He said “as swift a return as possible to office work” was also vital to preserve the future of businesses in towns and cities that rely on office worker footfall for their survival.

Martin Wall

Martin Wall

Martin Wall is the former Washington Correspondent of The Irish Times. He was previously industry correspondent