Preparing for the new hybrid normal at Ireland's top firms

Financial services firms will expect staff to work from office for 2 or 3 days a week

Professional services firm KPMG has said it expects its 3,400 Irish staff to come to work in their offices for two to three days a week on average, in a new hybrid working model, after the Covid-19 public health emergency has passed. It is the latest in a series of high profile firms adjusting to a new normal as it tailors its return to work post-Covid.

As well as KPMG, Deloitte and Grant Thornton have also said they intend to execute a hybrid model of working, which will involve staff spending a portion of the week working from home and a portion in the office.

PwC has also told its 3,100 staff that it will expect them to work in their offices or at client sites for two to three days a week.

Others are still working through the implications of new work arrangements


Law firms McCann Fitzgerald, Arthur Cox and A&L Goodbody said they were still finalising their plans.

A spokeswoman for Arthur Cox said: “Given evolving views across professional services firms and indeed our own colleagues about optimum ways of working, Arthur Cox is engaging afresh with our staff and we expect to reach a conclusion on this matter over the coming weeks.

“In the interim, the vast majority of our staff in line with government guidelines, continue to work remotely. On occasions when office attendance is essential, Covid-19 protocols are fully observed.”

October target

KPMG managing partner Seamus Hand said the company has informed staff that its current expectation is for its offices to be "fully open" by October.

“In the meantime, we do anticipate that an increasing number of our people will want to attend the office on occasion and we will facilitate this in accordance with public health guidelines applicable at the time,” he said.

“This is an evolving situation and it is critical that we remain adaptable and therefore we’re already having detailed discussions about how we return to work and how we address issues such as hybrid working, employee wellbeing and the role of technology.”

Mr Hand said staff have told the company they have a “desire for greater flexibility, more autonomy and a more hybrid way of working”.

“With our new hybrid working, the role of the office remains a central part of that model and our people have told us that they believe the office will continue to play a big part for many reasons,” he said.

“We are planning to adopt a hybrid model but we don’t look at it in terms of days per week as we know it needs to be flexible and will evolve over time and as circumstances change.

“Our people have indicated a strong preference for this flexibility and an expectation that they will work from the office on average between two and three days [a week]. These preferences will guide the principles that we will apply in our future of work plans.”

Mr Hand said the purpose of on-site working will be collaborate with colleagues and clients.

“While I have been genuinely impressed with how we, and the wider business community, has worked remotely for so much of the past year and more, I do think we all miss in-person interaction,” he said.

“Collaboration, coaching, nurturing and developing culture and so forth really benefit from in-person engagement. What we’re working on at the moment is how to get the balance right so this is the clear focus when in the office.”

He said KPMG has “no immediate plans” to reduce or increase its office footprint, but added that themes such as increased collaborative spaces, technology-enabled hybrid working areas and high levels of sustainability will be a focus of its office plans for the future.

‘Less commuting’

A spokeswoman for Deloitte, which employs about 3,000 people across Ireland, said the company will be increasing its use of physical offices over the coming months.

“We see September 1st as the next key date where we will increase the use of our offices as part of wider restrictions being lifted,” she said. However, the company expects “a continued high level of working from home and remote working for the rest of the year”.

She said more than 90 per cent of employees have told the company they expect to incorporate some level of remote working in the future, but that staff have also “missed the connectivity” of being with colleagues during lockdown.

“We are also adapting to the new working patterns of our clients, and our people will be at the intersection between working remotely, on client sites and/or in office and using a variety of collaboration tools to enable people to stay in touch with colleagues and clients,” she said.

“We see great opportunity for new ways of thinking about work that could have a real benefit for the environment and our people, with less commuting and less business travel.”

She said the company would use the rest of this year to “pilot” how the hybrid working model will work best, based on feedback from staff.

“We don’t see a one-size fits all approach given the variety of work we do and the different career and life stages of our people,” she said.

On the physical office footprint, she said the group was “exploring what the right office footprint is in what locations across Ireland and in what configuration”.

“How we use our properties needs to change as we create a business that is fit for the future,” she said. “The way we use our properties will no longer be solely determined by how many people we have.

“Rather, it should reflect how we now work with each other and with our clients – increasingly digital, but also increasingly collaborative and increasingly connected.”

‘Unanimous vote for hybrid’

Meanwhile, a spokeswoman for Grant Thornton, which employs just over 1,500 people in Ireland, said it is also planning a hybrid model.

“Due to the nature of our work, the hybrid model will be a flexible one, with our people attending our offices to meet our client and business needs,” she said. “The number of days in the office will vary to meet these demands.

“On site attendance will be for several purposes, [such as] completion of client work or projects, collaboration, on-site training and team building, as key to making a hybrid model work is maintaining quality of service to our clients while preserving the values of our firm.”

The company has conducted several staff surveys during the course of the pandemic, and the “unanimous vote” has always been for a hybrid working model.

She added that Grant Thornton does not intend to reduce or grow its office footprint, but that it is reviewing “the layout of our older offices to ensure they allow for new ways of working and will make any necessary adaptations required”.

Colin Gleeson

Colin Gleeson

Colin Gleeson is an Irish Times reporter