Return to the office allows new models of working

From Monday pandemic restrictions on workers returning to the office lift

Stuart Dempsey, Gamerstore.ie; Ciaran Walsh, MMC Eco Homes; and  Sophie Spilleane, Blue Wire work in the phone booths  at PorterShed in Galway. Photograph: Anthony Shaughnessy.

Stuart Dempsey, Gamerstore.ie; Ciaran Walsh, MMC Eco Homes; and Sophie Spilleane, Blue Wire work in the phone booths at PorterShed in Galway. Photograph: Anthony Shaughnessy.

 

Blended. Hybrid. Balanced. These are the buzzwords used by employers and managers to describe the kind of working arrangements envisaged from next Monday as the restriction on office-based work is eased.

In Galway, PorterShed is looking forward to people returning. With offices based near Eyre Square in the city centre, it offers “hot desk” facilities, co-working spaces, project spaces and services for tech-based companies.

“We have been gradually opening up,” its chief executive, Mary Rodgers, says. “We’ve been open for essential services so we’ve seen the return to the office happen already with tech companies, and we’re seeing at least five of our member companies returning on Monday.”

Before the pandemic, about 130 people availed of the office facilities. Between 25 and 40 people are currently working at the offices, with a further 30 expected to return next week, bringing the co-working space back to half capacity.

PorterShed has been receiving Connected Hub grants from the Department of Rural and Community Development, as well as assistance from Enterprise Ireland through the Department of Enterprise during the pandemic. The grants have been “essential” in helping the company reopen, according to Rodgers.

With the additional money, phone booths and podcast studios have been installed in the offices. “When people come back to the office, others will still be operating remotely. Typically, two people are at home and two people are here, so they will go into the phone booths for these meetings.”

The HRB-Clinical Research Facility (HRB-CRFG) based at NUI Galway and Galway University Hospitals has been looking at a phased return to its workplaces over the past year. Many of its office-based researchers and support personnel, such as data managers and statisticians, who have been working remotely since March 2020 are invited back to the office from Monday.

Woon Him Wong (left) and Jaity Pandey, both work for Octiga at PorterShed co-working and collaborative space in Galway. Photograph: Anthony Shaughnessy.
Woon Him Wong (left) and Jaity Pandey, both work for Octiga at PorterShed co-working and collaborative space in Galway. Photograph: Anthony Shaughnessy.

Caroline Kelly, the clinical operations manager and local Covid-19 representative at the HRB-CRFG said, “owing to the nature of our work in clinical trials, work for many of the clinical team staff continued on site during the pandemic, mainly to take care of patients on research studies and to facilitate the increasing recruitment of patients specifically into Covid-19 research studies.

“This has not changed and our clinical-facing personnel continue to work on site.”

In May 2020, a “return to work safely protocol” was introduced and this will be built on further, supporting a blended working model.

“From Monday, we expect that all our staff will have access to the office. However, NUIG and the HRB-CRFG will continue to support a hybrid model where people can work from the office and other times from home, where applicable.

“For different people, it will mean different things. For me, I’ve been working to a hybrid model which consists of two days on site, three days at home, with other staff adopting a similar approach.”

The pandemic has made some companies rethink committing to a classic office-based model.

“For me, the blended model would work better,” says Kelly. “There’s a balance in that regard. The days on site or in the office are great to meet people and have face-to-face instead of those endless video meetings, whereas there’s more structure at home and less of a commute.

“In working from home there’s also more time for family which is something that’s very important.”

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