Readers’ views on remote working: ‘Offices are a thing of the past’

Readers gave their opinion on returning to the office, commuting, parenting and staff retention

Last week we asked Irish Times readers to have their say on returning to the office following the Governments lifting of Covid-19 restrictions.

Under new draft legislation for the right to request remote working, employers will be able to refuse to grant an employee’s right to work remotely on at least 13 different grounds.

The Bill being brought to the Cabinet by Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment Leo Varadkar will set out a framework whereby an employer can either approve or reject a request to work remotely from an employee.

Employers will also have to publish a written policy on the right for employees to work remotely.

Below is a selection of Irish Times readers’ responses on returning to the office.

Staff retention

I've been working at home since March 2020, to be quite honest it has been incredible. More time spent with my partner, able to go on walks on lunchtime, no long commutes, plus I get so much more work done without the distraction of co-workers around me. My employer has been very accommodating for the past two years, but they are looking to implement a hybrid model in the spring. We have been told that it will be a minimum of three days in the office. To be honest that's simply too much for me, I don't think people should be forced back just for the sake of going back. If some people want to go in, that's fine. I wouldn't mind going in one day a week for necessary and important meetings with my team, any more than that and I would have to seriously reconsider my position, and I know a lot of people that I work with feel the same. It remains to be seen how strict the company is going to be in the spring.
George, Co Dublin

I am living in Cork, but my company's headquarters are in Dublin. I started mid-pandemic with the hopes that flexible working could be part of the long-term plans. Unfortunately, the most flexibility the employer is willing to offer us so far is optional phased return to work, which will eventually be minimum three days a week in-office. There have been repeated calls from staff to open an office in another location, or to allow full time working from home, but they won't budge. It's an international company and I'm losing good colleagues as a direct result of this hard line. As the tech industry moves closer to the metaverse and as the housing crisis in Ireland worsens, it makes more sense to allow employees to continue working as we have through two years of this global crisis.
Katie, Co Cork

I work for the public service so we don't have clear guidance as of yet. I have thrived while working from home and really think it is of huge benefit both for employers and employees. I spend less time commuting and I am happy to pour my saved energy back into my work, it's much more productive. I think it's the future and as more remote jobs become available, more office insistent workplaces will struggle to retain talent.
Leslie, Ireland

Commuting

I would like to be able to continue to work from home but unfortunately my employer has requested that we return to the office which is in Dublin city centre. There is no parking so I have to commute for one and a half hours each morning and the same hours each evening, making childcare and balancing a work home life challenging. I have been successfully working from home but my employer prefers staff to be in the office.
Ciara, Co Wicklow

Offices are thing of past now that employees know they can function as effectively in home as in office, or maybe more. Employers need to realize this and allow them to work from home. Working from home not only saves commuting time, but also gives comfort to employees which ultimately increasing their productivity.
Binay, Co Dublin

Family life

I'm a civil servant. My job had been in Dublin prior to the pandemic. Following the public statements by Government ministers that civil servants would be facilitated to work in a local hub or nearest Government office building, I was given assurances by my employer I could live and work outside of Dublin. Having rented for 16 years in Dublin, I bought a house in rural Co Limerick with my wife, and we have since had a baby. Now my employer is insisting I return to Dublin four days a week on the basis these policies have not been implemented by the Government yet, nor will they be applicable to my back office policy role. My financial future will be destroyed if this happens. Not to mention, the strain on my marriage and time away from my two-month-old son. I am aware of six colleagues in my department alone who have bought homes in rural Ireland having moved from Dublin. Allow us to work from our nearest Government office building. Please.
T. Gallagher, Co Limerick

We made a big move at our company to change permanently to a "remote first" organisation back in September 2020. From a management perspective, our productivity increased but crucially, business was still being done. I know some of us did burn out during that time, so it was good that the company put in some good practices for working from home expectations. Knowing that I can always work from home makes being a working parent so much less stressful too. I'm in a hugely privileged position of having an office-based job that can translate to remote. I cannot imagine going back to being office-based anymore. I love the freedom and responsibility of being an adult, contributing as an adult, not under the supervision or watchful eye of a manager who thinks unless you are at your desk between certain hours you are not working – that attitude can't survive the pandemic.
Holly, Co Dublin

Delighted

I am delighted to be going back to the office. I have already been going in two days a week for the last two months. I am 27 years old and feel I have missed key years of my 20s for socialising. I lived at home with my parents for most of the pandemic and lockdowns and was very bored and lonely. I was working from my bedroom and felt like I would never get back into the real world. I can't wait to be back in town, seeing people my own age, getting to know my colleagues in a new job and getting life back to normal.
Lorna, Co Dublin

Flexibility

Since very early in the pandemic my company communicated they would be considering their policy around working from home post lockdown. They arrived at "an office-first approach" with three core days (Tuesdays-Thursday) where everyone works from the office and two days working from home. They say there will be ad-hoc flexibility around that such that if you have an appointment. It's my preference to have more flexibility and be able to work from home on a Wednesday. I haven't formally requested this working arrangement yet but I am optimistic that they will permit it. Most people I work with have expressed a desire for greater flexibility and everyone's preference is different based on their situation and life style so I think a one size fits all rule is going to get some push back if employers try and enforce that.
Isa, Co Wicklow

No call to back to the office as yet and I am incredibly happy at home. Have yet to meet my colleagues but hoping to do it on a hybrid basis.
Mary, Co Dublin