Return to the office: ‘I was expecting more of a crowd’

Mixed emotions among Dublin’s office workers as remote work restrictions ease

There were mixed emotions among Dublin’s office workers on Monday morning. Photograph: Ellen O’Riordan

There were mixed emotions among Dublin’s office workers on Monday morning. Photograph: Ellen O’Riordan

 

There were mixed emotions among Dublin’s office workers on Monday morning, as eased restrictions gave them the green light to commute once again.

Financial services worker Gavin Kelly was “shocked” to be afforded so much space on the Dart during his rush hour commute into the city centre. Travelling from Blackrock, he was returning to the office for the first time since the pandemic began for a company training day.

“I was expecting more of a crowd,” he said of his journey to Pearse Street Dart station. “It was actually perfect. There were even people with their bikes on there, which was great.”

The decision to return to physical working has been “collaborative” at Mr Kelly’s workplace, with his employer listening to a range of views.

“It was an overwhelming decision to come in today, or at least to start coming back… I think everyone is looking forward to meeting people again,” he said, adding that maintaining suits once again may not be so welcomed.

The push to get back to his office was due to a large intake of new staff. Monday was a training day for the fresh intake, and Mr Kelly expected to go into work two or three days per week from now on.

“It is good to get people trained face-to-face,” he said. Video calling “played its part” during the pandemic, he said, and it will fit into an “integrated hybrid” model from now on. Office working will “never go back to the way it was” pre-pandemic, he added.

Employed in the marketing sector, Wicklow-based Marie - who declined to give her surname - was less keen to return to cubicles and boardrooms. Making her way down from the Dart station, she held her phone up with Google Maps on display.

“I’m going in for the first time. I have my satnav because I don’t know where the office is,” she explained.

It was not her decision to attend her workplace the first day restrictions on non-essential office working eased.

“If I had my choice I would stay at home forever… I am not looking forward to going back,” she said, adding that she found it easier to get to know her colleagues through video meetings than had she been in the office. She reasoned that seeing people work from their living rooms or home offices was “more intimate” than clinical boardrooms.

There is one up side to getting out of the home office, she said: “I am getting more exercise. I found I was not walking as much when I worked from home.”

Most of the commuters approached said they had already been back at their workplaces for some time. One woman rushing past replied in an exasperated tone: “I have been in the whole way through.”

Gallery worker Eva Kovaks, who has been travelling in for the past few weeks, felt there were “much more people” on her train from Ashtown on Monday morning.

“I think it was much busier than last week,” she said. Having spent a bit of time back in the gallery, where she has rediscovered the “great atmosphere”, Ms Kovaks has decided she is in favour of a hybrid working model.

“It is good that we have the choice to work three times a week in the office and two times [AT HOME]. It is more flexible,” she said.

Accountant David Lafferty, who travelled from Shankill, said the numbers on his morning Dart were “pretty much the same” as they were the previous week.

“I didn’t notice anybody extra,” he said. While Mr Lafferty had been keen to return to the office to achieve a better work/life balance, he said many of his friends do not want to go back.

Despite the go-ahead from the Government, Mr Laferty said: “A lot of people I know are not coming back to the office.”