Irish employers including banks and the Civil Service are opting for hybrid working models as the phased return to the office begins in the Republic on Monday.
From Monday, the Government has said workers should begin to return to offices on a phased basis, with a full return from October 22nd, when it is planned that all Covid-19 restrictions will be lifted.
It will mark the first time since the start of the pandemic in March 2020 that many workers will be returning to their office desks.
Employers surveyed by The Irish Times have all stated that they intend to operate a hybrid model for the foreseeable future.
The Civil Service intends to move to a permanent blended working environment with each department working out their own arrangements.
The time period from September to next March will be a transitional period, with a possible gradual return to the office in line with public health advice.
From April next all departments will roll out blended working policies for staff.
The Health Service Executive said it will be following the same guidelines as the Civil Service for its office workers.
The Programme for Government has committed to a goal of allowing 20 per cent remote/home working in the future.
Ireland's two main banks, AIB and Bank of Ireland, will retain a provision to work for home into the future.
Bank of Ireland said the pandemic has been a "defining moment" for the bank and its relationship with its employees.
It said there will be no going back to how things were before the pandemic “like travelling through rush hour to do something at the office that could easily have been done from home”.
The bank said: “We will offer colleagues a hybrid working model providing greater flexibility on how and where they work, including a combination of home, central offices and a network of remote working hubs.
“Office space will be used primarily for meetings and collaboration, with remote locations and hubs for work that can be progressed individually or that is more task-based. We have invested in our properties to modernise the workspace and introduce enhanced technology to enable the hybrid working model.”
‘Right to disconnect’
AIB said many of its 7,500 office workers will be able to work two days in the office and three at home from now own. The bank will have a “right to disconnect” policy and work-life guiding principles.
“AIB has outlined its planned move to a hybrid working model that will enable many employees to continue to work from home for three days a week in the main,” the bank said in a statement.
“The bank has invested in technology and equipment for our employees, allowing the seamless transition to working from home since the pandemic started.”
Google, which employs 8,000 people in Ireland, will continue to operate a global policy of allowing people to work from home until January 10th next year at the earliest.
From January 2022 it will be offering a hybrid approach to in-office work.
One of the country's largest law firms, Arthur Cox, said it intends to introduce a hybrid work model from October 22nd. It employs 700 people in Ireland.
The arrangements will vary by role, seniority and client need but will equate, on average, to remote working for about 50 per cent of the working week.
“The new policy reflects the positive experience of flexible and remote working throughout the pandemic, as well as significant advances in technology, supporting enhanced client engagement,” the firm said.
However, junior staff or staff undergoing early-stage training will only be allowed to work from home up to 20 per cent of the time. This is to support integration into the firm.
Workers should only return to the office from Monday if they have a specific business requirement to be there, according to Government guidelines.
The Labour Employer Economic Forum consultative group on the Work Safely Protocol has recommended that "attendance initially is for specific business requirements".
The return to the workplace must take place in a “cautious and careful manner” taking into account the importance to maintain social distancing.
There should be staggered arrangements, such as part-time attendance and flexible working hours, the protocol suggested.