There are many benefits to remote working, according to the NCPC, but investments are needed to make sure Ireland remains competitive with attractive places to live and work.
Businesses in Ireland could benefit from remote working by gaining access to a wider talent pool, promoting staff retention, improving cost-effectiveness and engaging in more sustainable ways of working.
That’s according to the latest report from Ireland’s National Competitiveness and Productivity Council (NCPC), which looked at how the benefits associated with remote working for enterprises can be maximised.
It noted that some businesses may struggle with the additional costs of setting up remote working arrangements, but that there are potential economic, social and environmental benefits that could offset these costs.
A concern for many over the past year has been how to best set up teams from home and maintain productivity, but stay clear of burnout or Zoom fatigue while teams work remotely.
The extent to which remote working can boost or hamper productivity depends on several factors, according to the NCPC. It said that strong digital and management skills, along with investments in broadband and ICT equipment, are needed to maximise any potential gains and minimise any negatives from remote working.
‘It is important that the potential implications of a future blended working environment are fully considered’
– DR FRANCES RUANE
It added that it will take time to measure the impacts of changing work practices on productivity, and companies should monitor these to make sure they implement the right remote working policies that could benefit the employer, the employees and the economy as a whole.
Dr Frances Ruane, economist and chair of the NCPC, said the pandemic has been a disruptive force across all aspects of our lives and has “profoundly changed” the way we work.
“Over the past year, we have seen how remote working opportunities could offer a better quality of life to those living and working in Ireland and there is a clear appetite to continue some form of remote working when the immediate public health threat has passed,” she added.
“It is important that the potential implications of a future blended working environment are fully considered to uphold the competitiveness and productivity of the Irish economy.”
It is also essential that the quality of life and cost of living in both urban and rural areas are improved so that Ireland is in a strong position to retain and attract investment and talent, according to the NCPC.
The report said that in a future where people can work in locations away from the traditional workplace, it is crucial that regions around Ireland provide attractive places to live and do business.
While many companies may be considering more flexible working policies or long-term remote working arrangements going forward, it is also something that’s on the Government’s agenda.
At the start of this year, it launched a strategy to make remote working a more permanent option in post-pandemic Ireland, with a focus on the right to disconnect and investments in infrastructure.
It has also committed to investing in remote working hubs and supports for those working remotely in rural areas of the country.
“The Government wants to make remote and blended working a much bigger part of life after Covid,” said Tánaiste Leo Varadkar, TD, following the publication of the NCPC’s report.
“The benefits are obvious – less commuting, fewer transport emissions, better quality of life for workers. But we are aware that there are challenges to manage too. We are currently implementing a strategy on remote working with actions across the board … to make sure the move to a more permanent arrangement is a smooth one.”