Researchers from the Whitaker Institute at NUI Galway and the Western Development Commission (WDC) have launched a national survey to gather data on employees’ experiences of remote working in these unprecedented times. This project is being led by Professor Alma McCarthy, Professor Alan Ahearne and Dr Katerina Bohle-Carbonell at NUI Galway and Tomás Ó Síocháin and Deirdre Frost at WDC.
The COVID-19 crisis catapulted hundreds of thousands of employees and their employers into a work pattern and routine vastly different to their normal daily work experience. This radical change happened suddenly and for the vast majority the change effectively occurred overnight.
While some employees had experience of remote working, many found themselves operating remote working without any time to plan, negotiate, organise and set-up remote working in conjunction with their employer and manager.
The top three challenges of working remotely included: Not being able to switch off from work; harder to communicate and collaborate with colleagues and co-workers; and poor physical workspace. The top three benefits of working remotely included: no traffic and no commute; reduced costs of going to work and commuting; and greater flexibility as to how to manage the working day.
The challenge of juggling childcare with work commitments was cited as a key issue in the open-ended comments received. The provision of better ergonomic equipment is one of the key changes suggested by employees to help with their well-being and productivity while working remotely. Many also report the need for more suitable workspace within their home and just under 1-in-5 (19%) identified internet connectivity as an issue. In relation to current levels of productivity, 37% of respondents indicated that their productivity working remotely during COVID-19 is about the same as normal and 30% report that their productivity is higher than normal. 25% report that their productivity is lower than normal and 9% of respondents indicate that it is impossible to compare productivity as the demand for products/services/business has changed.
The majority (83%) of the 7,241 respondents indicated that they would like to work remotely after the crisis is over. Of these:
• 12% indicated they would like to work remotely on a daily basis
• 42% indicated they would like to work remotely several times a week
• 29% indicated they would like to work remotely several times a month
• 16% indicated they do not want to continue working remotely.
The survey indicates that 87% of those surveyed across all counties in Ireland are now working remotely because of Covid-19.
Speaking about the national survey, Professor Alma McCarthy said: “The findings of our survey indicate that employee preferences to continue working remotely will facilitate the opening up phase and aid with social distancing. The future of work post-COVID-19 is really interesting. The vast majority of respondents want to continue to work remotely when the crisis is over. Many roles and jobs can be performed effectively remotely. What is the benefit of long commutes to work and sitting in traffic if we can leverage technology at least some of the week to do our work? Productivity does not necessarily correlate with presence in the workplace. What we do is more important than where we do it for many roles. A mind-set change is needed by managers and employers in terms of managing work remotely. The current crisis provides an opportunity for organisations and managers to rethink how we work”
The initial survey report is publicly available on the Whitaker Institute website and the WDC website. The research team will be doing further analysis and more publications will be available on the websites in the future.