Guest blog: The National Remote Work Strategy and what it means for employers

Guest Blog, Technology, The Business Show | Tue 11 May | Author – Business & Finance

Sage, the company which delivers cloud technology to support small and medium businesses manage their finances, operations and people, provides an employer’s guide to optimise remote working. 

The shift to remote working has been accelerated by the coronavirus pandemic. Businesses across the country have been forced to change their working processes since spring 2020. Despite the need for employers and staff to adapt literally overnight, the outcome has been relatively positive and attitudes to remote working have changed.

However, remote working does have its challenges – and that’s something the government is clear on. Earlier in 2021, it published a National Remote Work Strategy. The aim? To “ensure that remote working is a permanent feature in the Irish workplace in a way that maximises economic, social and environmental benefits”.

Details on Making Remote Work

The strategy paper is called Making Remote Work. In it, the government says it intends to legislate for the right of an employee to request remote working. It also states that 20% of the public sector will work remotely.

The right infrastructure – including high-speed broadband for all regions in Ireland – has to be in place for remote working to be a success. This is acknowledged in the paper, which also proposes the need to invest in remote working hubs.

A code of practice on the right to disconnect – where staff don’t have to participate in work activities during holidays and non-working hours – and a review of the current system of claiming expenses due to working from home are also referenced in the paper.

The strategy will be rolled out throughout 2021 and beyond, and is built on three pillars:

  • Creating a conducive environment for the adoption of remote working.
  • Developing and leveraging a remote working infrastructure to support the adoption of working remotely.
  • Building a remote working framework that can maximise the benefits of working remotely.

They’re underpinned by a series of guiding principles. They deal with promoting remote working, showcasing best practice, and highlighting the need to develop skills for participating in and embracing working remotely.

The National Broadband Plan and the right to disconnect code of practice are among the first areas to be addressed. Later in 2021, the right to request remote work will be covered.

Challenges for employers

Despite the quick adoption of remote working, it hasn’t come without challenges. Employers may have moved fast but feedback has highlighted that it hasn’t all been smooth sailing. And this is something the government realises.

The strategy paper reflects that remote working “doesn’t easily support creativity, group dynamics, shared ownership and collegiality” and can in turn lead to an innovation deficit. A long-term impact on productivity could be an outcome for some employers if these obstacles aren’t successfully tackled.

One solution for employers could be to adopt a hybrid model, where staff are in the workplace for some of the week. That could address the challenges around group dynamics, where face-to-face meetings can occur and those watercooler moments that spark creativity could still flourish.

What employers should do now

Employers should start planning for a more permanent form of remote working. There’s also a need to speak to staff and discuss their expectations of working remotely.

Creating and implementing a remote work policy is key, as advised by the National Remote Work Strategy. Such a policy should set out how remote working works for the business, and what the expectation of the employer is. 

It should also provide clear criteria covering how staff can request to work remotely. In addition, it must establish a review or appeal process for staff whose requests to work remotely are turned down.

Preparing for the future of remote working

As we look to the future of remote working, there are still challenges to be ironed out so employers and staff can be successful in the coming years. 

Planning now, while keeping abreast of the government’s remote working strategy rollout, will help employers adapt and stay aware of future implications.