The New Office

Features, The Healthy Workplace | Wed 30 Mar | Author – Business & Finance

Ireland’s planned return to the office on a “phased and staggered basis” from September 20 was halted by a sharp rise in the number of recorded cases of Covid-19. Now, at the time of writing in late December, we have yet to see any sizable return to the office. It is now expected that any return to the office will take place in Spring of 2022 writes Alex Mulhare.

Note: This piece was originally published in Business & Finance magazine, vol. 59, no. 1, available to read, with compliments, here.


For many companies, there had already been significant investment in the creation of safe workspaces, and new policies to allow a ‘hybrid’ work-from-home approach, where employees could split their time between their home and the office. 

In order to return to the workplace, whenever that may be, employers must have one lead worker whose responsibility it is to ensure that hygiene and safety protocols are being followed in the office. The business must have an updated safety plan, detailing how to deal with any suspected cases of Covid-19; they must also introduce Covid-19 induction training for all staff, and a system of temperature testing before staff enter the office. Return to work forms must also be implemented, wherein each employee submits a form before they return to their office building, declaring that they have not had symptoms of Covid-19 within the last 14 days.

The Right to Work Remotely

Currently, there is no legal right to work remotely in Ireland. It is expected, however, that a new framework outlining how to deal with remote working requests will lead into the establishment of a law granting the legal right to request remote working. The National Remote Work Strategy was published by Tánaiste Leo Varadkar in January 2021. It aims to ensure that remote working remains a fixture of the Irish professional landscape, maximising its social and environmental benefits.

The National Remote Work Strategy is actively requesting comments from the public on how best to enact the right to request remote working. It has so far received 175 submissions from individual workers, employers, trade unions, and industry groups. Remote working policies are widely recognised for their ability to create a greater work-life balance, benefit the environment by reducing or eliminating commute times, and boost staff morale within a company. 

Globally

Further afield in the United States, Apple has indefinitely delayed its return to the office. This comes after Microsoft indefinitely delayed its office return in October, with Google and Uber announcing they will push back the beginning of their hybrid work models until further notice, all of which is due to surging cases of Covid-19 and its Omicron variant.