Over 95% of workers now favour some form of remote working, with fewer than 5% wanting a full-time return to the office, according to the Second Annual National Remote Working Survey.
The survey of over 6,400 respondents from both the public and private sectors by NUI Galway and the Western Development Commission reflects a further surge in support for remote working since the first such survey a year ago, just after workers were forced to leave their offices overnight due to the pandemic.
It reveals that the number of employees who want to work solely from home all the time has almost tripled over the last year, rising from 12% a year ago to 32% now.
Three-quarters of organisations have not yet decided how their teams will function when the pandemic ends.
Of the 25% who have decided, however, almost four in every five – 78% – will operate a hybrid model.
Of those, 36% will expect employees to be on-site for two days a week, with 23% demanding a presence three days a week.
The survey also examines the issue of office space management when the pandemic ends.
Fewer than half – 49% – believe that every employee will have a desk.
35% indicated that there will be shared or “hot desks” available, with 12% pointing to a “collaborating space” for meetings and project work, but no individual desks.
4% indicated that there will be no office space at all, as the team will operate fully remotely.
For the first time, the survey also reflects the attitudes of 2,100 managers regarding the impact of remote working on their teams.
Just under 47% of team managers reported no difference between managing their team remotely compared to on-site, though 44% reported more difficulty in managing remote teams, with 9% saying it was easier.
The top three challenges rated “significant” were “onboarding” or recruiting staff (21%), difficulty “reading the room” on certain topics (17%) and trying to navigate more complex issues (14%).
Only 12% felt there was a negative impact on productivity.
The most popular blended work option was for three days per week away from the office.
Only 4.5% of respondents want no element of remote working at all, preferring to return full time to the office.
However, even that reluctant cohort has reduced from 16% over the last year, again confirming a rising overall trend towards off-site working.
The latest survey shows that the proportion of respondents working fully remotely fell from 87% in April 2020 to just 75% a year later, though that is attributed to a shift to blended working, rather than a return to full on-site working.
8.2% of respondents have actually relocated geographically within Ireland now that they can work remotely, with 0.3% relocating outside Ireland.
Three in every five workers would choose to work remotely from their own home.
The top advantages cited for working remotely were greater flexibility (91%), that it made life easier (86%), and increased productivity (68%) along with a reduction in work-related stress.
However, the survey also discloses significant concerns among workers about resuming on-site work, related to readjusting to office life, maintaining social distancing and commuting pressures.
More than half of respondents, 51%, reported that they were working more hours remotely than on-site, with 45% saying they work the same hours, and only 4% indicating that their hours had dropped.
22% feared working remotely could limit their scope for promotion, though 36% disagreed.
70% reported that they were being afforded the right to disconnect outside working hours, with 59% believing that right will have a positive impact on their productivity.
The research was carried out in late April 2021 was led by the Head of the NUI Galway School of Business and Economics Professor Alma McCarthy and Noreen O’Connor, along with Tomás Ó Síocháin and Deirdre Frost at the Western Development Commission.
Prof McCarthy who has overseen the surveys over the last year said it was interesting that fully remote or hybrid working was the preference of the “vast majority” of respondents.
CEO of the Western Development Commission Tomás Ó Síocháin said the rollout of the National Hubs Network of more than 400 hubs would offer a suitable workplace close to home.