How Hybrid Working Can Impact Office Spaces

One key lesson relates to balance, specifically that between individual wellbeing and organisational productivity. It’s no longer the pre-Covid binary of a work/life balance choice. After all, the phrase ‘living at work’ rather than ‘working from home’ became common during 2020. Employers have invested heavily in wellbeing programmes and supports to this effect much more than ever before.

The ongoing pandemic has taken this reality and turned it on its head. We have learned a lot about working from home during an emergency and what practices can help us, but we have also learned about its drawbacks. We need to keep productive, but we also need to keep safe. Now that a variety of innovative models have emerged, will we ever go back to the way things were?

By mid-2020, Ireland had one of the highest rates of WFH in Europe, with over 40% by comparison with an EU average of 33.7%. The National Remote Working Survey confirmed that workplace productivity can be maintained in home working. Over 5,600 workers were surveyed and 62% of respondents agreed that working remotely increases their productivity. In a similar survey undertaken by Ámarach for the Fórsa trade union, the figure for increased productivity was slightly lower at 50%.

Workers now want more flexibility in choosing where they work. 94% of respondents to the National Remote Working Survey were in favour of working remotely on an ongoing basis, for some or all of the time, and over 80% in the Ámarach poll expressed a preference for a hybrid arrangement.

The Impact

While benefits like lower costs, a reduction or removal of commute times, and a greater choice in work location have not gone unnoticed, a number of negatives have emerged.

Working from home impacted women more than men in more ways than one. Women are identified in research as shouldering a far greater proportion of the burden of care responsibilities, as well as housekeeping and other domestic responsibilities.

In a May 2020 CSO survey, 48.6% of females indicated their wish to return to their workplace when restrictions were lifted, as opposed to 31.7% of men.

Analysis: working from home became the norm for many in 2020 and we are unlikely to go back to the way things were.