What did we learn from months of remote working?

By: June 23, 2020
remote working in ireland

Do you remember March 27, 2020? It was the day Ireland was put into full lockdown to contain the spread of COVID-19. Overnight, offices around the state were shut and people were asked to work from home. It was a new dawn, but what have we learned so far?

As businesses prepare to get people back to the office, new research* from the recruitment firm Robert Walters looks at what workers and employers learned from months of remote working.

We moved very quickly
Companies all over the world acted fast to initiate remote working and most did it in less than seven days. 82% of firms in Ireland were able to push the button on remote working in less than a week.
Of the 82% who were able to do this under seven days, 66% of these firms were able to transition to remote working in less than 48 hours.

Tech is not our strong point
It seems the main sticking point for most companies has been in the IT department.
Getting the required IT hardware – such as laptops – in place, IT infrastructure & security, and software such as Zoom were the biggest challenges to firms in Ireland when moving to remote working.
As a result, half of the workers surveyed say they expect their employer to invest in technology that enhances working from home ‘post-COVID’.

We’re more productive at home
Almost half (44%) of Irish professionals said that their productivity increased since remote working began, and a fifth (18%) of Irish employers agree that work output has improved.
The commute time (73%), more flexible hours (64%), fewer distractions (58%) and fewer meetings (42%) were the chief reasons why productivity increased when working from home.

Mental health did suffer
A quarter (23%) of Irish professionals claim remote working has negatively impacted mental health. 30% of bosses said they are concerned about staff mental health issues on account of social isolation and economic anxiety bought on by remote working and COVID-19.
Those living in a shared household (69%) reported a higher decline in mental health, compared to professionals living with their partner but no children (56%), those living with children (34%), and those living alone (26%).
Nearly half (44%) of companies admitted their management team will need to evolve to have a better understanding of mental health and wellbeing ‘post COVID-19’.

Managers need training for a new world
A third (30%) of Irish firms think that a manager’s ability to oversee virtual teams and autonomous work was the biggest challenge to remote working.
To counter this problem, a fifth (17%) increased the number of catch-ups they held with their staff – with 17% holding calls multiple times a day, and 36% holding calls with their staff at least once a day during the lockdown.
However, this management technique did not have the desired effect, with 17% of employees declaring that the increased number of meetings and check-ins negatively impacted their productivity.
In addition, 41% of staff said that increased contact with management led to more pressure to deliver results, in turn having a negative impact on mental health.

Video calls replaced emails
Workers in lockdown in Ireland ditched emails (37%), in place of video chats (67%), instant messenger (67%), and telephone calls (44%) – as the lack of physical interaction with the outside world drove people to be less formal with colleagues.
The trend took over globally as video calls (70%) became the number one form of professional communication, taking the crown from the age-old email (38%).

What did we learn?
• Ireland is in the top three for the fastest transition to remote working
• 44% of Irish professionals claim productivity increased at home
• A third of managers raised concerns about staff mental health during the lockdown
• 82% stated lack of physical interaction with their team caused a decline in mental health
• 81% of companies stated that their leadership team has not been equipped to manage teams remotely
• Video calls (70%) have taken over emails (38%) as the main form of professional communication in the world
• 43% of Gen Z (18-24) worked from their beds during the lockdown
• 51% of Irish professionals traded in their commute time for extra sleep – the highest in Europe

*The research examined the thoughts of 2,000 global firms and over 5,500 professionals.