By Patrick Gallen, Partner, People and Change Consulting at Grant Thornton Ireland

Patrick Gallen
Patrick Gallen

There has been a lot written on the future of work recently, which is quite timely, with lots of organisations pondering what they need to do over the next few months as restrictions start to ease and employees transition back to the office in some form of new hybrid working arrangements.

The Irish Government published in January a National Remote Work Strategy – Making Remote Work – which is their plan for addressing the fundamental changes to the way we work post-COVID.

The report issued by their Department for Enterprise, Trade and Employment, is one of the first in Europe, and is worth a read in full by anyone interested or responsible for how your organisation will manage the future of work.

Some of the key highlights of the report, which are being actioned by the Government through various working groups include – mandating that home and remote working should be the norm for 20% of the public sector employment; reviewing the treatment of remote working for the purposes of tax and expenditure in the next Budget; mapping and investing in a network of remote working hubs across Ireland; legislating for the right to request remote working; developing a code of practice for the right to disconnect; and yes, you’ve guessed it, accelerating the provision of broadband to all parts of Ireland.

What is interesting about this policy document is that the Irish Government recognises some of the wider macroeconomic challenges of what is happening.

Remote working could have a negative impact on national employment levels, in terms of attracting and retaining talent in Ireland, with a distributed workforce around the world and a ‘work from anywhere’ type of scenario that many of the large global technology companies have inadvertently adopted.

Whilst increased remote work could help to revitalise villages and towns across the country, it could also result in challenges for cities as increasingly workers may choose to work from other locations – and those may be outside of Ireland!

The remote working strategy is built on three fundamental pillars.

Pillar One is focused on creating a conducive environment for the adoption of remote working. This will include the rights and responsibilities of employers and employees, health and safety legislation and tax arrangements. The actions in this pillar are centred on supporting employers and employees.

Pillar Two highlights the importance of the development and leveraging of remote working infrastructure. The actions in this pillar are focused on development of and investment in the national hub infrastructure and the national delivery of broadband.

Pillar Three is centred on maximising the benefits of remote work to achieve public policy goals. To achieve this policymakers need to be aligned by a shared vision and supported by access to the most relevant data to inform evidence-based policy.

So all in all, the Irish Government has led the way in this issue, and it’s certainly something that the Stormont Executive need to take note of.

The recent announcement by the Executive on plans for ten Civil Servant remote-working hubs is a good start, but it needs to be more far-reaching to maximise the economic, social, and environmental benefits highlighted in the Irish policy paper.