The days of Clare workers having to commute long hours to and from their office should be numbered, a local TD has said.
Deputy Joe Carey said the experience of remote working – forced upon many employees as a result of the pandemic – provides an opportunity to create a far better work-life balance for people.
The local Fine Gael TD was speaking ahead of tomorrow’s deadline for people to take part in the national consultation on remote working.
Deputy Carey said: “Now is the time for the Government and private companies to start thinking about long-term change in how we work.
“As a result of the pandemic, many companies have turned a corner about accommodating workforces remotely. A third of households in the country have been working from home for months now, juggling home-schooling, home-working and home-rearing in a confined space without childcare and perhaps looking after other vulnerable family members. These extraordinary times called for extraordinary measures.
“People can see the opportunity and want long-term change that brings choice and flexibility.”
Deputy Carey said Clare County Council and local authorities would benefit hugely from partnering with remote working specialist groups such as Grow Remote to identify the individual employment needs of different parts of the country.
He added: “An effective digital hub is not simply a desk in a revamped building with wi-fi access: if we are to really embrace remote working and to make it work effectively we have to put structures in place that will facilitate communications between major employers, councils and local enterprise bodies to identify the employment needs of different areas that some of these hubs can cater for.”
Deputy Carey has been working with Grow Remote in recent weeks as part of his ongoing campaign within Government for more balanced regional development and to rejuvenate rural Ireland. He pointed to the expert insights and interactive dialogue hosted by Grow Remote in recent weeks, which highlight the need to “connect the dots” among the many groups committed to mainstreaming remote working and to move from ideas and plans to implementation.
Paul Ellingstad, who is involved in Grow Remote’s Ennis and Limerick chapters and facilitated the recent remote working policy discussions, said remote working is an opportunity the pandemic has highlighted.
“At the beginning of 2020, many employees and employers were not that familiar with remote working. The pandemic has changed that. But now we have an incredible opportunity to make all types of remote working actually work well for employees, employers, communities, and even the environment,” said Mr Ellingstad.
“There are so many positives – if we do it right – and supporting these groups to work together to implement remote working in the appropriate way, and not simply as a crisis management response to Covid-19, is how we can best achieve these benefits.
“We are fully supportive of the Department of Business, Enterprise and Innovation’s public consultation on remote working. There is a wealth of research, information and other resources available already – now we need to support employers, employees, communities and supporting organizations to ‘connect the dots’ and begin implementing (or accelerating and expanding) remote working in a coordinated and timely way,” Mr Ellingstad added.
Deputy Carey pointed to the findings of a new survey from Amárach Research, which shows 60% of people feel productivity is the same if not better than it was before Covid-19 hit, 86% have no desire to return to traditional office based work right away while 76% anticipate more flexibility in how we work for in the future.
The Clarecastle-based TD added: “It is important that we look now into setting up a Taskforce between experts in remote working and employers. The idea would be to share learning and establish best practise to assist the rollout of a new remote working ecosystem that can benefit local communities, local businesses, and workers all over Ireland.
Deputy Carey said there is now “a real opportunity” to change the way we work for the better, to improve our work/life balance, to stimulate greater regional balance and “to breathe new life into our local communities here in Clare and bring more people into the workforce.”
*For more details on how to take part in tomorrow’s national consultation on remote working, visit: https://dbei.gov.ie/en/What-We-Do/Workplace-and-Skills/Remote-Working/Consultation-on-Guidance-for-Remote-Working/