Sunday, January 23, 2022

Ireland has logged a further 8,126 cases of Covid-19, amid a call from unions for remote and hybrid working to continue as tomorrow marks the beginning of a return to the office.

4,731 cases were confirmed by PCR test, while 3,395 positive antigen test results were uploaded to the HSE portal. The Department of Health has cautioned that self-registered test results are not directly comparable with laboratory PCR-confirmed cases.

Monday will see the beginning of a gradual return to the workplace for those who have been working from home amid the pandemic.

Amid a major lifting of Covid restrictions this week, Forsa and the Irish Congress of Trade Unions are among those calling for employers to continue to facilitate remote working.

Head of communications with Forsa, Bernard Harbour, said employers should not ignore the benefits of hybrid working.

“In most surveys of employers and unions, productivity has either sustained or gone up, and also there’s obviously plenty of benefits for employees as well in terms of being able to manage their time more productively, see more of their families, spend less time commuting, etcetera.”

Employers must take a strategic approach to the return to the office, he added.

“One is to ensure that any return to the workplace is staged over time, that it’s not done in a rush and it’s done properly.

“Secondly, we want to make sure that the benefits of remote working and blended working are not lost so that for the longer term, we have agreements in place that people can work remotely for their own benefit but also for the benefit of employers and of the public service itself.”

‘One size reopening doesn’t fit all’

CIPD Ireland, the professional body for HR teams, has also cautioned that a “one size reopening doesn’t fit all.”

With many employers preparing communications to staff around how they plan to reopen, CIPD Ireland advised businesses to take time and make sure they “get the process right.”

“It’s also important to remember that just as each new restriction that came in took time to accept, the removal of those rules can spark some concerns in the workforce,” said CIPD Ireland director Mary Connaughton.

“Businesses have the opportunity to make a lot of their own decisions about this, and it’s important to design a reopening that works for the business and workforce”.

Ms Connaughton urged employers to communicate with their employees and listen to what they have to say as they finalise plans to reopen. She also cautioned employers to expect anxiety and to be flexible.

“We are still living in a pandemic situation and workers may have concerns around their health or that of their family members for some time. Make sure to show compassion and listen as they share their worries and take them into consideration when planning,” she said.

“Employers don’t have to change existing practices if they’re working well. CSO figures released just last week backed up our own CIPD Ireland research about how a majority of people would like to work remotely to some extent after the pandemic.

“It’s not over yet, but the coming weeks will be the best chance we’ve had to see what that landscape could look like – and it’s in the company’s hands to design that future”.

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