Has Covid-19 Permanently Changed the Work Landscape?

The government says so. In a time where so many people in Ireland and across the globe have switched to remote working due to the global COVID-19 pandemic, employers and employees alike have been forced to adapt. With more than a year of remote working under their belts, people have been able to observe the many benefits and drawbacks that come with remote working.


Now, the Government’s National Remote Work Strategy aims to encourage remote working after the pandemic. The government says its main objective is to “ensure remote work is a permanent feature in the Irish workplace” in the future.  In this strategy, the government breaks down what it believes to be the benefits and challenges that come with working remotely during a pandemic. There are several benefits, including improving work/life balance, more time spent with children and family, and reducing the amount of time spent commuting. However, there are several challenges, particularly when it comes to mental health of employees. In a virtual workspace,  employees  often experience feelings of isolation, loneliness, and stress. Another benefit is the fact that remote working could revitalize rural villages across Ireland, as those who would normally work in cities may choose to work remotely from a different location. Because of these many benefits and challenges, the government’s plan aims to “reap the benefits while mitigating the potential downsides.”


Among the provisions in the plan to find a balance between the benefits and downsides of remote work include the right for employees to request remote work, and tax and financial incentives such as tax-exempt reimbursements from employers to cover expenses like light, heat, and internet. 


In addition to these legislative proposals, the plan also promotes infrastructure development to help with remote working, particularly in rural Ireland. One example of this is remote work hubs, announced in the government’s Our Real Future plan. Along with these remote work hubs, which the government says can “have a transformative impact on local economies and communities”, the National Broadband Plan aims to give most of the country access to high speed internet by 2024. While that is almost three years away, the government is exploring how to accelerate this process. The strategy states that high speed internet across rural Ireland will be a “central part of remote work infrastructure.”


While employees will eventually return to offices, and business will one day resume as usual, some features of remote work are undoubtedly here to stay. 



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