Post offices face a "very sticky patch" over the next year, the CEO of An Post has acknowledged.
David McRedmond says there are several issues facing postmasters and postmistresses over the coming months.
However, he said he believes the longer-term future for post offices is looking much brighter.
It comes as postmasters threaten to ballot on a work stoppage next month if the Government does not provide financial support.
They are warning the network could collapse - including the 'unrestrained closure' of post offices - without intervention.
They'll hold crisis meetings in June to discuss all options, including a ballot on a work stoppage.
Speaking on The Pat Kenny Show, Mr McRedmond said post office operators have been hit "really badly" by two things since the pandemic began.
He explained: "First, the frequency of social welfare payments was reduced as a COVID measure, so fewer people were going into post offices.
"Secondly, foreign exchange - which is a very important line of business for post offices - was brought down to almost zero.
“There is a very sticky patch over the next six months or a year. We’ve got proposals in with Government… I very much hope they will bring a good resolution for postmasters and postmistresses.”
However, despite the ongoing challenges, he said the longer-term future for the network is "looking a lot brighter than it's looked for a long time".
He pointed to more post offices now offering banking services, including for banks such as Bank of Ireland that are closing dedicated branches in many villages and towns.
Meanwhile, An Post is also planning for post offices to become a more important hub for parcel deliveries once lockdowns end and people return to offices.
Mr McRedmond said: “At the moment it’s very easy to deliver to people because people are in their homes because of lockdowns. But people will go back to the office… and out of home deliveries will become really important.
“In Finland, for example, something like 80-90% of the e-commerce deliveries aren’t to people’s homes - they’re to local post offices or pick-up points.”
Mr McRedmond also defended the recent increase in the price of stamps from €1 to €1.10.
The move was initially planned for last year, but was deferred due to the pandemic - something Mr McRedmond said was a "measure of social solidarity".
He said: “Now that the lockdowns have lifted, we’ve brought it back in. I think it’s reasonable for us to do that.
“I’m very proud of what our frontlines have delivered during the pandemic.”
He added that people are likely to continue seeing extra discounts on multiple stamp purchases during Christmas.
The An Post CEO also said the firm isn't expecting a dramatic change in parcel volumes post-COVID, although there'll likely be "dips and troughs" as people return to bricks-and-mortar shops.
However, he believes the trend is "only going one way" - and that's a continued major role for online shopping.