Hybrid and remote working are some of the “very few benefits” to come out of the pandemic and it is essential we don’t go back to the way things were as restrictions are lifted.
The Fórsa trade union is urging businesses not to ‘revert back to 2019 as if none of this ever happened’ as the return to the workplace begins.
Businesses can ask their workers to return to the office from this morning after the Government on Friday gave the green light to a phased return.
On Newstalk Breakfast this morning, Fórsa Head of Communications said businesses, unions and Government must work together to ensure we keep the benefits offered by remote working wherever possible.
“To put it bluntly, what we don’t want to see is a reversal back to 2019 as if none of this ever happened,” he said.
“One of the very few benefits that has come out of the pandemic is that this model has been tested and has been shown to have worked.”
He said the initial return must be handled carefully – with many people still anxious about COVID and coming to terms with the sudden change in restrictions.
“After two years nearly of remote working, most workers who have been working from home have now got long-established arrangements for childcare transport and elder care and other aspects of balancing work and family time,” he said.
“We need a phased return to workplaces that acknowledges and accommodates that, at least in the immediate term.”
He said it is crucial that we recognise the benefits of remote working and normalise it as a part of post-COVID life.
“We have seen some great benefits to remote working for businesses, employees and more widely for society in terms of the environmental impact and so on,” he said.
“It is popular, it is productive and we are saying it needs to be part of post-COVID working life.
“Whether or not we have a pandemic, we think this is a good model – where it is possible to have the option for either a blend between remote and office-based work and where feasible remote work if people want it.
“We want a dialogue with Government and employers about how we can make that work, how that can be implemented and how it can be of a benefit to everyone concerned – not just workers but also employees and people who use the services they provide.”
Mr Harbour said most workers would prefer a hybrid model moving forward.
“I think for younger workers it is even more important that they spend some time in the office,” he said.
“When you are trying to establish yourself in your employment and starting out in your career, you really do need that kind of interaction with people just to find out how things work, who is who and get to know the ropes.”
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