Skip to content
#Open journalism No news is bad news

Your contributions will help us continue to deliver the stories that are important to you

Support The Journal

Has the working week changed forever? Or will it be business as usual after the pandemic?

For the past few weeks, The Good Information Project has been looking at the future of work after Covid-19.
May 11th 2021, 6:00 PM 9,669 4

EVEN AFTER EVERYTHING that’s happened, it still feels like a surreal moment to remember getting ready for Varadkar’s speech in Washington. 

The entire office was crowded around the TV. The drips and drabs were coming in, but it hadn’t really sunk in yet. Schools closed. Creches closed. Work from home if you can. 

The overwhelming feeling of “okay, this is unlike anything that’s ever happened before” was there but it was hard to get your head around at the time. 

It was my last day in the office. It’s been over 400 days since then. I’ve not gone back, except that one time to collect a pair of shoes and several cans of Guinness that had been left in the work fridge.  

In the time since, we’ve been in and out of lockdowns but that advice has never changed – work from home if you can, don’t return to the office. 

When I was asked to work on the second topic for The Journal‘s Good Information Project, it was something that caught my eye immediately – what the working week would look like after Covid-19. 

It was something I – like everyone else – has skin in the game on. I wanted to get an idea of what it would look like. I loved being in the office back in the day. Being around great colleagues you got on well with, bouncing ideas off each other and having the craic. After work pints were nice too. It added to and enhanced my days more often than not. 

It was only after asking the initial question of “when do we actually get to go back to the office” that a whole host of other questions arose. 

Do people even want to go back? Will employers give the option of some days at home, and some in the office in future?

What about those whose work hasn’t changed at all? What about those who lost jobs altogether because of the pandemic? How will the future look for them? 

And will how we work go back to the way things were before the pandemic?

Going back

Our first article for this section of the Good Information Project very much set the stall out for what we’d be looking at over the coming weeks - teasing out some of the research out there on remote working, what people’s preferences were and what the government was looking at. 

We also asked you to give us your take and experiences of working from home

We took a deeper dive into the government’s policies when it comes to remote working and what the rest of Europe has been doing when it comes to legislation in the area. 

Its National Remote Work Strategy was published earlier this year, and we break it all down on what the government has promised and how it could affect you in future. 

Comparing ourselves to our continental neighbours, we found that Ireland lags behind countries such as France and Belgium in some areas and is one of the few countries in Europe to not yet have dedicated remote working legislation.

My colleague Adam Daly also took an in-depth look at the right to disconnect in Ireland, and how it’s supposed to work. 

Turning aside from the government’s plans we also took a look at when exactly we’ll be going back to offices. The short answer is: once the public health advice allows it. The long answer can be found here

The Journal also teamed up with Ireland Thinks to ask the public how they are currently feeling about working from home. 

Their responses chime in closely with what we’ve been hearing in many quarters. Most office workers want the option of working remotely 2-3 days per week after the pandemic

Remote working post-Covid

One of my biggest takeaways from the project has been how you feel about working from home now is likely to be very different to how it will feel when we’re – hopefully – passed this pandemic. 

Speaking to people who’d done remote working previously and had managed teams during the pandemic, they all emphasised that working from home during a pandemic is totally at odds with how it will likely be in the future

For myself, I’d found it difficult at various stages working from home during this. That sense of burnout, always being on, days melding into one another. It’s not great is it? 

And while working from home most likely has some influence on these feelings, it’s not the only factor. It’s the 5km limit. It’s the not being able to see friends or family. It’s not being able to go to a restaurant, to the cinema, for a pint. 

That should change in future. And so will remote working. You’ll be able to do those things we haven’t been able to do for large periods of the last year. You could go to a friend’s house or a colleague’s house to work. That benefit of not having to commute might come to the fore a bit more. 

For those who are remote working now and find it difficult, there may be light at the end of that tunnel. 

These ideas were expanded on further in a live chat with American author and journalist Ann Helen Peterson, who has literally wrote the book on burnout

Our open newsroom featuring Christine Bohan, Adam Daly and I also delved into these ideas further as we answered your questions on the future of work

Other voices

Something that also came to the fore during this project was that, if so many workers in Ireland aren’t office-based, what happens to them in this flexible world of work?

We spoke to a number of people in disparate industries who literally never stopped during Covid-19 as they went to work each day as normal. Some fear that the kind of flexible work that will be on offer to traditionally office-based workers won’t be afforded to them post-pandemic. 

In this video piece, we also spoke to two workers to get their very different experiences of what it’s been like to stay working for the last 14 months during a pandemic

#Open journalism No news is bad news Support The Journal

Your contributions will help us continue to deliver the stories that are important to you

Support us now

The new world of work offers opportunities for parents to be more flexible, but they’ll need a robust childcare sector to support it. With the elephant in the room of high creche costs, we took a look at what the future could look like for working parents after Covid

For people with disabilities, the new world of work offers them additional opportunities. Despite this, if they don’t get the kinds of supports they’ve been calling for for years, this “new normal” could leave them behind

And, with the tantalising prospect of remote working from anywhere in future, we took a look at if people are moving out of Dublin now they can work remotely

Digging into all of these topics provided a clear answer to one of my original questions: Will how we work go back to the way things were before the pandemic? 

The answer to that is things certainly won’t go back to the way they were before. Not completely anyway. Our offices may be emptier as people are given the option to work from home more. The commutes may still be hellish, but you might not have to do it as often. 

Our cities will have to adapt to having less office workers in them every day. Other industries may have to adapt to offer the kind of flexibility that workers will demand in a post-Covid world. The government will have to do its bit to “lead by example” as it set out in its national strategy. 

Despite all this, however, one feeling still pervades. I do look forward to going back to the office again. But maybe, if I have the choice, I’ll choose to skip the commute and do the work from home the odd time on a 7am Monday morning shift. 

Send a tip to the author

Sean Murray

COMMENTS (4)

This is YOUR comments community. Stay civil, stay constructive, stay on topic. Please familiarise yourself with our comments policy here before taking part.
write a comment

    Leave a comment

     
    cancel reply
    Back to top