Returning to the office will cost some employees over €100 per week in additional transport, parking, food and clothing.
low-income earners will be disproportionately affected by the accelerated return to work after the Covid-19 pandemic.
While spending by office workers will provide a welcome economic boost to restaurants, cafes and retail outlets, it will come at a cost to individual employees who have seen their weekly expenses reduced by being able to work from home.
A Irish Independent A survey found that returning to office duties from remote work will be costly for some employees, with those dependent on car transportation facing the highest costs.
A Cork employee who travels 50km to work will face an average weekly bill of €163.50 split across petrol, parking, coffee, lunches and clothing.
A worker in Dublin commuting to work in Luas across five to eight zones will spend an average of €101 on public transport, coffee, lunches and clothing.
In contrast, a worker able to operate remotely from home faces an average cost of €81, even taking into account three lunches a week taken away, home heating costs and a clothing allowance..
This mirrors a study in the US which found that employees returning to the office from remote tasks faced an average monthly cost increase of $943.50 (€826).
Inflation has made the problem of return-to-work costs even more acute, with the prices of car maintenance, fuel and food all set to rise.
Irish Congress of Trade Unions (Ictu) employment affairs director Laura Bambrick said the pandemic had created “the Zoom divide”.
She warned that the 2022 budget could lead to further inequality after the government gave tax breaks to people working from home but increased costs for those who have to travel to the office or another place of work.
“With the cost of fuel rising in the budget, it is only a matter of time before public transport costs also rise, and it will be another additional cost for those who cannot work at distance,” she said.
“There’s a potential for a big divide between those who can work remotely and those who can’t, and those on lower incomes may be more heavily impacted.”
Ms Bambrick said families would feel the effects of returning to the office, but warned that younger workers on lower wages, or those living in rural areas, could also be affected.
“We recognize that within this privileged group of people who can work remotely, we are not equally privileged. Young workers may live in accommodation that is not suitable for remote work,” she said.
“Then there are people living in rural areas where they may not have access to good broadband. We’ve seen the government promote these remote hubs, but one of the big decisions around relief tax for remote work is that you are not allowed to deduct the cost of working at a digital hub.
“They’re expensive – you’re looking at almost €20 a day, so if your employer doesn’t pay that it becomes a barrier.”
Some recruiters have seen an imbalance between what employers and candidates want, with many employees who previously commuted now unhappy doing so.
Fergal Hartley, director of Hartley People, said it has become “anti-PC” for employers to say they don’t want employees to work from home. He said a large number of positions go unfilled as people look for jobs closer to home.
“There is a massive imbalance between labor demand and labor supply,” he said.
“There are a lot of people who want to go back to the office. It’s not a simple story, it’s a complex issue and there’s still a long way to go on this.
“Everyone has been swept up in this idea of people working longer from home, but it’s not universal. Employers are concerned about productivity, collaboration, training and integration.
“The person most often cited is the professional with a mortgage and a family who may prefer to work from home, but there is a significant cohort who also want to return to the office and do not have a mortgage or child care costs. children to pay.”
Employers also incurred costs for returning employees to the workplace.
Research by Laya Healthcare found that companies expected an average spend of €37,138, including new infrastructure, providing PPE and implementing wellness programs.
David Walsh, director of business development at Osborne Recruitment, said while many employers are keen to bring staff back to the office, many others are finding “common ground”.
“A lot of candidates are happy with the hybrid model, and I find there’s a lot less concern about getting back to the office,” Walsh said.
“Public transport isn’t as busy, which is a big plus for many. We don’t see any massive trends in the cost implications. While many probably aren’t saving as much as they used to, we’re not seeing big changes. The main obstacle at the moment is uncertainty.
Business owners who started new ventures during the pandemic have shared how being out of office has allowed their businesses to thrive.
Dan Gandesha, director of mortgage company Onate, said not having a physical office gives him better options when it comes to applicants.
“I recently hired a new recruit from Limerick who was the best person for the job, but if I had had an office in Dublin I would not have been able to hire him,” Mr Gandesha said.
“We knew we weren’t going to be able to have an office during Covid-19, so we took the risk of working remotely. I have a background in technology, a field where a lot of work is done remotely, so I guess I carried some of the DNA from those companies.
“If you start from a distance-oriented culture and perspective, you can achieve much better results than an office environment.
“It’s very easy to take a simplistic approach when it comes to office work, for example, do staff arrive on time, do they work long hours, are they always at their square. Historically, this is how we measure productivity – it was a box-ticking exercise.
“When you have a remote team, that’s not an option. You have to treat people like adults and trust them.
Mr Gandesha lives in Kilkenny with his family, so having a business without an office gives him flexibility.
He found that allowing people to work from home improved business productivity.
“People have been blown away by how quickly we execute transactions. We had a re-inquiry for a 1.3m loan for a property in Dublin and we closed the deal within 10 days. In an office environment, this would have taken weeks.
Yvonne Barnes-Holmes, who also built a business during the pandemic, co-founded Perspectives Ireland, a psychology consultancy, with her friend Ciara McEnteggart.
They do not plan to have physical office space as they are based in Donegal and Louth.
From her experience in the field of psychology, Ms. Barnes-Holmes has witnessed a lot of burnout, especially among people facing long commutes.
“I would like to see a hybrid model or a four-day work week across the board because I think it has a lot of benefits,” she said.