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Remote working — What’s ahead for the IT sector in 2021?

Posted: 17 Feb 2021

Remote working — What’s ahead for the IT sector in 2021?

Following the rapid expansion of remote working in 2020, Eolas Recruitment discusses three significant developments that may impact employers, employees and contract workers this year.

While many companies switched to remote working in response to the Covid-19 pandemic last year, employers faced a lot of practical difficulties.

There was the immediate challenge of providing and securing suitable equipment such as laptops, mobile phones and broadband. Then there were issues around work environments, onboarding, supervision, training and performance management.

“One of the biggest difficulties is that employers still have all same legal and compliance obligations as regards health and safety legislation, ensuring that employees take breaks, implementing anti-bullying policies and so on. That’s an issue we are likely to hear more about in the coming months as arrangements that were originally supposed to be short-term are lasting significantly longer,” says Eolas Recruitments Sales Manager Peter Kirby.

Peter says that on the personnel side, remote working can make it harder to motivate teams and mentor employees.

“So, while an advantage of remote working is that it gives employers scope to broaden the locations they hire from, as with anything, there are risks to take into account.”

“Anecdotally, we are hearing concerns about payroll and tax issues where employees who would normally be based in Ireland are now working from other jurisdictions because of the pandemic, however we understand that Government plans to review the tax treatment of remote working in the next Budget,” adds Principle Recruiter Stephen Daly.

Public consultation on remote working

Some of the challenges highlighted by Peter and Stephen echo points made by various companies and organisations in their responses to a public consultation on remote working last year. Reading these submissions online, it’s clear that there are a broad range of issues to address if remote working is to be effective in future. Highlights include:

  • CIPD, the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development pointed out that as “technology, AI and automation impact the nature and ways of working, a more systemic effort to build the infrastructure to support flexibility and agility for individuals and organisations is what is needed across Government.” Other points made in the CIPD submission include that as the labour force “grows, becomes more diverse and gets older, inclusive practices and flexibility will be central tools for retention and performance”.
  • SFA, the Small Firms Association included in their submission the need for detailed guidance to help employers and employees understand and adopt remote working practices.
  • The American Chamber of Commerce pointed out that time zone is a key advantage in attracting overseas investors who wish to locate their businesses in Ireland. “Our members have highlighted the key advantage Ireland holds of being able to talk to all parts of a global operation in a single working day from this location. A balanced and flexible approach is required to allow employees and employers to reach an agreed outcome in assessing working hours for global operability,” the American Chamber submission stated.
  • Dublin Chamber of Commerce recommendations included developing clear guidelines for businesses around health and safety and insurance liability as well as addressing childcare affordability and access.

National Remote Working Strategy

In January 2021, Government published Ireland’s first National Remote Work Strategy which aims to strengthen the rights and responsibilities of employers and employees and to provide infrastructure and guidance on how people can be empowered to work remotely. If implemented effectively, the plans outlined in the Strategy may go some way towards addressing the concerns of both employers and employees.

There are 3 pillars in the strategy:

  • Pillar One focuses on creating a conducive environment for the adoption of remote work. Actions under this Pillar include legislating to provide employees with the right to request remote working and the introduction of a legally admissible code of practice on the right to disconnect from work.
  • Pillar Two focuses on developing and leveraging remote work infrastructure to facilitate increased remote work adoption. Actions in this pillar include developing and investing in the national hub infrastructure and the national delivery of broadband.
  • Pillar Three focuses on maximising the benefits of remote work to achieve public policy goals.

Remote working challenges

The Strategy acknowledges that remote working is not without challenges, noting that feedback from employers highlighted how “remote working does not easily support creativity, group dynamics, shared ownership and collegiality. If these obstacles cannot be overcome, it could result in long-term impacts on firms’ productivity.”

Regarding workers, the Strategy notes that research has identified that “remote work can have negative effects on mental health, with employees experiencing increased feelings of isolation, loneliness and stress. The impacts of these feelings can be different depending on where and how an employee is working. Employees also experience difficulty with switching off and often feel obliged to work longer hours.”

With Government aiming to complete the actions outlined in the National Remote Working Strategy over the course of 2021, Eolas Recruitment anticipates that companies may need to strengthen IT and compliance teams. This will lead to opportunities for both permanent and contract workers, predicts Stephen who says data, compliance, and security skills are likely to be in demand as well as Project Management and Programme Management contractors.

Right to request flexible working arrangements

Another issue on the horizon is EU Directive 2019/1158 which gives all working parents of children up to at least 8 years and all carers a right to request flexible working arrangements. Member States must bring into force the laws, regulations and administrative provisions necessary to comply with this Directive by 2 August 2022.

Advice for IT workers

Whatever lies ahead on the remote working horizon, there will be good opportunities for IT workers, both at entry level and as careers advance. For candidates, it is worth keeping in mind that there is always movement as talented individuals progress to more senior roles. As a specialist in the IT sector, Eolas Recruitment can help you find suitable opportunities for your individual skill set. It is always worth registering with a specialist recruiter who understands the sometimes complex skills and requirements needed for IT roles. For more information on Eolas Recruitment services, check out these informational videos and/or contact a member of our team.

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