By Gerard Walker, Future Jobs-Skill-Work-Insights
Following on for a call for public submissions in July 2020, the Government published a Making Remote Work - National Remote Working Policy. The IITD was pleased to make a submission on how the existing guidance on remote working could be built upon and additional areas addressed. The submission drew upon IITD research work undertaken, training experiences, and L&D member's views.
The Remote Work Strategy recognises that the benefits of Remote Work include increasing participation in the labour market, attracting and retaining talent, enabling balanced regional development, alleviating accommodation pressures, improving work/life balance, improving child and family wellbeing, reducing commuting times, and reducing transport-related carbon emissions and air pollution.
The Remote Work Strategy is built upon three fundamental pillars supported by underpinning conditions as highlighted below. In each of these areas, there are immediate actions outlined which will progress remote working and inform decision-making into the future. Progress on actions will be reported to the Interdepartmental Group run by the Department of Enterprise, Trade, and Employment.
Pillar One: As remote working is a new way of working, it will need new and different measures in place to support it into the future. Changes to how and where people work will impact on several areas such as the rights and responsibilities of employers and employees, health and safety legislation, and tax arrangements. There will be legislation to provide employees the right to request remote work. A code of practice will be introduced on the right to disconnect. Employers and employees will be provided with ongoing up-to-date guidance on remote work.
Pillar Two. The actions in this pillar are focused on the development and investment in the national hub infrastructure and the national delivery of high-speed broadband, both of which are significant drivers in facilitating people to work remotely. An investment will be made in remote work hubs and infrastructure in underserved areas. The presence of remote working hubs with high-speed broadband would facilitate many to work locally and result in increased regional employment and lower carbon emissions. The National Broadband Plan will be explored to see how it can be accelerated; delivering connectivity as soon as is feasible across rural Ireland as a central part of remote work infrastructure.
Pillar Three: The actions in this pillar are to ensure that data and collaborative practices are used to best effect to achieve the State’s multiple public policy goals. National data will be developed on the incidence and frequency of remote work, as part of a wider effort to improve data on flexible working arrangements and to provide an evidence base for future policy. The Remote Work Strategy Inter-Departmental group will meet regularly to ensure that there is cross-departmental alignment to support the wider goals of the State.
Underpinning Conditions: The three pillars will be bolstered the promotion of remote work and best practice, and the skills needed for its increased adoption. The public sector will lead by example and demonstrate best practices to employers nationally. Public sector employers, colleges, and other public bodies will be mandated to move to 20% home and remote working in 2021. Remote work will be promoted amongst businesses, including advising on the skills interventions required for the successful adoption of remote work. Dedicated training in areas such as communications, management skills, leading remote teams, IT skills, performance management, culture change, and building trust are highlighted as major enablers in the successful adoption of remote work policies. Businesses will be advised on best practices on ensuring equal opportunity amongst remote and office-based workers.
Challenges: The Remote Work Strategy recognises that challenges can arise with Remote Work. For workers, 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. Employers also face challenges. Feedback provided to the Department from employers highlighted how remote working does not easily support creativity, group dynamics, shared ownership, and collegiality. The Remote Work Strategy recognises that these are important considerations that will inform future policymaking. The Government is committed to facilitating increased remote work adoption in a way that reaps the many benefits and mitigates any arising negative impacts.
The published Making Remote Work - National Remote Working Strategy can be accessed HERE.
The Governments' National Remote Working Strategy recognises that a conducive environment for remote work is essential to facilitate its increased uptake. A series of actions will be undertaken to achieve this. There is an emerging consensus that remote working will become a central feature of the future of work, beyond that brought about by the disruption in working arrangements by the COVID pandemic.
The IITD has responded to the growing need to provide training support for organisations, managers, and individuals to deal with the challenges of setting up remote working. Trainers’ Learning Skillnet, together with the IITD, has commissioned research, designed and developed a suite of tailored online training programmes for managers of remote workers, new and existing remote workers, and HR/Learning & Development professionals. This training is referenced within the Remote Work Strategy document.