'It is difficult to open a business on short notice': Cork calls for clarity ahead of return to workplaces

'It is difficult to open a business on short notice': Cork calls for clarity ahead of return to workplaces

An Ibec survey reveals that businesses across Ireland are beginning their preparations for a gradual return to workplaces in the coming weeks and months.

CORK Business Association president Eoin O’Sullivan has called for the Government to provide ‘solid information’ so businesses can start planning their gradual return to workplaces in the coming weeks and months.

Mr O’Sullivan was speaking after Ibec, who represents Irish business, published the results of a major survey that reveals that businesses across Ireland are beginning their preparations for a gradual return to workplaces in the coming weeks and months.

The survey findings reaffirm the urgent need for the Government to provide clarity and timelines to support businesses in safely returning staff to the workplace.

The Cork Business Association president fully agreed with the findings of the survey.
The Cork Business Association president fully agreed with the findings of the survey.

The president fully agreed with the findings of the survey. 

“We 100% echo what Ibec found from their major survey. It is difficult to open a business on short notice. 

"Hiring people again especially in the hospitality industry is becoming an issue. 

"People coming off the supports is a challenge for the employers,” he said.

Mr O’Sullivan said businesses require ‘solid information’. 

“The lead time is essential when you are trying to reopen. People are trying to make plans from leaks that are passed down. We need solid information so we can start planning on getting back to business as soon as possible,” he added.

Ibec: Clarity is key 

Ibec CEO Danny McCoy said: “Clarity from Government on the timing of graduated workplace reopening is now key for companies in order to reignite collaboration, culture and confidence in their workforce. 

"Government’s roadmap must be aligned with an ongoing review of reopening timelines that reflects the risk reduction that the vaccine programme is delivering. This means a potential earlier gradual return to workplaces than the previously flagged expected return time of September.” 

Mr McCoy added: “Over a quarter of respondents (28%) will plan their return to the workplace in line with Government advice and/or the finalisation of the vaccination rollout. A similar proportion (29%) expect to return in September 2021 and one in five organisations expect to be fully back in the workplace within the next three months (21%). Therefore, if Government guidelines provide for it, it seems likely that 78% of respondent organisations could be returned to the workplace by September of this year.

Hybrid work model 

“In recent years we have witnessed emerging trends towards more flexible and remote working. Our survey results confirm that Covid has accelerated this trend, with four out of five respondent companies stating that they will operate a hybrid model of remote and onsite work to a degree when their offices reopen. 15% of respondents will ask all staff to return onsite fully and 4% will keep their staff remote working on a full-time basis,” he added.

The CEO said hybrid working will increase in the coming years. 

“Almost three-quarters of companies (74%) say that the use of hybrid working will increase in their organisations over the next two or three years. While these trends signal the need for increased ambition in the delivery of necessary infrastructure such as remote working hubs, alignment with childcare facilities, and the National Broadband Plan, first and foremost the Government must outline to organisations how and when they can begin efforts to gradually return their staff safely to the office.

“As swift, a return as possible to office work is also vital in order to preserve the future of the many Experience Economy businesses in our towns and cities that rely on office worker footfall for their survival.” 

Other key findings from the survey include: 74% of respondents have adopted some form of hybrid working over the past 12 months. 20% had all employees working remotely while 4% had all employees working onsite. Other arrangements applied in 2% of respondent organisations.

Half of respondents said that for an initial period they will limit business travel both locally and internationally. Just under a fifth said that they would do this indefinitely. 45% will stagger employee teams to ensure social distancing for a period, while 18% will do this indefinitely.

The survey also asked businesses to look to the next few years post-Covid: 70% believe they will adopt new ways of working to facilitate flexibility, 61% believe that they will make permanent changes to support better public health in the workplace and 55% will place greater focus on employee output rather than presence.

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