When we consider the old saying that every cloud has a silver lining, even the hardcore optimists among us would be forgiven for their failure to identify any potential benefits which can be taken from the Covid-19 crisis.
Despite the negativity and gloom, employers and employees alike have demonstrated the necessity to have a complete workforce situate together may be an outdated and unattainable concept. Working from home may no longer be treated as a benefit afforded to a minority.
Companies will inevitably start to question business costs associated with traditional offices settings, while also exploring the idea of working from home as the new business norm. This crisis has shown that it should not be overlooked or in any way considered second rate.
Employees often laud the benefit of merely not being up so early, the avoidance of travel costs and the cost of re-energising at lunch.
In certain locations where commute times are substantial, costly and sometimes mentally draining, affording employees an opportunity to work from home may significantly improve the efficiency and output of the business as well as improve the employer- employee dynamic where less stressed employees have more to offer the employer. From an employers point of view more bang for your buck so to speak .
As the average distance between an employee’s home and place of work continues to grow, parents are often left with no choice but to take a full day annual leave in order to facilitate a young child’s medical appointment, be present to offer comfort during a traumatic injection at school or collect a sick child from school.
To be able to work from home and nip to the school to fulfil these duties where a child prefers a parent and not a grandparent by their side, and to be able to nip back home to continue your work makes eminent sense. Employers must recognise that these small indulgences are paid back ten-fold in loyalty and contribute to a far less stressed employee.
These considerations also apply to carers and children of elderly parents.
Subject to strict social distancing measures, the Five-Step-Plan for a return to work has been outlined by An Taoiseach. In order to adhere to these measures, many companies will be unable to provide a safe working environment for all its staff. This has the knock-on effect of a many employees continuing to work from home.
The Federal Minister for Labour and Social Affairs in Germany has announced that he is going to bring forward legislation later this year aiming to increase the number of workers based in the home though there will be no requirement however to permit working at home.
There was an earlier proposal that German companies be obliged to in the circumstances where they were not allowing staff to work from home justify why they could not.
Finland has redefined the concept of a “worker”, with a flexible “working place” definition earlier this year.
It remains to be seen if others will follow suit. Could we ultimately have a right to work from home? Watch this space.
One thing is sure, Covid-19 is likely to leave the employment landscape utterly changed and it is most certainly going to be regarded as having transformed our concept of the “workplace” which will hopefully feed into the larger goal of a better work- life balance which everyone of us seems to be aiming to achieve.
If you have any queries on these or other employment or litigation related issues contact Sonya Morrissy Murphy on 061 414355 and [email protected]