Before the Covid-19 pandemic, approximately 14% of employees in Ireland worked from home in some capacity.
Increasing the capacity for employees in Ireland to work from home could help protect jobs and limit a predicted economic contraction in the wake of the Covid-19 crisis.
That’s according to a new report from the ESRI, which examines habits in relation to working from home in Ireland prior to the Covid-19 pandemic and also highlights how permitting home working may combat the expected economic downfall to come.
Before the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic, according to the report, 14% of employees in Ireland worked from home in some formal capacity, either sometimes or usually.
That figure is slightly above the European average, well above the likes of Bulgaria (where 1% of workers work from home) and Sweden (where the figure is over 30%).
The report details that males, Irish nationals, workers aged over 30, full-time employees and those in higher-paid occupations in Ireland have a higher probability of working from home, while couples with children are more likely to work from home compared to lone parents.
The education (37%), ICT (36%) and Finance (26%) sectors have the highest percentage of employees that work from home, whereas just 2% of employees in the accommodation and food sectors do likewise.
The situation has changed dramatically since the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic, with all employees who have the capacity to work from home being asked to do so.
The ESRI report suggests that maintaining that approach will be beneficial as public health measures are relaxed and economies reopen, as ensuring as many people as possible work from home will help control against another spike in virus cases.
Also, while combining working from home with childminding is not a sustainable long-term option, it may alleviate short-term childcare pressures in light of school and crèche closures.
“Working from home is not a common feature of employment in Ireland, especially among lower-paid occupations,” said Dr Paul Redmond, one of the authors of the report.
“For some jobs, it may be feasible to increase the capacity to work from home. This could help protect jobs and limit the economic contraction that will follow the Covid-19 crisis.”
The report concludes that increasing the capacity to work from home of those in lower-paid occupations, women, non-Irish nationals, young workers and lone parents in particular “may be key in combating the potential unequal consequences of job losses and the economic contraction that will follow the Covid-19 crisis” and “may help to prevent certain groups facing disproportionately bad outcomes”.