Video-conferencing company Zoom has announced that its employees who live near a Zoom office will be required to work onsite two days a week. This decision, along with similar moves by other tech companies, has raised concerns among remote work advocates. Barry Crushell, a solicitor at Crushell & Co, noted that there seems to be an effort by many tech and financial services firms to regularize working patterns. While some companies began asking employees to return to the office as COVID restrictions eased, the issue of remote working has resurfaced without clear legislation or guidelines. Employees in Ireland have the right to request remote working, but employers can still refuse.
Crushell explained that some companies are clamping down on remote working to comply with EU regulations and avoid potential liability in foreign jurisdictions. Taxation is one aspect of the remote working puzzle that still needs to be resolved. Companies like Zoom are emphasizing the value of socializing in the workplace as a reason for employees to be onsite. Some individuals, such as Rosanna Loughnane, a former talent acquisition partner at Zendesk, prefer hybrid or fully onsite work. However, curtailing remote working could pose challenges for employees who have built their lives around this system, particularly those with children. Crushell acknowledged the positive impact of remote working for parents and highlighted the potential for it to become problematic if employers fail to provide this option.
The current standoff between employers and employees regarding remote work has created uncertainty. Ireland’s labor market is extremely tight, with unemployment at a record low of around 4%. Companies that prefer onsite workers may need to compromise if potential applicants demand remote working conditions. However, big tech companies remain attractive employers, and some individuals may forego remote work for the opportunity to be hired. Crushell noted that some of his clients who were made redundant during tech job cuts are struggling to find new opportunities due to heavy competition and a tight job market. Despite redundancies, employment in the tech sector increased by 3.1% in the June quarter, reflecting strong labor demand. While the long-term solution is still unclear, Crushell believes that most employers are willing to offer flexibility in how and where employees work. However, there are limits to this flexibility, and companies may find it unsustainable to remove remote work entirely without discernible benefits for employees.
In conclusion, the return to onsite work poses commercial risks for companies while also impacting employees who have embraced remote work. The future of remote work in Ireland remains uncertain, and clear guidelines and legislation are needed to address the concerns of both employers and employees.