A recent report carried out by the Ulster University Economic Policy Centre [UUEPC], ‘Remote Working on the Island of Ireland – A cross-border Comparison’ has analysed different trends currently seen in the remote working environment in Ireland.

After earlier research found Northern Ireland had lower rates of remote or hybrid working than the United Kingdom, the UUEPC wanted to see the picture across the island of Ireland according to Eoin Magennis, Principal Economist in the Ulster University Economic Policy Centre.

Eoin Magennis, Principal Economist in the Ulster University Economic Policy Centre.

Key research findings

In terms of remote working levels, Northern Ireland has lower rates compared to any other region, especially compared to Dublin and the Mid-East of Ireland.

UUEPC’s analysis shows that despite a return to the office, the uptake of remote working in Ireland remains high at 34%.

Northern Ireland in comparison has the lowest uptake at 17%, with post-pandemic remote working uptake currently sitting lower than Ireland’s pre-pandemic levels of remote working which were 20%.

The report also shows that the high demand for remote and hybrid working in Ireland reflects the increased number of organisation offering these working structures.

On average in 2019, 1-3% of online job adverts offered remote or hybrid working across Ireland and Northern Ireland. By January 2023, a significant difference can be seen with Ireland having a much higher number of jobs offering remote working and hybrid structures, 16% compared to 6% in Northern Ireland.

Factors affecting remote working

The type of job you do will generally be the biggest element which dictates whether your job has the potential to be done remotely, according to Eoin.

“Jobs that mean you need to be in a workplace to access the plant you work with or meet the people your work impacts on will result in much less potential for a hybrid model of work.

“All sectors will have jobs that mean you have to go “into” work to do them whereas others have elements (or all of it) which can be done outside the traditional office or workplace,” he said.

A second factor that impacts the rate of remote working is how open the owner and managers are to the practice.

“This can be key as the same sectors North and South have different levels of remote working. So a manager’s choice or concern about ensuring productivity is key,” explains Eoin.

A third factor is employee choice. Commute length, home office suitability, childcare and more can all play into this.

Future trends

The number of employees engaged in remote working is ever-moving as management and business owners change their minds continuously on this.

“Employees by and large want the flexibility and are positive when they can access hybrid working. In the current tight labour market, they are banking the advantage.

“If the employment outlook was to change, would we see a different picture? Hard to tell,” said Eoin.

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