Employers in Ireland have effectively adjusted to meet the demands of new working environments due to the COVID-19 pandemic with 37% believing there has only been a small negative impact on employee productivity.
This is according to the Willis Towers Watson COVID-19 pulse survey research for Ireland which looked at the impacts on businesses with regard to employee productivity and working arrangements.
The snapshot research which was conducted in April shows that employers in Ireland were quick to establish successful remote working environments while managing to broadly maintain productivity. Furthermore, 96% of organisations have put in place measures to keep employees updated through regular communication such as emails, and 85% are making good use of platforms such as Slack, Teams and WhatsApp.
As companies in Ireland ask their workforce to adapt to new ways of working, 84% of employers say in their organisation, people working from home have the technology, tools and resources needed to work productively for an extended period of time. However, over three quarters (77%) agree that there is no fixed end date scheduled for flexible working arrangements due to the uncertainties of COVID-19. Willis Towers Watson say for some organisations, this is therefore an opportune time for their employees to upskill and 54% have taken, or are considering, taking action to increase training opportunities.
As organisations work hard to balance business sustainability with employee experience, the survey shows actions are being taken to maintain employee wellbeing during this crisis. Sixty percent of employers in Ireland surveyed have introduced shift flexibility to provide support to those juggling childcare considerations, while 56% have already increased access to counseling.
The survey also looked at trends concerning sick pay and annual leave entitlements in the current landscape. Many employees who do fall ill will continue to be supported by their organisation’s regular sick pay policy, with over half of employers (54%) surveyed currently not considering any changes to the normal sick pay procedures.
Nearly 2 in 5 employers will also pay employees their full wage if they are asked to self-isolate at home with only 3% of organisation’s asking employees to use their annual leave for such an eventuality.
As Ireland enter the summer months, many companies will also face the issue of annual leave accruing as a result of the disruption caused by COVID-19. The research shows significant uncertainty among businesses in Ireland (47%) as they are unsure how to compensate employees for unused annual leave. Some are opting to carry the leave forward (38%) with only 14% planning to ask employees to forfeit unused days.
Commenting on the survey, Senior Director of Talent and Rewards at Willis Towers Watson, Ian Milton said, "This research has shown how Irish companies are already effectively dealing with the issues raised by COVID-19. In an unprecedented and very global situation, employees need to see a joined-up company strategy that is able to balance a sustainable work environment and a viable business operation. Effective leadership can rally employees to feel invested in a common purpose and embrace new ways of working which is particularly critical during this time."
He added, "This should not be surprising. Most Irish organisations have had firsthand experience of dealing with a tough economic climate. Lessons have been learnt from the very recent past about how best to manage workforces and guide them through adversity while also planning for business opportunities. As we face into the challenge that COVID-19 presents, we have the opportunity to rethink our ways of working and embrace the new “normal”. This crisis is a defining moment for all organisations."