37pc of business leaders say return to work won’t happen until mid-2022Blathnaid O’Deaon January 5, 2022 at 11:09 Silicon RepublicSilicon Republic

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Almost 2 in 5 business leaders have said they do not believe the majority of their staff will return to the workplace until the second quarter of 2022.

That’s according to a survey of 281 directors and business leaders carried out by the Institute of Directors (IoD) spanning late November and early December last year. The largest cohort (37pc) of respondents indicated they did not see the majority of staff returning to the workplace until at least April of this year.

Just under one third (30pc) said they think most staff would return to the physical workplace in Q1, 2022. Just 8pc believe it will be in January, while only 6pc believe it will be in February. A slightly larger percentage (16pc) said March.

Only 12pc were uncertain when asked to predict the return of their staff to the office, while 7pc said they did not believe workers would ever return. One in ten said workplaces would not be fully occupied by staff until the third quarter. Only 3pc said the return would not occur until the final quarter of 2022.

In a bid to assess how respondents felt about the reopening of workplaces for all staff, the IoD asked people to identify the biggest risks involved. Almost a quarter (24pc) said the greatest threat to their organisation reopening was the possible return of tight public health restrictions caused by Covid-19 and its variants. Just under 20pc said sourcing and retention of staff would be a challenge, while 7pc said global supply chain issues. Another 7pc said the rising cost of raw materials was a threat, while 12pc said the geopolitical concerns and trade instability between the EU and the UK could be a problem for their organisations.

Close to a third (31pc) of Irish business leaders said they felt more optimistic about the future of the Irish economy in comparison to the previous quarter. A smaller percentage (28pc) said they felt more pessimistic, while 41pc said they didn’t anticipate any change.

Commenting on the IoD’s findings, Maura Quinn, the organisation’s CEO said that “the emergence of the Omicron variant of Covid-19 has seen a significant return to remote working.”

“While the rollout of the booster vaccine programme has been swift and widespread, it looks like the public health restrictions already in place will remain so for the foreseeable future,” she added.

In 2020, the Government released a set of protocol for workplaces to follow on the return to the workplace post-Covid-19.

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