37% of business leaders do not see imminent return to office

return to office
Alan Clerkin

Alan Clerkin

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Research from Institute of Directors outlines concerns about return of tight restrictions.

The largest cohort (37%) of business leaders in a new Institute of Directors (IoD) in Ireland survey don’t foresee the majority of staff being in the office/workplace until Q2 2022, while 30% think it will be in Q1 2022. Just 8% believe it will be in January, while only 6% believe it will be in February.

These advance findings are from the IoD’s latest Director Sentiment Monitor research report, for Q4 2021, to be published in January 2022. The new research also reveals that business leaders see the biggest risk facing their organisations as ‘a return of tight public health restrictions caused by COVID-19 and its variants’. There is a note of optimism, however, in the finding that 31% of business leaders are more optimistic about the economy than the previous quarter, with 28% more pessimistic and 41% signifying ‘no change’ from the previous three months.

Commenting on the IoD’s Q4 Director Sentiment Monitor findings, Maura Quinn, Chief Executive of the Institute of Directors in Ireland, said:

“With many staff returning to the workplace for at least some of the time during autumn 2021, 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. Our research finds that 37% of business leaders see the second quarter of the year as the period when a majority of staff will likely be in the office/workplace. Furthermore, it should be of note that business leaders now see the biggest business risk as ‘a return of tight public health restrictions caused by COVID-19 and its variants’.”

The advance, key findings of the IoD’s Director Sentiment Monitor for Q4 2021 include:

Return to Office/Workplace: When asked, ‘In respect of your primary organisation, and in view of the deteriorating public health situation and possible further restrictions, when do you foresee the majority of staff being in the office/workplace by?’ the business leaders selected as follows:

•    January 2022: 8%
•    February 2022: 6%
•    March 2022: 16%
•    April – June (Q2) 2022: 37%
•    July -September (Q3) 2022: 10%
•    October – December (Q4) 2022: 3%
•    Don’t know: 12%
•    Not applicable: all or most staff will work remotely in future: 7%

Biggest risk: When asked, ‘At present, what do you believe is the single biggest risk facing your organisation?’ the respondents chose as follows (top four findings):

•    A return of tight public health restrictions caused by COVID-19 and its variants: 24%
•    Labour sourcing/quality/capability/retention: 18%
•    Global supply chain issues: 7%
•    Rising costs of raw materials: 7%
•    EU-UK trade and political relations issues: 6%
•    Geopolitical/economic instability: 6%

Irish economy: When asked, ‘In respect of the Irish economy, how do you feel now compared to the previous quarter?’ the business leaders selected as follows:
•    More optimistic: 31%
•    More pessimistic: 28%
•    No change: 41%