Microsoft predicts a permanent Irish office exodus

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Alan Clerkin

Alan Clerkin

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A recent article in the Irish Independent has claimed Microsoft Ireland research states that almost half of the country’s office workers may never return to the office full time and predicts lower corporate spending on offices in general.

This news comes on top of the recent announcement by Google that it is abandoning plans to rent additional office space in Dublin’s south quays area, which was to house up to 2,000 further workers, adding to the uncertainty over the future of traditional office.

Microsoft’s predictions come through research it commissioned into remote working in Ireland, conducted by the Boston Consulting Group and KRC Research.

“People talk about this Covid-related remote working being something exceptional and that we’ll soon return to normal,” said Aisling Curtis, commercial director for Microsoft Ireland. “But I don’t think that we’re going back to what we used to regard as being normal.”

Microsoft is one of a number of large companies in Dublin that has informed staff they can work from home forever, subject to their role and agreement from individual managers. The jobs firm Indeed, which employs over 1,000 people in Dublin, and Dropbox have both also told staff they may work from home permanently.

Other tech giants in Dublin, such as Facebook and Google, have adopted similar ‘flexible working’ policies with an eye on the future. Google is a big player in Dublin’s commercial property scene, employing thousands of workers and occupying offices around the city’s Docklands. While the company plans to continue to invest in its Irish operations, the decision not to proceed with the new office expansion, will be keenly watched, as investors weigh the impact of the coronavirus outbreak on the city.

However, none of the firms has yet started to implement the policies, with offices still largely closed. Ms Curtis pointed to the survey’s findings that 59% expect to see office-related “cost savings” connected to the switch to remote working.

On permanent home working, a Microsoft Ireland spokesperson said: “we shared guidelines internally to provide options for our employees to plan ahead for when we can return to the workplace safely.

“Our goal is to evolve the way we work over time with intention, guided by employee input, data, and our commitment to support individual workstyles and business needs while living our culture.”

In a recent survey carried out by recruiter ‘Robert Walters’ found that 37% of businesses in Ireland are considering a downsize in office space. So aside from the tech giants implementing a more permanent remote working policy for staff, other companies sectors are looking to do the same. 

The future of work, will be a less centralised workplace, remote working, virtual meetings and virtual offices.