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Microsoft research predicts a permanent Irish office exodus

Tech giant survey foresees drop in spending on office buildings


Headquarters: Leo Varadkar opening Microsoft’s new €134m Dublin campus in February 2018

Headquarters: Leo Varadkar opening Microsoft’s new €134m Dublin campus in February 2018

Headquarters: Leo Varadkar opening Microsoft’s new €134m Dublin campus in February 2018

Microsoft Ireland research says 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.

However, the tech giant says it has no plans to downsize its own newly-built physical campus in Sandyford.

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.

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 59pc expect to see office-related “cost savings” connected to the switch to remote working.

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However, she stopped short of saying that Microsoft had any plans to reduce its physical office footprint in Ireland.

Facebook and Google, which employ over 12,000 people in Dublin, both say that they plan to keep their physical office portfolio here and do not intend to move to a majority home-working system.

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.”

Other recent surveys suggest that home working is popular among a significant portion of the workforce.

A DataSolutions poll among 500 Irish workers suggested that a third of Irish office workers would leave their current company if not offered the option to work from home, either part time or full time, on a permanent basis.

The survey reported that 37pc of workers say they are being given the option of splitting their week between the office and home.

Among other findings from Microsoft’s research is that 85pc of companies have implemented remote working policies, compared to just 15pc last year.

84pc of corporate leaders say that they have seen “equal or more” productivity from remote workers.

However, 58pc said they “have not yet effectively learned how to delegate and empower” virtual teams, while half say “they have not learned how to be empathetic” or how to “create a strong team culture”.

Two thirds of business leaders surveyed say they see remote working as “key” to retaining talented employees.

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