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Third of employers no longer need all of their office space

More than a third of Irish businesses are looking to reduce their office space in the wake of the Covid pandemic.

A survey of 325 executives by the Institute of Directors in Ireland (IoD) offers fresh evidence that commercial office owners face rising vacancies and falling demand as more companies expect more staff to work from home long term.

Of those surveyed 14pc plan to reduce their current office space, while another 21pc are considering it.

The IoD’s previous survey three months ago put those figures at 2pc and 19pc, respectively. The shift reflects executives’ growing acceptance of remote working as a long-term feature.

Asked where their staff would be located at the end of the year, 38pc said most employees will still work from their homes.

Three months ago, only 18pc expected this.

And 12pc said they now expect that all of their staff will be working from home at the end of the year, compared to just 5pc who thought so in June.

The mirror opposite was the case for executives expecting staff to return fully to offices. Only 5pc said they thought this would happen by the end of the year, down from 12pc.

“The ways and means of working are undergoing a quiet revolution,” said IoD chief executive Maura Quinn. “Remote working and increased use of digital technology are transforming how we work,” she said, adding that “it is clear that, for many, there will be no return to the old ways of working”.

Earlier this month, commercial property advisor HWBC forecast that less than 2 million square feet of Dublin office space would be let this year – the lowest level since 2012. Lessors increasingly are accepting shorter contracts or offering enhanced discounts, including the first year free, to secure 10-year leases.

Reflecting that weakening demand, Google – which says its staff worldwide can work from home through at least July 2021 – withdrew from its deal to lease the 202,000 sq ft Sorting Office development on Grand Canal Dock.

The survey found that the pandemic was spurring accelerated adoption of digital technologies at 88pc of firms.

Many executives said they found working from home a personal positive.

While a third reported no change to their work-life balance, 42pc said that balance had improved since they exited the office, while 23pc said it’s gotten worse.

Dublin is now on what is called a “level 3” lockdown due to rising infections.

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