2021 to bring a ‘more blended approach’ to office working

There will be a “more blended approach” to people working in offices or from home in the New Year, according to an economist.

The pandemic saw most people work from home this year, with large office buildings becoming temporarily vacant.

This led to some companies reconsidering working practices, including Google which pulled out of plans to rent a new state-of-the-art office space in Dublin’s docklands.

John McCartney, an economist and Director of Policy and Communications at The Housing Agency, said that while people will work a few days from home in the future, the office will continue to be essential for collaborations and meetings.

Speaking on The Hard Shoulder, he said it is likely that companies will take less office space than they would have.

However, he added: “On the other side, the economy will continue to grow and we know the Irish economy is very much a service-based economy.

“I think there will be an offset from economic growth so I would be fairly optimistic for offices but at the same time, I don’t think the growth for office demand won’t be anything like the same for other booms.”

Positives

Mr McCartney added that other positive impacts from this year have been the stabilisation of house prices and the ability for some people to increase their savings.

He explained: “When you think of it, back in March when COVID first impacted, people including myself thought that we were going to see double-digit declines in house prices

“This hasn’t materialised and I think one of the reasons for this is that the people who were most heavily impacted by COVID were never in the market to buy houses in the first place.

He added that according to the Central Bank, in the second quarter of this year, Irish households accumulated €5.3bn of savings.

This can largely be attributed to people who were lucky enough to keep their jobs and still receive a salary when the opportunities to spend money weren’t there, he said.

“But of course we know there has been a whole cohort of other people who have been just horrendously affected by this,” Mr McCartney acknowledged.

“The hope going into 2021 and beyond is that the vaccine is fully rolled out and people can become more active in the economy and that these savings will be deployed in consumer spending.

“This will benefit everyone even the people who may not have had the opportunity to accumulate those savings, they will benefit in the long run from this.”

Main image: Stock photo of a laptop on a dining room table set up as a remote office to work from home. Credit: PA