Almost half of Irish workers feel pressure to work outside of office hours

With many people now working from home during the Covid-19 lockdown it is important to know your rights

Leitrim Observer Reporter

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Leitrim Observer Reporter

Tipperary digital hub offers work space during coronavirus threat for those unable to work from home

With many people now working from home during the Covid-19 lockdown it is important to know your rights - you cannot be forced to work over and above your contracted hours and you are entitled to scheduled tea breaks. Stick to your scheduled work hours. Don't be exploited.

The pressure to work outside of office hours and check emails at home is something that 47% of Irish workers struggle with, according to respondents to the latest Taxback.com Taxpayer Sentiment Survey 2020.

The survey, which was rolled out just before the Covid-19 crisis hit the country, looked at the attitudes of Irish people towards work related issues (such as work/life balance, worker satisfaction and workplace priorities) and asked over 2,500 of Taxback.com’s customer database for their views.

Speaking on some of the primary findings on attitudes to pressures in the workplace, Joanna Murphy, CEO of Taxback.com: “It seems workers are split in terms of the expectation placed upon them, either by employers, or by themselves, to work out of hours. The survey found that 53% of people feel they can leave work at the front door, while 47% work or check emails outside of office hours. In light of our current situation, I think it’s an interesting insight into what people might be going through now while working from home. The 47% of people who normally find it difficult to switch off from work could be finding themselves in an even more difficult predicament now that the work is at home with them.

The results definitely prompt some discussion around how many workers are achieving a healthy work/life balance?  In Ireland it seems that the reality is that it can be difficult to step away from the responsibilities and demands of the workplace, and to ‘switch off’ from thinking about it when we do get home. I think now more than ever people need to be able to step away at the end of the day, or even before they start work, to take some time for themselves and allow the mind to quieten down from the business of the working day.”

ESRI research into job stress and working conditions in 2018 found that job stress in Ireland more than doubled between 2010 and 2015. It was found that just 8% of workers experienced job stress in the same survey conducted in 2010, compared to 17% in the most recent survey in 2015. The strongest predictors of job stress were found to be the emotional demands of dealing with angry clients and customers, as well as being under time pressure, bullying and poor treatment, and being under-rewarded in relation to work effort.

Ms. Murphy concluded, “Technology has meant that we can now be “switched on” and “plugged in” pretty much 24/7 no matter where we are. And the benefits of technology during this crisis are really coming in to their own. But we must tread carefully, especially now. People cannot be expected to be “on” all of the time and whether the pressures comes from the employer or the worker themselves it’s something that must quelled. Employers can’t expect that workers should be contactable at all times – and workers themselves often have to learn the discipline of putting the phone down, or closing the laptop to give themselves time to relax and recharge.

Of course with massive job cuts across many sectors since the introduction of lockdown measures in March 2020, those still working are feeling even more pressured to work outside of working hours despite the fact that many are facing pay cuts and some are being forced to carry the additional workloads of staff temporarily laid off.

There is, however, legislation to protect workers from exploitation, especially during the current Covid-19 lockdown when more and more people are working from home. For more details on what your rights are when working from home during the current restrictions see here. These include restrictions to working usual hours, taking lunch and tea breaks and not working overtime without compensation.

For general information on what your employment rights are during Covid-19 see here.