One of Ireland’s leading developers has warned that the predicted demise of the Irish office workplace as a consequence of the Covid-19 pandemic is wildly incorrect.
Michael O’Flynn was speaking as the country faces further months of remote working and potential nationwide lockdowns as the Covid-19 vaccination programme slowly gets into gear.
He dismissed suggestions Ireland will move away from office working and major new office developments as a long-term consequence of the fall-out from the virus.
Mr O’Flynn – who developed Ireland’s tallest residential and commercial complex, The Elysian Tower – said the pandemic may influence internal Irish office design over the coming years but: “I think talk about the demise of the Irish office has been wildly exaggerated.”
“Once a vaccine becomes widely available for Covid-19 or the world develops a system of social distancing for workers, you will see a flood of people back to offices around the country and indeed the world.
“Remote working simply cannot replace the office.
"If you are an ambitious young person, promotion and career advancement hinges entirely on working from the office. If you are trying to expand your business, the office is absolutely critical to that.
“People forget that sometimes the most important part of a major deal is the ‘before’ and ‘after’ conversation as you sit around a boardroom table – no online platform can replace that.”
Mr O’Flynn said that while Zoom and video conference calls are very useful business tools, they simply will not replace face-to-face meetings for brokering major deals.
He also said that while some types of workers can work from home, others simply cannot beyond the short-term.
“I really think the entire conversation around the future of the Irish office has been completely misunderstood,” he said.
Mr O’Flynn said internal office design may change to better suit social-distancing with new technology deployed to offer better health and safety measures, particularly for firms with large workforces.
His comments came as the commercial property market remains volatile.
Property agents Savills confirmed that leases for around 30pc of office space agreed in the first quarter of 2019 have fallen through or been placed on hold since lockdown.
A number of proposed new office developments – particularly in Dublin – have been stalled until the pandemic is considered finally resolved.
Other cities like Cork, Limerick and Galway have suffered from a chronic shortage of commercial office space since 2015 and major developments are under way to deal with the shortfall..