Macra members share experiences of working from home

Covid-19 has changed the way we approach our workday and as many commutes are eliminated, that time can be used differently. In a recent Macra na Feirme Rural Youth Survey, those working in rural Ireland outside of farming were asked a series of questions concerning their work/life balance and the effect of Covid-19 on their lives.

Fifty three (53%) of all young rural people surveyed responded that they would like to work from home or from a remote working hub in the future, and 34% of respondents said they would not like to work from home or from a remote work hub in the future.

“We have already seen that young people have been disproportionately affected by this pandemic not just in terms of loss of jobs but socially too,” said Macra na Feirme national president Thomas Duffy.

“Thankfully, we have also seen some benefits emerging such as more time with family and new skills learned.”

Some 47% of those surveyed were happy with their current work life balance.

Of that number, 30% said that their workload has decreased since Covid-19 and 70% that their workload remained the same.

Fifty three (53%) of those surveyed were unhappy with their current work life balance. Within that group, 57% stated their workload has increased since Covid-19, and 43% that their workload has stayed the same.

Fifty nine (59%) of those surveyed identified spending more time with their families as a positive to Covid-19, and 48% of respondents believed that there had been an increase in spending in the local economy.

Other positives identified included learning new skills, greater care towards the environment and more community spirit.

We asked some Macra members to share their experiences of working from home during the pandemic.

Claire Gough – Civil Service, Meath

I have begun to love it. I was commuting from Athboy to Dublin city centre every day, about four hours in a car, so now I have a lot more free time in the mornings and evenings.

I have enjoyed working from home – at the start I found it difficult to get used to. I found myself getting jealous of my family, who were frontline workers and got to see people outside the home.

However, I have begun to love it. I have a quite strong internet connection at home but my phone coverage can be shocking at times, so I communicate a lot by email rather than phone, which means it can take time to get replies and can delay projects moving on.

I hope I can continue working from home for the foreseeable future, with possibly one or two days per week.

Sarah Kelly – teacher, Offaly

It wasn’t long until the frustration and a longing to be back to my work environment kicked in.

Thankfully, most of my communicating with my class and parents is done through the class Dojo app, so I can rely on my data coverage for that.

The internet in place is not suited for remote learning, as I often lag or get cut off from Zoom meetings.

While there are some upsides to remote learning, I think the downsides outweigh them and the teaching profession is one that is not suited to it.

The social interaction between the staff and pupils is definitely missed and there’s a constant worry about whether I’m doing enough to support the pupils in their learning and family wellbeing also.

Fortunately, this is only a temporary set-up and I, like most teachers, am looking forward to getting back into the classroom again.

Helen Hayes – marketing manager, north Tipperary

I am currently in a rural area that is awaiting broadband, and will most likely be waiting for quite some time.

I’ve worked remotely for the last seven years. The pandemic has changed the way I work in that it has become more remote than usual. My work usually takes me out of the country once a month, but as of last March I’ve been grounded.

I’ve had to adapt and work within the limits of the restrictions. Internet is crucial for me to be able to work. Physical meetings and conferences have been replaced with phone calls, emails and Zoom.

I recently moved to a new house, and I am currently in a rural area awaiting broadband. We have had to opt for mobile broadband, which I’m grateful for, but we had to do quite a bit of research to get it even as it is, it’s not the strongest.

I’m hopeful that when we eventually get high-speed broadband, it will reduce the chance of the freezing of my friends on WhatsApp calls and being able to converse more on Zoom without having to resort to the chat box or worrying about signal interference.

Gavin Treacy – quantity surveyor, Galway

The issue of poor rural internet had a big effect on the speed at which I was able to do my work compared to the high-speed broadband that I was used to having in the company office in town.

I work as a quantity surveyor with a construction company. Pre-covid times my role and job would be 90% office-based, with visit to sites once or twice a week. However, since last March I have been working from home due to government restrictions.

It has its ups and downs for many reasons: at first it seemed a nice change as the weather was good and there was a sense of freedom to working from home.

But that soon wore off when the issue of poor rural internet had a big effect on the speed at which I was able to work compared to the high-speed broadband in the office.

There is also the social aspect to is – you meet nobody, and everyone is virtual nowadays with Zoom meetings. It just doesn’t have the real feel to it.

Annual Macra na Feirme Young Farmer and Rural Youth Survey

The Young Farmer and Rural Youth Survey is conducted annually by Macra na Feirme. This year young farmers and non-farming rural young people were asked to complete the survey with sets of questions relevant to both, and 106 participants completed sections relevant to work/life balance.