Donegal senior footballer Paul Brennan’s employers are based in Fitzwilliam Square in Dublin but remote working means he rarely sets foot in the office, and meetings with his boss happen in Carrick-on-Shannon, about an hour’s drive from his home.
Asked yesterday morning how remote working has been for him, the 33-year-old explained he was on a coffee break in the back garden of his home near Bundoran. “I will paint you a picture. To my left about 60 lambs are in a field going mad. To my right I can see two horses. I have a river running in front of the house, the Drowse, which separates Donegal, Sligo and Leitrim. And I am about 4km from the sea, right at the bottom of a mountain called Arroo.”
Brennan, who heads up the construction desk at Lincoln Recruitment, says that as long as he has his phone and laptop, “I can work anywhere”.
As a recruitment specialist he has had a bird’s eye view of how Covid and advances in technology have revolutionised the way people work.
“At the end of the day everyone is very busy. I think Covid really opened our eyes to that and how you can connect over a Zoom call rather than always face to face.”
His work involves matching “degree-qualified” professionals in the construction sector, such as quantity surveyors, civil engineers, project engineers, or health and safety staff, with client companies and since Covid started he has seen jobs filled without any face-to-face meetings between employer and employee.
“I have [set up] an interview this evening; the guy is in Dublin and the company is in Dublin but the initial call will be on Zoom. Time is very scarce, and this means a candidate doesn’t need to leave work a couple of hours early to try and make it across the city and prepare himself for an interview. And the company doesn’t need to pencil in two hours to do the interview. Instead they will do a Zoom call at 7pm when both parties are sitting in the comfort of their houses.”
The big attraction of remote working for the father of two boys, aged five and 18 months, is more time for “family and football”.
Luckily for Brennan, his boss Shay Dalton is a GAA fan and very understanding about the demands of training five or six days a week with a county team, especially when the championship season is in full swing.
“Obviously where I am geographically located and my situation with family and football, going to Dublin just wasn’t going to work for me,” said Belfast-born Brennan, who since he started with Lincoln last November has been in the office for “a day or two”.
Prior to that he spent three years driving to a job in Strandhill, a commute by Ben Bulben which many would have relished, but roadworks in Sligo for a lot of that time meant a 6.30am alarm call and a lot of time away from his family.
While remote working gives him the flexibility he needs for his Donegal GAA commitments he believes his boss knows that he applies the same discipline to his working life.
“It’s about individual responsibility and transferring that same discipline to work.”
Formerly a commercial diver who commuted to Kilkenny where he did 12-14 hour days, he knows the reality of “only seeing your children when they are asleep” and appreciates the amount of “Daddy time” he now enjoys.
His colleague Oonagh Miller Moran also works remotely from her home in Tramore, Co Waterford and as a parent of three children, aged seven, four and two she also makes the most of time saved on a daily commute.
When her first child was born she was living and working for a different company in Dublin and remembers having to “sprint across the city” to get to the creche in time to pick her up in the evening.
“I literally had to walk or run because the creche closed at 5.30pm. It was very stressful,” she recalled.
Now the head of growth with Lincoln Recruitment finds herself having time to walk on the beach during her lunch break, and to practice yoga before she hits the desk most mornings meaning her work-life balance is “100 per cent healthier”.
“In Dublin, it was go go go rushing to collect kids after work. Now the five of us have breakfast together and I have time for yoga, all before 8.30am,” she said.
In Donegal Brennan says that while they are lucky that their boss is flexible and knows they get the work done, some remote workers are expected to be always on call.
“I think everyone has a right to not answer an email outside of work hours,” he said. “It is very important to switch off because you need to energise your brain, and have the energy to work the next day, whereas if you get into a constant cycle of working you become lethargic and burn out faster.”