It was "very challenging" for a lot of employers to hear Tánaiste Leo Varadkar say businesses need to prepare for the possibility that they may not reopen until the end of March, according to Maeve McElwee, Director of Employer Relations with Ibec.

She said it is going to be very important to see the collective impact of the work that people are doing to ensure that the virus is suppressed.

Critical to that, Ms McElwee said, will be the speed at which vaccines are rolled out.

"I think that certainly is an opportunity for us to move forward, but I think we are going to have to address that urgently and collectively. Business will stand ready to work with Government around that," she stated.

Taoiseach Micheál Martin said yesterday that "unless absolutely essential work, you must stay at home".

Ibec has said business will play its part in trying to facilitate this.

"I think we will find the business community very united behind that," Ms McElwee said.

Employers have identified what is possible now as a result of the experience to date of remote working.

The Director of Employer Relations said while it was a challenge for many starting out, "we can identify the fact that there are significant sustainability and environmental impacts from remote working. 

"It's great for attracting and retaining new talent. Obviously, there are opportunities around stimulating regional growth and can really promote that flexible work life balance," she said.

Recent research by Ibec found that 59% of employers are looking at longer term investment in remote working.

"The challenges come around things like organisational culture and ways of working, technology infrastructure and cyber security, and then the employment regulations, things like occupational health and safety and, of course, the investment in training and skills that will be needed."