Ireland has experienced a rapid increase in housing costs over the past few years, making it increasingly difficult for both Irish citizens and those coming to the country for work to find affordable housing. The most recent data available from the residential tenancies board showed that in Q2 2022, average rents for new tenancies in Dublin were €2,011 per month, and outside Dublin (non-Dublin), averaged €1,130 per month, and new rents nationally increased by 8.2% in Q2 2022 over Q2 2021 (1). The high housing costs have impacted employee morale, retention, and overall financial well-being. This article explores potential strategies that employers can adopt to help address high housing costs in Ireland and discusses the benefits and risks associated with these initiatives.
Employee housing assistance programs
One potential solution for employers is offering their employees housing assistance programs. These programs can come in various forms, such as rental subsidies, low-interest loans for home purchases, or even the provision of company-owned housing
The benefits of offering housing assistance programs can lead to increased employee retention, as employees are more likely to stay with a company that helps ease their financial burden. Additionally, these programs can improve employee morale, as workers feel more secure and supported in their housing situation. Research has shown that comprehensive employee benefits packages can be a key driver in employee retention and a differentiator for attracting top talent. It suggests that organisations that provide a robust benefits package tailored to the needs of their employees are more successful in retaining employees (2).
It is also seen that employees who feel cared for by their employer are ten times more likely to recommend their company as a great place to work. It was also shown that when employees feel valued and supported through benefits and other initiatives, they are more likely to be engaged and stay with the company longer. Research also reiterates benefits and assistance programs’ positive impact on employee retention (3). For example, Facebook has offered housing subsidies to some employees living near its headquarters in Menlo Park, California, to help alleviate housing affordability issues (4).
Employers should be aware of the potential risks associated with offering housing assistance programs, such as becoming overly reliant on the company’s support or creating a sense of obligation from employees. To mitigate these risks, employers can work with third-party organisations or financial institutions to provide housing assistance without directly owning employee homes.
Advocacy for government support
Employers can also advocate for government support and policies that address housing affordability. This can include lobbying for increased investment in affordable housing, rent control measures, and tax incentives for businesses that provide housing assistance to employees. In the United States, some companies have formed the Employers Housing Council to address housing affordability issues and work with local governments to develop solutions (5).
By advocating for government support, employers can help create a more sustainable solution to high housing costs, benefiting their employees and the wider community. This collaborative approach can also improve the company’s public image and strengthen relationships with local government and community stakeholders.
The success of advocacy efforts depends on the willingness of governments to implement the proposed policies or provide the necessary support. Employers should be prepared for potential setbacks and be patient with the process, as policy changes can take time to materialise.
Flexible working options
Offering flexible working options, such as remote work or compressed workweeks, can help employees cope with high housing costs by enabling them to live in more affordable areas outside of city centres. The COVID-19 pandemic has demonstrated the feasibility of remote work for many industries, with several major companies, including Twitter and Shopify, announcing permanent remote work options for their employees (6).
Flexible working options can increase employee satisfaction, reduce commuting costs and time, and allow employees to find more affordable housing. This flexibility can also help companies attract talent from a wider geographical area.
Employers should consider the potential impact of remote work on team cohesion, communication, and company culture. To minimise these risks, companies can implement regular team meetings, clear communication channels, and occasional in-person gatherings to maintain a sense of connection.
Employers in Ireland have a role to play in addressing high housing costs and supporting their employees’ housing needs. By offering housing assistance programs, advocating for government support, and providing flexible working options, companies can help ease the burden of housing costs on their employees, ultimately benefiting both the company and its workforce.
(1) Residential Tenancies Board. (2022). Rent Index Q2 2022. Retrieved from https://www.rtb.ie/news/rtb-publishes-q2-2022-rent-index
(2) Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM). (2019, October 28). Employee Benefits: The Evolution of Benefits. Retrieved from https://www.shrm.org/resourcesandtools/hr-topics/benefits/pages/the-evolution-of-employee-benefits.aspx
(3) O.C. Tanner. (2018). The 2018 Global Culture Report. Retrieved from https://www.octanner.com/content/dam/oc_tanner/documents/pdfs/2018-Global-Culture-Report.pdf
(4) Dwoskin, E. (2016, August 19). Facebook Offers Employees $10,000 to Live Near the Office. The Wall Street Journal. Retrieved from https://www.wsj.com/articles/facebook-offers-employees-10-000-to-live-near-the-office-1471611000
(5) Employers Housing Council. (n.d.). About Us. Retrieved from https://www.employershousingcouncil.org/about-us
(6) Kelly, J. (2020, May 12). Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey Tells Employees They Can Work From Home Permanently. Forbes. Retrieved from
Motivation is one of the key factors that drives employees to work towards achieving their goals in the workplace. In a competitive business environment, organisations constantly seek ways to motivate their employees to improve productivity and performance. Organisational psychologists play a critical role in designing and implementing motivational strategies that can drive employees to perform at their best. This article will discuss various types of motivation that an organisational psychologist may recommend in a workplace.
- Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs Theory: Maslow’s theory is one of the oldest and most well-known motivational theories. The theory proposes that humans have five basic needs: physiological, safety, love and belonging, esteem, and self-actualization. The theory suggests that these needs form a hierarchy, with the most basic needs at the bottom of the hierarchy and the most advanced needs at the top. The theory suggests that as lower-level needs are met, employees are motivated to move up the hierarchy to meet higher-level needs.
- Herzberg’s Two-Factor Theory: Herzberg’s theory suggests that two types of factors affect motivation: hygiene factors and motivators. Hygiene factors are factors that do not lead to motivation, but their absence can lead to dissatisfaction. Examples of hygiene factors include salary, working conditions, and job security. On the other hand, motivators are factors that directly contribute to motivation. Examples of motivators include recognition, responsibility, and opportunities for growth and development.
- Self-Determination Theory: Self-determination theory proposes that people are naturally motivated to grow, develop, and achieve their goals. The theory suggests that individuals are motivated when they feel a sense of autonomy, competence, and relatedness. Autonomy refers to the need to have control over one’s own life, competence refers to the need to feel capable and effective, and relatedness refers to the need to feel connected to others.
- Expectancy Theory: Expectancy theory suggests that motivation is driven by the belief that effort leads to performance, performance leads to rewards, and rewards are valuable to the individual. The theory suggests that individuals are motivated when they believe that their effort will lead to good performance and that good performance will lead to valuable rewards.
Application of motivational theories
These motivational theories can be applied in a variety of ways in the workplace. For example, organisations can apply Maslow’s hierarchy of needs theory by ensuring that their employees have access to basic physiological and safety needs such as adequate rest and comfortable working conditions. They can also provide opportunities for growth and development to help employees achieve their self-actualization needs.
Herzberg’s Two-Factor theory can be applied by ensuring that hygiene factors such as job security and salary are in place while also providing opportunities for recognition and responsibility to serve as motivators.
Self-determination theory can be applied by allowing employees to have more autonomy in their work, providing opportunities for skill-building and development, and creating a supportive work environment that fosters positive relationships.
Expectancy theory can be applied by setting clear performance expectations, providing resources and support to help employees achieve those expectations, and offering valuable and meaningful rewards.
One example of a company that has successfully applied motivational theories in their workplace is Google. Google provides its employees with a supportive work environment, ample opportunities for growth and development, and a range of benefits such as free meals and on-site healthcare. The company also encourages autonomy by allowing its employees to work on projects that interest them, and recognises their achievements through its “Peer Bonus” program.
Another example is Zappos, an online shoe and clothing retailer. Zappos offers regular feedback, encourages autonomy and provides opportunities for growth and development by allowing its employees to take on new roles and responsibilities.
Employee incentives are changing, and housing is next
It’s rarely been easy to buy a home in Ireland but for several different generations in 2022, the thought of owning their own property amid rising prices, interest rate increases, a war in Europe, and the general state of flux across the globe in the aftermath of the Covid pandemic, feels – quite literally – beyond their reach at this moment.
That feeling of heavy deflation is one reason why the recent announcement that the Ingka Group, the multinational investment firm behind Swedish furniture giants IKEA, are to invest €100 million in social housing over a three-year period in Dublin has both raised eyebrows and lifted the housing haze, just a little. What if there are other ways to tackle this issue? And what if our employers and business sector are part of an alternative answer?
It’s decades since executive recruiters spoke solely about salaries and annual bonuses. Even before the phrase “The Great Resignation” was first mooted, proactive employers understood the importance of an engaging work culture, presenting a “package”, and creating a “narrative” about company life to attract and retain the best talent.
Where health insurance and annual leave days once sat front and centre alongside base salaries, recruiters are now increasingly emphasising options around remote roles, wellness days, fertility support, menstrual leave, flexitime, four-day weeks, and bringing your furry friends to the office when needed. In their respective ways, these benefits reflect the needs of workers looking to make a move so there’s little to suggest that employer-assisted housing programmes are not the next step. In fact, the seeds of these kinds of programmes exist in Ireland already in many ways.
If you agree a move to Dublin, many multinationals will not only organise the relocation of your physical belongings, they’ll put a roof over your head for an initial number of months. From there, it isn’t hard to take the next leap – one that’s already commonplace in the US – and have companies help employees secure their own home.
Early in 2021, Amazon, which already has a significant presence in Ireland, announced a $2 billion equity fund to develop over 20,000 affordable homes for moderate- to low-income families in three US cities. Many of the company’s Irish workforce use their Amazon shares as a basis for mortgage deposits or home refurbishments, but consider this: what would happen if an employer was to provide specific financial support or a more affordable option directly? In the midst of the current housing crisis, that would be a hugely influential incentive for employees of almost any age.
The world’s biggest online store isn’t unique in exploring this kind of incentive either. Apple is escalating supports it pledged as part of a $2.5 billion package for affordable housing initiatives in California in 2019, while Google set aside $1 billion to help increase housing supply and combat homelessness in the Bay Area of the state specifically. Here in Ireland, Google announced in 2020 that it would donate 46 apartments within its Bolands Mills redevelopment to local public service workers at below-market rents in 2020, in recognition of its own long-standing tenure in the area. It’s well documented, of course, how rents in the same area of Dublin have increased and provided for bumper yields for local landlords… until Covid hit.
Facebook, for its part, also pledged $1 billion to support the construction of affordable homes in The Golden State, a place that is home to so many tech headquarters. So it’s no surprise that these companies and exact locations are also at the front line in the battle to recruit and retain the finest IT talent.
Not a new phenomenon
The move towards helping employees afford and secure a home isn’t a recent phenomenon though, just one brought about by necessity in key locations. Guinness offered housing for some of its workforce 150 years ago and it was commonplace for housing to be built near factories across Ireland, with the homes occupied by workers and their families.
What might the benefit look like in reality? A once-off contribution towards a deposit or something regular towards mortgage payments? Many companies already provide access to financial planners or pension experts, so this could easily be extended further to mortgage experts or specific educational resources for first-time buyers.
Providing some financial assistance would build on those initial incentives and would no doubt benefit from government support in terms of how such a benefit would be treated for tax purposes. Other possibilities could include specific annual leave entitlement for workers in the latter stages of the purchasing process and/or specific time for people moving or settling into new homes.
Of course, there is no such thing as a free lunch and like many employee incentives, companies making a significant investment do hope for a return. Employees that buy locally are less likely to relocate in the future and, hopefully, change jobs. Stability and security at home contributes to life satisfaction generally and, in turn, benefit their work life. Management would also hope such supports would encourage longer tenures amongst staff, greater loyalty, and contribute to being known as an employer that looks after their team. All of these outcomes are tricky to measure, but have a cumulative effect.
A survey conducted by finance company SoFi in 2021 found that 84% of employees believe employers should be responsible for their financial wellbeing, while 60% of participants wanted their company to add, improve, or expand homeownership assistance benefits. The research is US-based, but employees globally have greater holistic expectations of their employers than ever before in 2022, with a specific preference for feeling that their company genuinely cares for their wellbeing.
Are fully fledged employer-assisted housing programmes going to appear in Ireland overnight? No. But if the best recruitment incentives reflect what is happening in workers’ lives, then organisations need to begin to consider what might be feasible to offer around housing and start to plan accordingly.
SoFi at Work Study 2021