There’s no doubt that the Covid-19 pandemic has changed the world of work forever. While we’re not out of the woods just yet, slowly but surely we are all looking to recovery and what work might look like post-pandemic. And it’s looking like a whole new world for many.
Designing a workplace for the future
In 2021, Enterprise Ireland released a new guide, ‘Designing a workplace for the future’, which was written to help employers navigate their way into the new world of work, including remote/hybrid working and other more flexible forms of work.
The guide recognised that company owners are now aware that offering a degree of flexibility has many advantages for their business in attracting and retaining talent, as well as for the Irish economy overall.
However, most are still in the early stages of working out how these can be optimised within their own companies.
The right to request remote work
What’s more, the matter is becoming more urgent, thanks to the upcoming legislation on the right to request remote work. When enacted, it will act as a lynchpin for HR strategy and implementation.
This legislation is due to come into effect in 2022, so it’s essential that every employer considers the best solution for their company sooner rather than later.
The National Hub Network
An integral part of the new world of work is the growth of the National Hub Network, which enables workers to carry out their jobs in a social space with excellent amenities.
The networks also play a valuable role in driving vibrant regional economies across Ireland, as Clare Power, Enterprise Ireland’s lead on Regional Remote Working, explains.
“These hubs are far more than just buildings for workers,” Clare explains.
“They are part of the regional ecosystem, a go-to place for local start-ups through to established SMEs looking to grow and scale their businesses.”
“These co-working hubs are a valuable contributor to a vibrant local economy, a wonderful opportunity for employees from diverse backgrounds who want to progress their careers outside of the big cities, and an important enabler for collaboration and networking across sectors and disciplines.”
“In short, these hubs will play a crucial role in Ireland’s future of work landscape.”
The evolution of co-working hubs in Ireland
Co-working hubs existed before the pandemic. In fact, they were highlighted in Enterprise Ireland’s 2019 ‘Powering the regions’ plan.
However, they’ve taken on a new level of significance since Covid-19 hit in March 2020.
“There have been examples of successful co-working hubs already,” says Clare. “These include Dogpatch Labs and Guinness Enterprise Centre in Dublin, The Mill in Drogheda, Wexford Enterprise Centre, Merits in Naas, PorterShed in Galway and Ludgate in Skibbereen.”
“Their success is down to their excellent facilities, including reliable wi-fi, excellent cybersecurity, access to the latest digital tools, meeting spaces and 24-hour access.”
The Quality Standards Framework for the National Hub Network
Recognising the importance of these hub networks to both regional development and Irish SMEs, Enterprise Ireland has led significant infrastructural investments initiatives on behalf of the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment.
“We have a relationship with the Community Enterprise Association Ireland (CEAI) spanning two decades, and have supported CEAI as the co-ordinator of a world first, the development of the Quality Standards Framework for the National Hub Network, known as QHubs,” explains Clare.
“The Quality Standards Framework aims to provide a world-class facility and service for enterprise at all stages of growth, enable hub owners and managers deliver excellent service to their users, and help the National Hub Network to work collectively towards future self-sustainability.”
To help embed QHubs, CEAI launched a free preparatory development programme for enterprise hub owners and managers, delivered in partnership with Skillnet Ireland.
Supporting co-working and remote working
“Enterprise Ireland is also involved in many other initiatives to support the National Hub Network.”
“These include Grow Remote, a not-for-profit agency working in the fields of networking, job market connection, community development and free nationwide remote training. Grow Remote has published a playbook to equip SMEs with the tools to successfully implement remote work permanently. We also point employers to the Western Development Commission-led ConnectedHubs portal in searching and sourcing for their ideal co-working spaces.”
According to Clare, “it’s clear that regional hubs have a vital role to play as we slowly get back to ‘the new normal’.
Perhaps the growth and development of these hubs – and the subsequent positive effect on our lifestyles, families and rural areas – will emerge as something positive to come out of the last two years of upheaval and change.”