How regional locations are tapping into the transition to hybrid working

Many employees have enjoyed an improved work/life balance, less time commuting, and now seek remote or hybrid working as part of their permanent working arrangements.
Patrick Gallen

HOW do we get more people living in smaller or rural communities, spending less time and money commuting, and protecting the environment at the same time?

One of the unexpected outcomes from the Covid-19 pandemic was the widespread acceptance of remote working, when the majority of staff across the country were forced to work from home from early 2020.

Since then, many employees have enjoyed an improved work/life balance, less time commuting, and now seek remote or hybrid working as part of their permanent working arrangements.

While home working was well and good for many months, we also know that there were downsides, including isolation, patchy Wi-Fi, and reduced opportunity for collaboration.

We are now seeing some employees seeking to work from remote co-working spaces - in particular, those who may have returned home to remote locations or moved away from cities during the pandemic.

With the prices of buying and renting homes increasing in cities such as London, Dublin, and Belfast, combined with the flexibility offered with remote working, many people are moving and settling down in more remote locations.

In the Republic of Ireland, a nationwide network of hubs has been established since the pandemic, with over 270 co-working hubs, 4,500 desks, and 360 meeting rooms available to remote workers across the country.

One of the facilitators of co-working spaces is Enterprising Monaghan, which assists and supports entrepreneurs, start-ups, and SMEs throughout the county in a number of ways, including offering high-quality, affordable hot desks and office space in Monaghan town and the surrounding area, including Northern Ireland.

Finbarr Daly, chief executive of Enterprising Monaghan said: “Our co-working facilities offer high-speed internet, private meeting facilities, video-conferencing facilities, and access to printers - all of which have attracted a number of remote workers from Monaghan and surrounding counties who no longer want to commute to cities such as Dublin and Belfast.”

These co-working spaces provide employees with the office-like feel and all necessary equipment and facilities, while taking away the hassle of a long commute.

In Northern Ireland, we have similar initiatives up and running.

Jim Eastwood, general manager of Cookstown Enterprise Centre commented: “We are encouraging employers to let people work close to their home in Cookstown, in a professional environment, rather than travelling hours to work in Belfast or Dublin. It works for the employer and the employee.”

It is clear that remote and hybrid working are here to stay, and co-working hubs, such as Enterprising Monaghan facilities and Cookstown Enterprise Centre, are creating an opportunity to get the best of both worlds – an office, close to home.

Since the pandemic, employers have recognised that there can be a significant benefit to both parties when a hybrid working model is adopted, with productivity and efficiency not being adversely affected.

Employees also benefit from interaction with like-minded business professionals, and the potential for marginalisation and isolation at home is avoided with regular opportunities to exchange conversation over a coffee in a communal kitchen

has many benefits – not to mention the networking opportunities.

As Finbarr and Jim both agree – “it's like having your office near home but not at home!”

:: Patrick Gallen is people and change consulting partner at Grant Thornton Ireland