The recent news that four of Ireland’s leading employers have formed a ‘remote working alliance’ has been met with much fanfare, and rightly so. With the announcement of the alliance, Vodafone, the ESB, eBay, and Liberty Insurance have committed to help facilitate long-term remote working options for their staff.
As part of the alliance, the four companies have also partnered with Grow Remote to establish a forum where Ireland’s leading employers can discuss the challenges and benefits of shifting to remote or hybrid workplaces.
Speaking to the Irish Times, Renate Kohlmann, director of Grow Remote, said:
“Remote working has the power to transform and reinvigorate local communities by giving people access to job opportunities regardless of where they live in Ireland. While the impact of Covid-19 was devastating, it brought about some positives.
Individuals, employers, and communities have the opportunity now to take some of these positives and embed long-lasting, positive systemic changes that will transform communities around Ireland.
Companies are navigating the challenges and opportunities of remote and hybrid working, but there is no roadmap or tried-and-tested template for them to follow.”
The idea behind the alliance is to create a plan or roadmap that will allow both large and small employers to benefit from the experiences of the four founding members.
By all accounts, this is a wonderfully positive move that has many candidates and employees excited about the future.
But what does it actually mean in practice particularly for candidates seeking a position here in Ireland?
Remote work isn’t for everyone
Before we take a closer look at the potential for remote employment here in Ireland, it’s important to note that the employers involved are helping to facilitate remote work for those that desire it. This does not mean that they are interested in making it a mandatory requirement for any of their staff.
This is because the simple fact is that remote work isn’t for everyone. While there are many benefits to working from home, for some people, working in an office environment is preferable.
For example, according to research carried out by the Central Statistics Office, as many as 20% of people working from home experience some difficulty with having family around while they work.
As you can imagine, those who experience difficulties working from home will be eager to return to the office for at least a part of their working week.
With this in mind, employers and candidates alike are finding the middle ground with a hybrid working model that allows employees the freedom to choose between working remotely or working in the office. In other words, it’s all about flexibility.
Sounds ideal, but what about candidates seeking new roles who do want remote work as a perk?
A need to manage expectations
Unfortunately, while the remote working alliance is undoubtedly a positive movement, its foundation doesn’t necessarily equate to remote work becoming a standard benefit for all candidates.
The truth is that many roles require an employee to be on-site in order to fulfill their responsibilities. This means that a large percentage of roles now available in Ireland cannot be done from home or even outside the workplace.
The most common examples of such roles are those in manufacturing, engineering, construction, and, of course retail. But every industry has certain roles that either cannot be done remotely or that a company prefers to manage in-house.
Add to that the fact that not all employers are set up for or have fully embraced remote work and you can see why there is certainly a need to manage expectations.
Further investment in infrastructure required
Ireland is working hard to bring itself into the digital era, but these things take time. For those who live in urban or suburban areas, access to reliable broadband is almost a given. However, for those in rural areas, things are very different.
The National Broadband Plan is currently being implemented by National Broadband Ireland (NBI). The plan aims to bring high-speed internet access to as many rural areas as possible over the coming years. According to the NBI, the majority of the rollout plan will be complete in the next 5-7 years.
This means that currently, there are many rural areas in the country that have very low connection speeds making working from home a near impossible task. Even when the rollout is complete, some of these areas will still have no high-speed broadband access as the population density is too low for further investment or existing internet speeds are considered adequate. But as we all know, adequate doesn’t quite cut the proverbial mustard when it comes to Zoom meetings.
Unfortunately, this is another reason why remote work isn’t a feasible option for some candidates. If they don’t live in an area with the right infrastructure, they simply can’t work from home.
What about co-working hubs?
Co-working hubs are becoming increasingly popular throughout the country. This is particularly true in the West and Northwest of Ireland. These hubs offer hot desks with broadband access and other in-office facilities. They also offer a great opportunity for networking with the local business community.
It’s these co-working hubs that could prove to be the key to enabling remote work for professionals living in rural communities. Although they may need to commute to the hub, it will still allow them to live outside urban areas where the cost of living is higher. Not quite the ‘work from home’ dream but close enough for some.
So will it become a reality?
Remote work in Ireland is already a reality but more through necessity than design. That said, the remote working alliance is aiming to change that perspective particularly from an employer’s standpoint. The hope is that this will encourage more employers to follow suit and embrace remote work.
But as noted earlier, remote work is only a feasible option for certain types of roles and for those who live in areas that have the right infrastructure in place.
So the answer is yes, the option to work remotely will certainly become more widespread than it is now—just not for everyone.
Are you thinking about making a change in your career or seeking a new challenge? While we can’t guarantee remote work as a benefit, we can certainly offer some advice on what your options are moving forward. Get in touch with us today and let’s talk about the next step in your career.