New network of remote working hubs a ‘game-changer for rural Ireland’

State-backed initiative goes live on Monday next, with 100 hubs on board by year-end

Among the areas in which hubs will be situated is Swinford in Co Mayo, where an 18th century courthouse has been refurbished

Plans to establish a national network of more than 400 remote working hubs are well advanced, with the State-backed initiative expected to launch next week.

Responding to questions in the Dáil earlier this week, Minister for Rural and Community Development Heather Humphreys said over 300 hubs have been surveyed for possible inclusion in the network, with at least 40 expected to be included at the time of the launch on Monday next. More than 100 hubs are expected to be on board by the end of 2021.

The hubs will share back-office services, and there will be a common booking platform for hub-users, meaning they are not restricted in terms of where they choose to be based.

The network, which will allow people to work nearer their homes and avoid long commutes, is being created as a response to the Covid crisis and the impact it has had on working patterns.

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In Budget 2021 €5 million was allocated for the development of remote hubs with a possibility that civil servants may also have the option to use them to work as well as businesses and individuals.

“We have mapped out 326 hubs and another 43 are in progress, so we will soon have close to 400 hubs mapped out. That is a mixture of private sector hubs and local authority and public sector hubs. We have been working with local authorities and communities throughout the country in developing these facilities. We want to improve the facilities which are there and encourage more people to take up the option of working in a co-working space,” Ms Humphreys said.

“We all know Covid-19 has taught us one thing, that we can change and have a better quality of life, and we do not need sit for hours in traffic when we can work from home.

Better place

“A co-working space is a better place to go, so we have identified this network of hubs and we want to facilitate people. They can go online and book their hub and there are advantages to the hub operators engaging with us in this process,” she added.

Among the areas in which hubs will be situated is Swinford in Co Mayo, where an 18th century courthouse has been refurbished.

“Not alone is the fund supporting remote working and enabling people to work locally in the west, it is giving an old building a new 21st century use,” Ms Humphreys said.

The Minister added that she could envisage people travelling the Wild Atlantic Way being able to book a desk for a short period of time so they could combine work and leisure activities if they wished. "This is the game-changer we all need for rural Ireland. "

Charlie Taylor

Charlie Taylor

Charlie Taylor is a former Irish Times business journalist