Can’t work at home? Done with the commute? Meet the hybrids

New work from home/office hybrids to try

Megan O’Brien, community manager at Business Barn in Leixlip.

Megan O’Brien, community manager at Business Barn in Leixlip.

 

Remote working arrangements took off during the pandemic and we now know it’s set to continue in some form or other for many. Four big employers – Vodafone, ESB, ebay and Liberty Insurance – recently launched the first “remote working alliance”; the Government is pushing its connected hubs and, most tellingly of all, jobseekers will have noticed employment websites, such as Indeed and Linkedin, have introduced search filters for “remote” only positions.

This means co-working spaces, previously very much associated with technology start-ups and the self-employed, are set to become increasingly relevant for a broader range of people. Many of these run on a membership basis and their success will pivot on whether big organisations start offering membership as a perk. The entry level basic could be a hot desk (no allocated space), with a dedicated space costing more (a regular desk where you can leave your monitor), while the high end could offer a private office.

A whole industry has mushroomed overnight to service this new market, here’s a selection of what’s on offer, and what it costs.

National Hub Network The Western Development Commission is running a government initiative to bring individual hubs together and chief executive Tomás Ó’Síocháin says they advocate for remote work, and aim to make it a seamless option for employees, employers and hub owners

“We aren’t building the national network of hubs, rather we help develop hubs [with grant aid] and bring them together in a network which allows people to book through the common booking engine,” he said. “We help with administration issues such as collective billing ; let’s say a company has 100 people spread across 50 hubs, we create one bill per month.”

He is projecting about 15,000 available seats based on 100 hubs in the Atlantic Economic Corridor, though when covid restrictions lift fully there will be more.

Stephen Carolan, hubs programme manager, says the hubs give companies access to a greater pool of talent. “We are hoping to position hubs as a perk of additional flexibility HR can offer to candidates as they recruit.”

The website connectedhubs.iehas 140 hubs already listed – there are five types ranging from R&D hubs to enterprise centres. Search under date and location and it gives prices, detailed options, availability and booking.

Case study: Sneem Digital hub

Facilities at Sneem Digital Hub.
Facilities at Sneem Digital Hub.


This non-profit hub opened in April 2019, so is still finding its feet. Manager Aidan Murray says they have a wide mix of users. “Today we have a worker from Waterford Institute of Technology, a financial controller for an air leasing company and a marketing person at one of the big banks,” he says.

“In summer many take a desk for six weeks. They tell us they get as much done here in four or five hours with no traffic jams or office politics”.

The damage? There are seasonal differences but right now a dedicated monthly desk costs €272.40, a hot desk for one day €22.70, a private office €681 per month (€56.75 per day and €227per week). Like all prices on the connectedhubs.ie website these include VAT.

What’s on offer? Working in one of the most beautiful parts of the country; 24-hour access, desk locker, shared kitchen space, privacy booths, parking and meeting rooms.

Why here? They are promoting a concierge-type service to offer information on the local area. Access 24/7 is handy - one man teaches Chinese online in the middle of the night, and a number of people work US hours from 2pm to 10pm.

Any bad news? Not much of a buzz in winter but who knows, with time it could be jammed.

Information: connectedhubs.ie

Independent co-working spaces
There are about 40 small co-working providers around the country. The model in these small places tends to be a community atmosphere, reasonable prices and no hidden costs.

In recent years a number have popped up along the commuter belt. Danny O’Brien set up Business Barn in Leixlip in 2018 on his parents’ land. It was originally conceived as a workspace for his consultancy work after returning from London where he worked in a shared workspace in an old industrial building.

He also works for a venture capital company while his sister Megan manages the day-to-day running of the hub which has about 25 seats and six offices. They closed for lockdown and reopened in July and he says he now has a waiting list for when covid restrictions ease fully. He says customers like being near their children’s schools and will be unlikely to hit the big commute again.

Case study: Coworkinn, Sandyford

Mike Hannigan, manager of coworkinn in The Cube offices, Beacon South Quarter, Sandyford. Photograph: Alan Betson/The Irish Times
Mike Hannigan, manager of coworkinn in The Cube offices, Beacon South Quarter, Sandyford. Photograph: Alan Betson/The Irish Times


Owner Mike Hannigan was one of the first in Ireland to run a shared working space when he set up Coworkinn in Sandyford 11 years ago.

He has about 20 desks (30 pre-covid) and he is not entirely convinced remote working will take off in the way that has been predicted. Many of his remote workers have just returned to their offices – his remaining clients are self-employed, with one team working remotely from their employer in Poland and the US.

Coworkinn at The Cube offices, Beacon South Quarter, Sandyford. Photograph: Alan Betson/The Irish Times
Coworkinn at The Cube offices, Beacon South Quarter, Sandyford. Photograph: Alan Betson/The Irish Times

Hannigan describes the atmosphere as “informal, more a community than an office” and this was evidenced by the small group chatting in the kitchen.

Dan, a developer with an accounting software firm, works there with his colleague Amo (who has a stand-up desk). He was recently offered a job in Dún Laoghaire but says he prefers his cycle into Sandyford and the laid-back environment.

Amo (standing) and Dan at Coworkinn at The Cube offices in Beacon South Quarter, Sandyford, Photograph: Alan Betson/The Irish Times
Amo (standing) and Dan at Coworkinn at The Cube offices in Beacon South Quarter, Sandyford, Photograph: Alan Betson/The Irish Times

Tony, a reseller of marketing software, comes in from Bray every day. He also has an office in Regus at the airport where he meets clients from Northern Ireland. “ I could work from home but prefer here, you go bonkers at home. I put on my headphones and work away and can chat with the guys when I take a break,” he says.

What’s the damage? It’s €295 for full-time hot desking per month; €245 for three days weekly per month; and €195 for two days weekly per month (prices exclude VAT).

What’s on offer? A welcoming vibe. Hannigan opens at 6am but you can stay as late as you want and he’ll provide a key for earlier access. You are supposed to hot desk but it’s clear from family photographs on monitors you can pick your spot. Free use of the “skype box” (showing its age) or meeting room. Printing is 5 cent, 29 cent for coloured.

Why here? Friendly atmosphere. Nice space – split level, lots of glass

Any bad news? The risk of someone with a booming voice working the phone all day. (Hannigan said this happened once and he had to have a word.)

Information: coworkinn.com

Local Library

Work and study space at Wicklow library.
Work and study space at Wicklow library.

If you have a good set-up at home and only need a pressure release valve this could be your second space. As early as 2018 libraries were gearing up to appeal to remote workers, with the release of the latest national library plan envisioning “workstation facilities for hot desking”.

Before the pandemic about one in 12 libraries had started allowing members access the building outside opening hours. Stuart Hamilton, head of libraries development in the local government sector, says once social distancing rules fully relax the plan is to quickly beef up this scheme.

“After October 22nd there will be 28 libraries immediately continuing with the My Open Library service which lets members use their card to get into the library and we expect to double this, or even more, this year. It’s all part of a bigger strategy [Public Libraries 2022] to bring the number of libraries offering this service to 100,” Hamilton says.

In Wicklow town a beautiful new library opened in August last year and it will launch its My Open Library from November with rows of desks overlooking Wicklow harbour.

“Not every local authority is lucky enough to have a lexicon with multiple meeting rooms, but every authority is ready to go with My Open Library and we feel there is a big role for us supporting remote work. For those wanting to mix up home working they can head to their library, pop on headphones and work there a few mornings a week.”

Hamilton says all upgrades and new buildings are now being designed with remote working in mind – next year there are new libraries planned for Kilkenny and Swords, and Limerick city is getting an upgrade. They are also working with rural government to include libraries like Edenderry in Offaly in the connected hub network.

Case study : Trim Library
Manager Shauna Smith said pre-pandemic the My Open Library service was a “huge success” with more than 600 members using it.

“We had people who ran their own business, mums returning to study would come after drop off. On a Sunday many would be in. We are in a temporary building now [in Mill street] as our library is being expanded to include a theatre and cultural centre, but four other libraries in the Meath area will soon offer My Open Library, she said.

The damage? Zilch. Nada. Libraries are the best.

What’s on offer? Your sanity. Free wifi, scanning, photocopying and printing here costs 29 cent a page.

Why here? It’s free and you’re surrounded by lovely books if you get distracted.

Any bad news? Not the location for Zoom calls or meetings with clients. You can’t book a desk and around exam time you’ll be vying with the students for desks.

Information: librariesireland.ie

High End
Fancy providers include Huckletree and Iconic Offices where premium prices mean all the services tend to be included. Good for impressing clients and maintaining standards to which you were previously accustomed.

Case study: Glandore

Mary McCarthy tries the facilities at Glandore which has six buildings in Dublin, two in Belfast and one in Cork.
Mary McCarthy tries the facilities at Glandore which has six buildings in Dublin, two in Belfast and one in Cork.


Glandore has six buildings in Dublin, two in Belfast, one in Cork with a mix of private offices, co-working spaces and serviced offices. Perfect if you’re on the hunt for premium swank (and can bankroll it).

I spent a morning hot desking in the Fitzwilliam Court building which has a range of seating areas and a row of soundproof booths. The bright, airy environment rubbed off on me. I sailed out with a day’s work done in three hours feeling maybe super successful.

There were a few people dotted around the place, a creative-looking group in the corner were having a breakout discussion, but the place is set up so you don’t notice.

What’s the damage? Depending on location, size of suite and length of term prices vary. On average hot desks are €350-450 (plus VAT) per month, private office desks €750-800 (plus VAT) per month. A hot desker told me it’s worth it to negotiate as she wheeled and dealed a locker into her membership.

What’s on offer? Everything is included except some IT services. Some printing included. You can stay longer than reception hours but there is an alarm routine you need to go through. There is a fridge and a microwave. nice coffee machine but no decaf.

Why here? Obliging staff and well run.

Any bad news? It’s pricey; you would want to get the use. In the hot desk space they were playing Spin Fm and had Sky TV on low, which did not bother me, but might annoy some. More fancy hotel than collegial work vibe.

Information : https://glandore.co/

The Chain

Case study : Regus

Regus reception.
Regus reception.


Regus is owned by IWG, a holding company that provides serviced offices under several brand names worldwide. It has 10 buildings in Dublin, three in Cork (one just opened), two in Limerick. The Sandyford office is shiny and feels like any standard open plan office.

I sat down beside Cathal Byrne, a software developer with his own company Arrow Design. He says most people just come here to work, there isn’t really a social vibe but it provides the perfect level of hustle and bustle for him to concentrate. “I could easily work from home but I get more done here. I went out on my own a few years ago and I chuckle now when I see people just realising at the 18-month mark how isolating it is at home,” he says.

What’s the damage? Prices decrease with longer-term commitment; €107 per month covers a hot desk during reception hours from 9am-5pm. You can upgrade to a co-working desk membership (€122) which offers a co-working desk five days a month or a private office membership (€222) lets you book an office five days a month on top of the hot desking. A dedicated desk with 24/7 access starts at €300 a month and in Cork and Limerick it’s €210.(Prices don’t include VAT.)

What’s on offer? Professional and reliable office setting.

Why here? With a membership you can pop into any 3,500 Regus offices worldwide.

Any bad news? The serviced office vibe can feel clinical. You pay for extras such as meeting rooms. A coffee cost €1.50.

Information: paddy.daly@regus.com