Network of remote working hubs planned

Cavan County Council is leading the way for the development of remote working hubs across the county.

Bailieborough Courthouse is one such hub already operational and facilitating hot-desking for remote workers; while the Council harbours plans to create additional spaces with the redevelopment of the Percy French Hotel in Ballyjamesduff, and the Market House in Ballyconnell.

On top of that, together with a Community Services building, the local authority hopes to incorporate a more centralised hub location in Cavan Town, as part of their overarching Abbeylands plan.

Director of Services Brendan Jennings revealed the plans at the November meeting of Cavan County Council in response to a query by Fianna Fáil’s John Paul Feeley on the development of remote working hubs.

His question follows a commitment by government to pump €12 million into supporting the provision of 10,000 remote working spaces in towns across Ireland. The new fund is being delivered through Enterprise Ireland.

The news was guided by a survey, which showed a massive 94% of workers prefer to work from home.

The National University of Ireland Galway (NUIG) analysis showed a significant increase of 11% in the number of people who want to work from home since a poll at the start of lockdown. Just six per cent said they did not wish to work remotely, which was a drop from 16% in April.

The NUIG survey found that almost one in four people polled would also consider relocating within Ireland based on their experience of remote working since Covid-19; while seven per cent said they had already moved.

At the November meeting, Cllr Feeley suggested the importance of co-working and incubation spaces in regional locations was highlighted by the Covid pandemic.

He praise tood the role of the Cavan Digital Hub in facilitating remote working, and highlighted other remote hub networks that are being developed elsewhere, like in Tipperary, to great effect.

There was some tension when Fine Gael’s Val Smith remarked he was delighted to see Cllr Feeley come round to “my way of thinking” on the subject, indicating that he had ploughed a loan furrow in fighting for the Digital Hub to be developed where it currently stands.

He praised the council’s commitment to the project, and hoped it could be developed further in future.

In response, Cllr Feeley said it was the job of all local representatives to explore all options.

He reminded that he had raised the need for such an initiative as far back as 2012, and in subsequent years also, and added that he made “no apologies” in fighting for investment in the county. “We all work on behalf of the county,” said Cllr Feeley.

The motion was supported by the Cathaoirleach, Aontú’s Sarah O’Reilly.

Director of Services Brendan Jennings clarified that remote working hubs were different to the digital hubs, the latter being a fully-serviced and staffed work space targeting tech companies for example. Remote working spaces by their nature are “smaller” and more independent.

Mr Jennings said that the hub in Bailieborough was working well, and the idea was to replicate that success elsewhere.

Of the digital hub, Mr Jennings informed the meeting that there were several key tenants currently in situ.

While Covid had stalled growth for a period, that had since returned, with high demand for temporary spaces already on the books.