Co-working hubs capitalise on commuting grind fatigue

As workers and employers adjust to the changes imposed by Covid-19, a group of  Laois remote working hubs have joined forces in a bid to position the midlands county as the co-working centre of Ireland.

The Laois Hubs Collective, made up of six remote working centres, has been launched to highlight the facilities available to accommodate a range of employers, workers and start-ups.

Paddy Buggy, spokesperson for the Laois Hubs Collective and manager of the Mountmellick-based Webmill Hub, contended that remote working is the new face of working in Ireland.

“Current research shows that co-working hubs are more relevant and suitable in the current employment market than ever before. This pandemic has shown that working can be done differently with all the associated productivity, efficiency and output,” he said.

“Our six co-working hubs spread throughout Laois are state-of-the art facilities with all the amenities that people expect and are used to and truly offer people real choice, flexibility and opportunities. The benefits are truly enormous. People can rent space on an hourly, daily, weekly and monthly basis,” Paddy said.

Safe working environment

The hubs, he said, have all the necessary social distancing requirements for a safe working environment. Every hub has its own amenities and facilities, be it a gym or a creche, on-site restaurant and coffee docks, tennis courts and showers.

“The start-up costs associated in getting a new business up and running are negated by shared spaces and it means that people who may have been restrained by financial considerations can go ahead and open up a business,” said Paddy.

The co-working spaces lend themselves to a spirit of great vibrancy and dynamism. People are independent yet supported if needs be. They are connected yet self-contained. There is a great symbiosis that is organic.

“There are networking opportunities for business and people don’t have the isolation they may feel working from home. There is always someone available to help if needs be but they are totally independent as well. The hubs give great structure to their working lives,” he said.

“The benefits of working and living locally are well chronicled. When workers face long commutes, they can’t be as productive. It takes a huge toll on them, their families and their overall quality of life and there is a growing recognition of this among employers and this is being copper fastened by the pandemic.

“Employers find it easier to recruit and retain employees when the working environment is good,” Paddy said.

Laois has so much to offer from so many points of interest: geographically; socially; and financially. Before Covid-19 there were 13,000 people leaving Laois every day to work in other counties and we want to harness those.

“We have a very young population who want flexibility in their working arrangements and with our great co-working spaces we can offer them choice.

“A variety of places to do business will have the knock-on effect of encouraging families to move to Laois and that would be beneficial for the entire business community as people spend in the areas they live,” Paddy said.

“Communities benefit. There is a new life and vibrancy in areas with co-working hubs with local shops and other businesses getting a bounce, it feeds into rural regeneration.

“Another critical point is the huge positive impact on the environment. Less commuting means less damaging carbon emissions. It’s critically important and is a priority for businesses and workers alike,” he said.

Growth

“Laois is ideally placed to take advantage of our ‘new’ changed working environment. It is literally in the centre of Ireland with excellent infrastructure and connectivity and I firmly believe it is ideally positioned for huge growth over the next few years,” the spokesperson said.

“There is a great geographical spread in our six hubs meaning they are accessible from neighbouring counties as Laois borders on four other counties: Kildare; Carlow; Offaly; and Tipperary.

“Laois is also serviced by three railway stations: Portarlington in the north of the county; Portlaoise in the centre; and Ballybrophy in the south of the county, five minutes from Rathdowney.”

Bernie Moloney of the new Erkina digital hub in Rathdowney said there is no doubt that working life has changed, and this is cemented by the pandemic.

I can’t really see people prepared to make arduous and long commutes anymore. There is simply no reason to do so. People love the flexibility that working from hubs gives them. More and more employers are realising that workers give their best when they are facilitated, working harder but better.

Stan Lalor, manager of a technical sales division of fertiliser and agri-products wholesale company, Grassland AGRO, has been using the Bloom HQ hot desking facilities since September.

He is based in Limerick but travels all over Ireland with his work. Living close to Mountrath, having the option of using Bloom HQ as a hot desk has been a great addition to add flexibility to his working life, he said.

Image source: O’Gorman Photography

Saving hours driving

On days when Stan doesn’t have any meetings scheduled, he can save two hours of driving by using the Bloom HQ office rather than having to travel to a company site.

When travelling for meetings, having the Bloom HQ office facility close to home allows him to call in to tidy up any office tasks that need attention before arriving home.

“I couldn’t believe how well the Bloom HQ facilities are designed, decorated and fitted out. Everything you need is there. There are people there to meet during the day but there is also good privacy to get work done,” Stan said.

It’s less stressful and saves a lot of driving. My working day is shorter, but I get more work done. Being able to have a place to ‘work’ so close to home is a great way of keeping work and home separated. This is a big plus for family life.

Damien O’Connor of Ellickson Engineering has been working out of the Portarlington Enterprise Centre innovation hub for the past 18 months, running the sales operation of the company.

“Myself and my colleague work from here and it is fantastic. We have everything we need to work effectively and smartly. Our head office is based in Waterford and, as we live in Portarlington, it just makes more sense from a business perspective to work from here.

“We are not losing hours in traffic and are instead using that time to up our productivity. It is working so well that we are planning to expand and take on two more people.

“I couldn’t recommend it highly enough; it has had an incredible positive effect on our working and personal lives too. Co-working hubs are the way forward,” he said.

Endless possibilities and opportunities

Bernie Everard, CEO Laois Chamber of Commerce, said that Laois had led the way in championing co-working hubs.

“There has been huge vision and insight shown by the various enterprises and individuals who have created these spaces which offer endless possibilities and opportunities for people. There is such energy and entrepreneurial spirit in Laois and this is being harnessed by the presence of the co-working hubs.”

The establishment of the Laois Hubs Collective couldn’t be more timely, Bernie contended.

“There is a recognition now that the traditional version and model of work has changed, that location is often secondary to performance and productivity and both employers and workers are seeing work through a new prism, one that offers more flexibility and opportunity and they are eager to adapt.

“I firmly believe that many businesses will now consider hybrid remote working solutions for their employees,” she said.

“The benefits of co-working hubs are enormous, and Laois is ideally positioned to attract more and more remote workers who can benefit from the excellent services and supports provided as well as enjoying a better working life and improved quality of life,” said the Chamber CEO.

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