Strategic investment in a professional network of co-working hubs is needed to support remote working, a Fine Gael Senator has said.
Dublin West Senator Emer Currie led a Private Members Motion that was passed last evening in Seanad Eireann in support of the National Remote Work Strategy, to build on its framework for long-term change and benefit individual workers and those with families.
Senator Currie, Fine Gael’s Seanad Spokesperson for Employment Affairs and Work/Life Balance, said “Covid hasn’t fixed the problems of work/life balance, workplace inequalities or regional imbalance, it’s proven we can do things differently. Where we go to from here is up to us and the National Remote Work Strategy is the starting point.
“Fine Gael in previous Governments recognised the potential of remote work with investment in enterprise hubs to the tune of €180 million, with over 300 hubs and 3,200 spaces nationally. We have also forged ahead with the National Broadband Plan which is fundamental to our digital and regional transformation.
“I now believe the Government needs to take a more proactive role in helping organisations through a ‘Remote First’ transition, with a full-scale communications campaign generating awareness of best practise and to ensure equal opportunities.
“We need to prioritise remote infrastructure in cities, towns and villages that are aligned with Project Ireland 2040 and the National Development Plan, and invest in hubs and community childcare similar to how we invest in schools.
“In my own constituency, I would like to see a co-working space on every main street in every village of Dublin 15 – where people do not have the real estate or space for home offices – which I believe is entirely achievable quicker than one would envisage.
“There has been a marked increase in the funding of Broadband Connection Points and co-working spaces in communities all around Ireland. But we need more, we need to be strategic about their location and we need development funds to be updated and made more specific to coworking hub rollout, including in Dublin.
“There are ways to get better value for money too, we could devise something similar to the “Design and Build” template for schools. This would involve having a shortlist of suppliers who will do it to higher spec, getting better value for money and ensuring less variance.
“The forthcoming Town Centre First strategy will be critical and we will need to ensure flexibility in changing planning uses from retail to offices and residential, making use of our vacant premises. The pandemic has transformed our world in ways people didn’t expect and remote work is a central part of this change. We have to work hard to ensure there is a culture of choice going forward,” Senator Currie concluded.