How lowering the daily commute could boost Irish competitiveness

By John Daly

Inextricably tied to home ownership, access to suburban commuter lines, and the increasing gridlock in our major cities, commuting to and from work has become one of the more persistent purgatories of modern life in Ireland. ‘Commuting hell’ is one of the phrases of our time.

Yet, for an increasing cohort of workers, life is no longer defined by traffic, stress and road rage — but, rather, a lifestyle and mind-set based around remote-working, flexible hours, and the independence of keeping their own schedules.

Ireland can become a haven for remote-networking, attracting high-value labour to all parts of the country, while easing demand on high-cost housing and rents in major cities.

Such was the message delivered at the inaugural Grow Remote conference for remote- and smart-working.

Comprised of co-working managers, freelancers, nomadic workers and remote-working companies, Grow Remote believes that developing a community around remote-working is key to building thriving rural communities, and that Ireland can thus utilise significant opportunities right across the country.

With 220,000 remote workers operating here, the group’s aim to build a full community will require an infrastructure of spaces, broadband and online connection platforms, allied to community advocates, resources and education.

Given that half of the workforce is set to be remote by 2040, the requirement for a unified connection to promote opportunities is as timely as it is needed.

Right now, there are 1,000 jobs in rural Ireland, but there is a disconnect between us and them, goes the Grow Remote thinking.

Encouraging remote-working could strengthen Ireland’s sales pitch for foreign direct investment, at a time when many countries are competing aggressively for it.

“If we figure out a way to approach this as a service, a science and a discipline, that we are known as the remote-working country, it is another aspect of our global value proposition that we could sell,” said Denis Collins, CEO of Smarter Dynamix and chair of IDA Ireland’s regional development committee.

It is a point echoed by Adam Coleman, CEO and owner of human resources software, HRLocker. “If you want to really rejuvenate environments, you have to bring knowledge jobs, because when knowledge jobs arrive, money arrives.”

His company has customers in 40 countries, with Mr Coleman himself working from Lahinch, on the western edge of Co Clare.

Who knows, when it comes to compiling the popular parlance at the end of 2019, perhaps ‘remote-working’ will be a phrase on everybody’s lips.


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