Remote Working Conference 2019

Remote Working Conference, Tullamore, 8 March 2019

The benefits of remote working to both employers, employees and communities were highlighted at a national conference in Tullamore on Friday 8th March.  The conference entitled “Remote Working – Practical Insights and Approaches” was organised by the Local Enterprise Office in Offaly in collaboration with The Junction Business Innovation Centre in Tullamore.

Remote working is defined as employees working one day or more a week off-site. This could be from home, the library/coffee shop, or from a co-working hub. According to CSO Labour Force Survey, over 200,000 people in Ireland do some form of Remote Working.

Some video highlights available on the This is Offaly YouTube Channel

Presentations from the conference are available below:

John Riordan – Director of Support, Shopify "The benefits of Remote Working as an Employer"         

Tracy Keogh, Grow Remote "Remote Working as a Community: linking Jobs and Employee"

Rory O’Keeffe, Software Engineer, Hotjar "Remote working as a life choice – the good, the bad and the flexibility"

Geraldine Beirne, LEO Offaly "Supports for Remote Working"

Opening the conference, Orla Martin, Head of Enterprise, LEO Offaly commented that in many towns and villages, the infrastructure and software is available to facilitate Remote Working. The purpose of this conference was to highlight practical ways to make it a success for employers, employees and communities.

With the array of cloud based services and co-working hubs, there is less and less need for the daily commute. It saves money for the employer and employee, and increases productivity. There is also the positive impact on climate change – less people on the road, means less pollution. The rural economy can benefit from the increased local spend – less money spent on travel costs, and more time for leisure, equates to more money spent on recreation and entertainment.

John Riordan, Director of Support, Shopify Ireland explained that Shopify employs over 250 people and yet had no office – every employee is a remote worker. In a very engaging presentation, he described their business model, how it works in practice and how it can benefit employers and employees. He spoke about younger employees (Millennials) seeking an alternative to the standard office based employment.

Therese Philbin, EMEA HR Manager, AirBnB, spoke about how giving flexibility around remote working helps staff retention. By allowing people to work even 1 or 2 days a week from home or a local co-working space can mean they can keep key staff. Therese gave practical tips on how businesses can pilot, perfect and scale remote working and cited the importance of good communication, setting clear expectations, and ensuring the remote worker has the appropriate software and tools to do their job effectively.

Tracy Keogh from Grow Remote, a voluntary group set up to raise awareness of remote working, spoke about linking jobs and employees and the benefits of remote working to the rural communities.  She highlighted the need to spread the word on remote working as a real alternative and opportunity for small towns and villages across Ireland.

Rory O’Keeffe, a software engineer with Hotjar gave his first-hand experience of being a remote worker. He spoke about the practicalities including the importance of having a dedicated work space, making sure to communicate effectively with your coworkers, and incorporating exercise in to your day.

Other speakers included Caroline Spollen, Business Development Manager of The Junction Business Innovation Centre in Tullamore and Geraldine Beirne, Business Advisor, Local Enterprise Office Offaly.

Geraldine spoke about the supports available for remote working and gave examples of co-working spaces in Offaly. She highlighted two new co-working spaces, STREAM creative suite in Birr and eHive in Edenderry, both which will be available later this year.

She also gave details of the policy suggestions that the Local Enterprise Office in Offaly County Council presented to the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Rural and Community Development on February 20th last.  These included developing a national policy on remote working and introducing appropriate legislation, public sector pilots, employer incentives and enhanced salary supports for co-working hub managers.

The meeting on February 20th was a follow up to the previous committee meeting held on February 6th where Tracy Keogh of Grow Remote spoke about remote working and its potential to have a positive impact on rural communities.

The conference on 8th March was timely, given the launch yesterday (10th March) of ‘Future Jobs Ireland 2019: Preparing Now for Tomorrow’s Economy’.

Orla Martin, Head of Enterprise in Offaly welcomed the report and in particular Ambition 4.2: Foster participation in the labour force through flexible working solutions. “The publication of this report and its recommendations is a very positive move by Government and acknowledges the benefits flexible working can have on both employers and employees” she stated. “At our conference just last Friday, we were acutely aware of the growing interest in this area, with a lively Q&A, from a very engaged audience”. “We are pleased to be involved in the discussion on remote working and raising awareness of the win-win that it represents to the local economy” she added.