My Department is driving the implementation of the National Remote Work Strategy, Making Remote Work. Published on January 15th, 2021, the Strategy aims to ensure that remote work is a permanent feature in the Irish workplace in a way which maximises its economic, social and environmental benefits. The Strategy reflects the Government’s confidence that remote working can drive regional job creation and help secure more balanced regional development, and the Strategy shares many of its goals and actions with the Governments plan for rural Ireland launched in March, Our Rural Future.
Each action in the National Remote Work Strategy has been attributed to lead actors for delivery and each action is scheduled to be delivered by the end of this year. Lead actors report progress on the actions to the Interdepartmental Group (IDG) on Remote Work, of which Enterprise Ireland, IDA Ireland, and Údarás na Gaeltachta are members. This IDG has met three times this year, most recently on September 7th . At these meetings it has been established that good progress is underway to achieving the actions by their deadlines. The IDG will meet again in November to further drive the implementation of the Strategy.
The provision of remote working infrastructure to all parts of the country is crucial to successfully promoting remote work to business and workers. On May 31st, the Department of Rural and Community Development and the Western Development Commission launched Ireland’s first National Hub Network, ConnectedHubs.ie. This was followed on July 22nd with the announcement of €8.8 million in funding for 117 projects across Ireland as part of the Connected Hubs Call. This investment will contribute to the ongoing development of the National Hub Network, which already includes 134 hubs and will grow on a phased basis to over 400 hubs throughout the country. The ConnectedHubs.ie platform is being widely marketed. This investment will bring significant employment opportunities to our regions and rural communities.
The ConnectedHubs.ie platform also includes the growing Gteic innovation and digital hub network being developed by Údarás na Gaeltachta to serve our Gaeltacht communities. Promoting the use of the Gteic network for remote working by people and businesses in the Gaeltacht forms an important part of Údarás na Gaeltachta’s Strategic Plan 2021-2025.
My Department is currently developing new Regional Enterprise Plans to 2024. There will be a focus on promoting remote working opportunities and investing in infrastructures in each of the nine regions. My Department also recently announced €10 million in funding for a new Regional Enterprise Transition Scheme. This scheme is administered by Enterprise Ireland and also includes a €500,000 Feasibility Study to assist enterprise development projects, including the development of remote working and enterprise infrastructure.
Agencies under the auspices of my Department are actively promoting and facilitating remote work to their client companies and beyond. IDA Ireland is engaging with its client base to share knowledge on the implementation of remote and hybrid working arrangements. These working models being promoted with international investors as part of IDA Ireland’s balanced regional development agenda. A particular emphasis is being placed on the potential of remote work to attract and retain talent. IDA Ireland supported the ConnectedHubs.ie launch through its communication channels and social media, and the ConnectedHubs map has been incorporated into IDA’s property marketing content. A number of recent regional jobs announcements have referenced roles being open on a remote working basis.
Enterprise Ireland has developed a new employer guide to assist companies in preparing for the future of work in the post-Covid environment, with a focus on transitioning to remote, hybrid and flexible working cultures. EI has been widely promoting the guide to client companies and beyond. The guide was launched at a webinar hosted on 22nd June attended by over 200 business people. EI is also supporting The National Association of Community Enterprise Centres to promote greater use of their associate hubs to assist with the training of hub managers and teams. EI is additionally a member of the Grow Remote Advisory Panel and represents the needs of Irish indigenous industry in the move to hybrid ways of working.
On June 28th, my Department launched the ‘Making Remote Work’ campaign across broadcast, print and social media to promote the Guidance for Working Remotely webpage. This webpage acts as a central access point for employers and employees and brings together the existing State guidance, legislation and advice on remote work into one place. The webpage includes an Employer Checklist to provide employers with a quick way to successfully navigate the adoption of remote working arrangements. The ‘Making Remote Work’ campaign is continuing, and the Government is encouraging workers and employers to discuss the kinds of remote working arrangements that may be suitable for their organisations.
I am confident that these initiatives can promote the adoption of remote working arrangements by businesses and workers which will be a major driver of regional job creation.