While the COVID pandemic has caused upheaval on a global scale, killing thousands and completely changing the way we live and work, it has also had some consequences which could not have been foreseen, and have actually been positive as well. There has been a surge in remote work, for example, and many people suggest that this could now be the way that companies work, with no need for large physical offices, and people allowed to work from the safety and comfort of their homes. However, it is not as simple as just sitting down at your couch and plugging in your laptop.
Often, employees need specific apps and programs to work, while internet bandwidth at home might not be conducive to working with programs which need a lot of internet speed and processing power. It is here that digital hubs could be the answer, and Ireland is paving the way for this innovative way of tackling the current work scenario.
There are surveys which say that 80% of workers favour a hybrid working model, where they would be working remotely for a few days during the week, and from the office during the rest of the time. Additionally, many people have said that they would not want to go back to the system as it was before the pandemic hit.
The Irish government has put in place measures to deal with this, by accelerating funding for digital hubs. Digital hubs are centres for remote workers to work from, allowing them to experience the benefits of an office environment without needing to go to their actual place of work. They provide the opportunity to interact with workers from other businesses and organizations, while also having a positive environmental impact, as commuter journeys and carbon emissions are reduced.
The Galway Technology Centre, set up in 1994, is one of the best examples of such a hub. It has a thriving startup environment, with an O’Briens cafe on site for refreshment. There are many international companies which use the centre for their remote employees, with excellent facilities and recreational options, such as yoga classes, creating a world-class working environment.
Even with the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, the centre has been able to meet and even exceed safety norms and regulations. For example, MedScan3D, one of the companies which works out of the centre, has created anti-bacterial lightswitch covers, which have been implemented throughout the campus. This is in keeping with how most companies are prioritizing employee and customer welfare at this time. We are even seeing firms dealing in online casino games or land-based casinos take measures to protect their customers and employees. As an example, Matsui Gaming has recently launched the Nova Guard Chip Protect chip, which has an anti-microbial material coated into the plastic rim and centrepiece of every chip. Using these chips can remove the need to sanitize them after every use, thus creating a safer environment for casino users. Another company, Gary Platt Manufacturing, has launched a range of anti-microbial fabrics which can be used for casino seating and upholstery.
These digital hubs are one of the best ways for companies to continue working during these uncertain times. Certain businesses, such as Shopify, which have a completely remote workforce in Ireland, have been using such hubs for team meetings and project groups.
At the same time, it is not just organizations which use these centres. Individuals who work on a freelance basis, or are self-employed and just starting out with their own small ventures, also use these hubs as a working space, as well as a location to meet and interact with other like-minded individuals. One of the risks of working from home is isolation and loneliness, and digital hubs like these can help mitigate those risks, providing a positive environment which can only improve a person’s work output.