A remote employee is someone who is employed by a company, but works outside of a traditional office environment. This could mean working from a local coworking space, from home, at a coffee shop, or in a city across the world (H/T Remote Year).
From a local community’s perspective, remote work is important as it is a way to gain more equal access to employment that was traditionally confined to urban centres.
In the last number of years, Irish communities had begun to look to startups as a way to generate local employment. Aided by a well functioning startup ecosystem, government agencies, funding, and then the town templates for digital hubs.
As we built 210+ spaces, we began to look outside startups and to remote employment. A year ago, after a year of working on it, Joe set up a WhatsApp group for everyone who was curious about it, and backing that up with local action.
Our challenge was to really understand remote work, and make it happen locally ‘activating’ it. Since July of last year, we’ve learnt lots of lessons including that from a local community’s perspective, there are 4 streams of remote employment.
Stream → Fully Distributed
These companies have no offices. They include Buffer, Zapier, Doist, 10up and Close.io, Gitlab, Github, Hotjar. They employ across timezones. Type in the most remote location that you know of in Europe and you’ll find 341 currently open roles, right there, right now.
Local Activation Challenge — → Those companies aren’t on the books of local recruiters, they’re not on Ireland’s largest jobs board, jobs.ie, and they’re not on the main street. They’re not visible and therefore not accessible.
Local Activation Solution — -> This form of employment is essentially democratised, ultimately meaning we need to educate our individuals so that they know where to look and find this work.
At Grow Remote, Patrick built this guide, which local leaders can use to create and foster communities of remote workers locally, John built Ireland’s first free to list remote jobs board, and people like Shauna run regular ‘finding remote work’ workshops.
Stream → FDI
Foreign Direct Investment is separated because of how it originates, and also because of the restrictions. In Ireland this includes Wayfair and Shopify who were brought here by IDA and have a number of jobs ring fenced to Ireland specifically.
Technically, communities benefit more from FDI than fully distributed companies as FDI companies hire only in Ireland, reducing the competition from an entire timezone to just an island.
Because of how they originate, the jobs often come with a traditional announcement, a press release, a celebration and news in the media. This is really useful as it makes the jobs far more local than the fully distributed ones.
Local Activation Challenge — → Similar to fully distributed, it’s hard to make these jobs known to the communities who need them most. If they don’t catch the press release, the jobs go back into the ether.
Local Activation Solution — -> Local leaders use school talks, posters and meetups to promote the roles, and because Ireland is so small, it’s incredibly easy to introduce communities to employees of these companies directly.
Local meetups packed with remote ready talent can help sell Ireland as a good base for remote employers and build one pool from which they can target that talent.
Stream — -> Traditional SMEs
The Small Firms Association will tell you that for the first time in some years, the number one challenge of their members is access to and retention of talent.
In Ireland, a lot of SMEs have accidentally gone remote. One person moved on and they were allowed to take the job with them. They’re quite motivated to employ remotely, and small enough to be able to adopt the practice with pace.
Local Activation Challenge — → Even where SMEs employ remotely, they don’t advertise that per say and if they do, it might be at the end of a job spec. We can’t apply for jobs we can’t see and in turn, the companies won’t see the benefit of access to a bigger talent pool.
Local Activation Solution — -> At Grow Remote, Rebecca leads the case studies project so that we can capture and promote the companies who hire remotely. Our monthly and yearly events bring along these companies to speak, and again, they can list the jobs for free on Ireland’s first remote jobs board remotejobsireland.com.
Stream — -> Big enterprise/Public Service
Can you imagine a role as the head of branding in Ulster Bank or Tesco being advertised location less? We can. Bank of Ireland recently spoke about it at our events, and in Fora here.
Further, this Dept of finance document highlights that “The Programme for Prosperity and Fairness (PPF) commits the Government to introduce teleworking options into mainstream public service employment by 2002.”
These organisations adopting remote working is a huge body of work that will transform their model. It won’t happen over night, but it will make a tremendous impact when it happens.
Local Activation Challenge — → Fundamentally, the jobs aren’t there. And if they are, they’re hidden. At one meetup in a rural community, everyone was introducing themselves to one another. Here’s how it worked:
Person 1: “I work for x, I’ve been there for 10 years, I do Y”
Us: “Oh brilliant, we’re in with their employee experience team next week…”
Person 1: “Oh don’t mention me, I just got a one off deal, I wouldn’t want to rock the boat!”
Person 2: “Ha! You got a one off deal, I work for them, so did I!”
Jobs in big enterprises aren’t originating in our local communities, and where one off deals happen, it’s often not backed up by company policy and procedure. We don’t believe one off deals are a sustainable form of employment.
This stream needs to be addressed at the root – in the offices of senior leadership. They often won’t listen to communities but they will listen to talent particularly now as we’re at full employment.
Local Activation Solution — ->
We can foster communities locally that build beacons for remote work and make a place for remote workers to come out from their homes and meet. With that, we can equip talent with the resources they need to make change from the inside. We use this pack by Doist and offer a series of free office hours for leaders.
There is no money in making remote work local and that is the problem. When we tried to advertise these jobs on local radio stations the answer was a resounding no because we couldn’t pay. The traditional employment paths aren’t equipped to drive remote work locally, so it must be a wholly community effort that makes it happen, and impact, in our local communities.
For more details, we’re always on www.growremote.ie.