Today, we launch our biggest action for change since we began.
When we started in 2018 we were frustrated. We were tired of hearing remote work could stop the commute, yet seeing people leave our communities daily. We were tired of hearing companies speaking about remote work, but advertising in one location.
And so, we acted. We went to a train station in Tullamore to tell them about the new hub and ask them to stop the commute. In response, there were two key messages:
- Some people like the commute. Less housework, more reading time.
- The hub wouldn’t solve the problem. The problem was that their employer would not allow remote work. Even if they had a one off deal, they knew it would come at a cost to their progression.
If we really wanted to stop the commute, we were left with three options:
- Encourage them into entrepreneurship or to join a local employer
- Poach them from their employer, and get them into already remote companies like Gitlab, Automattic, etc
- Convince their employer to undertake a cultural transformation that would allow for sustainable remote work.
It was clear that the root of the challenge lay with the companies they were commuting to. At the time, they were being pressured as pre Covid 77% of staff claimed they would take a lower salary if they could work remotely. Yet still, the dial was not moved and so our question at the time was, why?
In April 2018 we brought together talent, community groups and companies for Ireland’s first remote working conference. Some HR leaders in large Irish enterprises came along. One week after the event, we took a call that was the catalyst for the alliance. It came from a senior executive in a large Irish corporation with responsibility for ways of working. They felt we had a gap. We could talk about remote first companies and how they do things, but if we wanted real, sustainable change, we needed legacy firms to change. And that was a whole other ball game.
She suggested we learn from the model of 30% club, ask companies to commit to a target of remote workers, and share learnings along the way. We needed, in her words, real leadership, people who would come out and say ‘this is hard, it hasn’t been done before , but we can solve it’.
It was at that point, that we got deeper into the root of the issue. While company leaders knew all of the benefits of remote, they didn’t know all of the risks. And, contrary to popular belief, not all employees want to work remotely. They were wondering about the effects of social isolation, employee productivity, IT protocol, siloed working, relationship building at work, insurance issues, contract issues, expense issues.
As one organisation said to us ‘we’re one insurance claim away from ruining this whole thing’.
For large enterprises, this isn’t just about implementing remote. It’s also about change management. It is a huge transformation project.
In 2018, we decided to focus on all remote companies, as creating jobs with them was more within our control. That was hard – we had 100s of people educating groups on all remote companies like Gitlab, Automattic or Auth0. But those names just weren’t landing. Remote work was too synonymous with work from home, and work from home too linked with scams or gig work.
When we have household names looking at remote work for the purposes of community development, we can drive change so much so that remote work works for profit, people and planet. And when our kids are looking for careers some years from now, they’ll wonder how jobs were ever only available within 50km of a building.
Talent is everywhere, opportunity is not. Today we change that not with polarisiation, but by working together towards a common goal.