THE positive experience of a group of remote workers in the Ennis/Clarecastle area has persuaded an Oireachtas committee to investigate how more companies can facilitate their employees to work from off-site locations.

The initiative was proposed by Clare Fine Gael TD Joe Carey, who invited members of the Grow Remote organisation to address the Oireachtas Committee on Rural and Community Development last week.

Deputy Carey, who is chairman of the committee, said that every rural community could benefit from the Grow Remote concept.

“It is such a simple idea but it works. It is about bringing everything together. There are 40 different chapters in Ireland and abroad. We need to put together a package where Grow Remote could link in with indigenous or multinational companies .Working remotely is the way to go,” he told the committee.

Describing himself as “an example of somebody who has been remote working for more than 15 years”, Paul Ellingstad who is a founder of the Grow Remote Ennis/Clarecastle chapter said that  after working for several multinational firms in the IT sector, he moved to Clare in 2007.

“I was able to do that because of the trusting relationship not only with my employer but also with my manager. I find that while more people are building those relationships, trust is still not at a point wherein should be.

“In terms of what the Government can do to support it, there is still a perception that remote working is about converting a spare bedroom into a home office and hoping there is good broadband. It is about co-working spaces and how the Government and local organisations can support them.

“If people are coming together in a co-working space, they have all the social interaction and the vibrancy of the community yet they are connected with their customers, employers or employees anywhere in the world.

“It is about encouraging those spaces and going beyond the mindset that this is for small start-ups and trying to create new businesses. That is definitely part of it, but there are so many people around the country and the world who have the capability to work in remote spaces and make their communities vibrant if they are given that opportunity,” Mr Ellingstad added.

Sean Canney, Minister of State at Department of Rural and Community Development, told the committee that he recently met broadband officers and senior officials from each local authority and impressed upon them that they must play a vital role in promoting the smart community initiative and the work of Grow Remote.

“A smart community can be described as a community working together supported by local and central government, to bring people and technology together in time to capture and exploit the opportunities that new applications afford and broadband-based services can deliver.

“Such focused and united community efforts create synergy, which allows individual projects to build upon each other and provide a coherence to Government supports and funding opportunities. Digital is not an end in itself but is an enabler and each community has a different story to tell. In order to develop as a smart community, activities must be community driven and supported by industry and Government,” Minister Canney explained.

Stating that the committee should look at the challenges, barriers and different issues that need to be overcome to help Grow Remote expand its operation, Deputy Carey added that it was “all about linking what the organisation has to offer with companies out there”.

“A good work-life balance can also be achieved by working remotely. Mr. Ellingstad works with a serious global company from his home in Clarecastle. I went to a recent chapter meeting in Clarecastle and was impressed to see the number of people who were there. They were serious players and they are working remotely from home. It is a matter of trying to join that up and get that message out,” he concluded.


CAPTION: Paul Ellingstad with Deputy Joe Carey