New scheme | 

Workers to be offered three free days at rural remote-working hubs to escape office

The three free sessions could save workers €75

Rural Affairs Minister Heather Humphreys

Philip Ryan

The Government will offer workers three free days in any remote working hub as an incentive to ditch the office for a few days a week and work in their communities.

The new scheme is aimed at encouraging more use of the hundreds of remote working centres that have been set up around the country, particularly in the wake of the pandemic.

People will have to register as remote workers and can attend their local hub where they can redeem their free days.

The scheme could save them up to €75, depending on the rate charged.

The three free sessions will also follow the worker, meaning they can avail of the days in another part of the country if they are on holiday in Ireland.

At least 10,000 hot desk sessions will be provided to existing hub users and those using the facilities for the first time, but this may be increased if the scheme proves to be popular with people living in rural parts of the country.

It was initially envisaged that a loyalty points system, such as in coffee shops, would be introduced, which would see remote workers given a free day after they had paid for a set number.

However, this proposal was ditched in favour of offering workers three free days at the hub of their choice.

Rural Affairs Minister Heather Humphreys will announce details of the new initiative today, along with a series of other measures aimed at promoting the use of remote working hubs.

Hub users and those thinking of a working staycation should set a profile on to take advantage of the free places.

"This scheme is based on the 'voucher follows the person' approach and will provide three days of hub use per person," Ms Humphreys said.

"So for people who may wish to holiday at home this summer, this scheme is ideal if you need to do a couple of days working in facilities that are comfortable and underpinned by good quality broadband."

Ms Humphreys has also secured €5m in funding to improve 81 remote working facilities.

The funding can be used to expand existing hubs and install privacy booths. It can also be used to convert existing open-plan spaces to modular offices, design podcast studios or enhance audio visual, networking and conferencing facilities.

There are currently 242 remote working hubs, which is around 60pc of the 400 promised under the Government's five-year Our Rural Future plan.

The Government has put a significant emphasis on encouraging employers and employees to work remotely since the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic.

The Department of Rural and Community Development has so far invested around €100m in the development of remote working facilities under programmes such as the Rural Regeneration and Development Fund and the Town and Village Renewal Scheme.

Many of these remote working projects are focused on the regeneration of vacant town centre buildings.

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