Credit of featured image: maebh – https://pixabay.com/photos/dublin-luas-transport-sunset-4059919/)
It’s about time we recognized one of the opportunities that Covid presents to us. The spread of Covid–19 around the world meant that millions of employees had to pack up their desk and begin work from home. As bad as this initially was for those who consider themselves extroverts or anyone who thrives off of social interaction, many in Ireland quickly became aware of the benefits to remote working which would then begin to reveal themselves.
In the blink of an eye, commuter culture in Ireland disappeared. Those who previously spent up to two hours travelling to and from work each day suddenly found they had more time to spend with their families, more time to themselves, more time to attend to the dog, the garden, the housework, etc. Small businesses who previously saw little activity inside the working week hours began to see an influx of customers. Parks and recreational areas which were empty other than at the weekend began to fill with people out walking at all hours of the week. Essentially, life and a sense of community began to return to so many towns in Ireland.
The “15-minute city” is an urban design concept which basically envisions a city in which every resident can access all of their needs within a 15-minute walk or cycle from their home. At a glance then, this means that within 15 minutes of one’s home, one could expect to find supermarkets, parks, playgrounds, restaurants, cafés, bars, museums, galleries, gyms, etc. What this ultimately would lead to is a city comprised of many different connected, vibrant, interactive and people friendly areas which each have their very own sense of community. The concept is already being introduced in places like Milan, Paris and Melbourne.
Ireland’s two largest cities, Dublin and Cork are perfectly suited to this concept. The new world of remote working offers residents a chance to reconnect with their local areas. Cycle lanes in Dublin are busy each and every day. This and remote working allow it to slowly creep towards that vision of a 15-minute city. At the moment in Ireland we’re experiencing our second round of the highest level of government restrictions regarding Covid-19, meaning anyone who can work from home must do so. With that in mind, think of all the offices in Dublin which are currently empty and lifeless. Now also remember all the positive implications this has for commuter towns which I mentioned in the opening paragraph.
What if in the future, everyone worked from home? Work/life balance and flexibility has been a growing theme in the modern world of work for a number of years now. Tech companies have been telling us for years that the idea of everyone needing to show up to work at the same time and in the same place each day is outdated. We also currently have a housing crisis in Ireland, what if all of the offices in Dublin were turned into apartments? Or perhaps companies could occupy a living space as opposed to an office space. Take Google for example, Google recently decided not to continue to lease the 202,000 square foot building, which 2000 of their staff previously occupied in Dublin. What if rather than occupying an office space, Google occupied a living space for its Dublin employees. The space could comprise of apartments where they would live and work remotely but also common areas built for social, creative and collaborative purposes where meetings could be held if need be.
As devastating as Covid-19 has been on the world, there’s no doubt that it presents us with an incredible opportunity to reimagine our cities. It’s a certainty that Covid will permanently alter life in many ways, can we take advantage of this? Can Ireland take a huge step towards a future with beautiful, vibrant and flourishing cities? I’d certainly like to think so.