WorkSpot.ie: Building the Airbnb of desk space

4 Jul 2022

Image: Caroline Price

A new start-up can help hospitality businesses find new revenue streams from remote workers.

Caroline Price worked for three years at Enterprise Ireland, carrying out market research for the State agency’s large-scale clients as well as those identified as high-potential start-ups. Now, she has branched out as an entrepreneur herself, founding her start-up WorkSpot.ie while she was on maternity leave.

“I worked with all types of clients in Enterprise Ireland and I was always inspired how they started their business,” she said.

WorkSpot.ie has found support from Price’s previous employer as a participant on the New Frontiers entrepreneur development programme. “It can be tough battling through with an idea on your own, however the local Chamber of Commerce, Local Enterprise Office supports and New Frontiers programme have been invaluable to push an idea into an actual viable business,” she said.

That idea is to build the “Airbnb of desk space”. WorkSpot.ie is creating a network of nationwide “desk hosts” offering spaces where remote or hybrid workers, self-employed people or business travellers can work on a pay-as-you-go basis.

It’s an alternative to co-working hubs, giving existing businesses such as coffee shops, restaurants, pubs, hotels and community centres a chance to tap into this emerging client base. It also gives these heavily tourism-reliant industries a new revenue alternative after what has been a chaotic couple of years.

“You can search, book and pay for a desk in a variety of laptop-friendly local businesses,” Price explained. “These spaces aren’t in co-working repurposed buildings, but rather in hospitality spaces, local businesses and community centres. The benefit of having WorkSpot.ie is the flexibility, the variety of interesting spaces, location, and additional items like food and beverages which can be included.”

Price is also hoping to capitalise on the rise of the ‘workation’, or working holiday, that has come with the expansion of flexible working across many businesses.

Fáilte Ireland, the Irish tourism body, has said that attractive spots with a good workspace and strong Wi-Fi could become a must-have when choosing where to holiday because of the potential to extend a trip by working remotely for a few days. “WorkSpot.ie answers the Fáilte Ireland report findings by providing a ready-to-go platform linking desk host providers and customers,” said Price.

‘A desk that is utilised full-time for a year can make an average of €4,200 a year’
– CAROLINE PRICE

Price herself has 15 years’ experience in hospitality and a degree in tourism marketing. Her ultimate goal for WorkSpot.ie is to establish a network of desk hosts in unique venues across Europe.

“We also want to establish a collaboration with Fáilte Ireland and Meet in Ireland to make WorkSpot.ie the place where business tourists can book unique desk spaces across Irish hospitality venues when visiting here,” she said.

“We are currently operating as WorkSpot.ie in the Irish market and that is our focus over the next six months,” she added. An app to allow users to search, book and pay for a workstation on the go is also in the works.

So far, Price said, desk hosts have been “very excited” to come on board. There are already sites in Meath, Dublin, Wicklow, Tipperary and Cavan generating an income on WorkSpot.ie. “A desk that is utilised full-time for a year can make an average of €4,200 a year,” said Price. As well as the fee for hotdesking, these venues are often finding the platform gives them customers to serve during off-peak times.

For the workers, WorkSpot.ie expands options for remote work to any locality, including underserved villages, towns and rural communities across Ireland. “Often, we get people asking us for WorkSpots in specific locations and this then prompts us to target these areas,” said Price.

As a new concept, the challenge was getting customers to give it a try, but the recent transformation in attitudes to flexible working has buoyed this new business along. “Now that things are open again, and people are mobile and working hybrid or remote, we have seen an increase in bookings and requests for more desk hosts,” said Price.

WorkSpot.ie helps both businesses and employees to continue the journey of rethinking work and where it can happen. While many want to continue the flexibility of working from home, sometimes the home is not the ideal environment to get things done.

“Our customers’ pain points typically include distractions (children on school holidays, others working from home, pets, neighbours) when working from home, requirement for better Wi-Fi, power outages and social isolation,” said Price.

Furthering the concept of ‘work from home’ to ‘work from anywhere’ means the ultimate in flexibility, and can ensure workers get a change of scenery once in a while. “It also gives start-up companies a flexible cost-effective option to work from a laptop-friendly place nearby,” said Price.

And with the Irish Government strongly backing flexible work options across the country, WorkSpot.ie has found powerful champions. Tánaiste Leo Varadkar, TD, described the platform as “very timely” and said that it will enable further engagement with remote working. WorkSpot.ie is also being used as the desk-booking platform for the ‘pubs as community hubs’ initiative introduced by Minister Heather Humphries, TD.

It’s onwards and upwards now for Price, who is also considering partnering with large hospitality groups and tourism organisations to take WorkSpot.ie further.

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Elaine Burke is the editor of Silicon Republic

editorial@siliconrepublic.com