Donegal Local Development Company (DLDC) moved premises one year ago. The organisation has outreach offices across the county, which it retains, but staff in Letterkenny were spread between three buildings, including a two-storey where each team operated from separate rooms.

“We were all in silos,” said CEO Padraic Fingleton. “This is much better for members of the public who call on us, for the staff and for productivity, although at first we were blinded by the sun.”

The new open plan office is a change from sectioned off working arrangements, and teams are collaborating more than before. “When designing our new offices, we made a conscious effort to incorporate an abundance of glass,” said Padraic, “symbolising our commitment to openness, trust, and transparency.”

“We eliminated barriers that silos between programmes can create. It ensures a collective understanding of all the supports within our organisation, so we can provide the best possible wrap-around services to those we serve,” he said.

Today, 90% of staff would highly recommend DLDC as a place to work and Padraic believes the new office and its open plan layout and staff involvement in its running contributes to the high company satisfaction levels.

• The view from outside DLDC’s offices (top floor).

DLDC’s offices were officially opened last year by Minister for Rural and Community Development, Heather Humphreys. The rent in the swish, modern office costs less than operating from three smaller premises.

The company kept one small outlet open in Letterkenny town centre and it was a good idea because it’s being used, especially by people using its Local Area Employment Service.

Padraic’s advice to other large community-based organisations considering a move is: Start looking for an alternative now. Then don’t hang about. In DLDC’s case the search took two years.

• Inside DLDC’s new Letterkenny office where glass booths for Zoom-friendly glass booths allow for privacy while respecting the open plan office concept.

There are always a few hiccups with a big move and expectations don’t always match with reality.

The windows do not open and so the office relies on air-con which can be set to hot or cold – meaning someone is always too hot or someone too cold.

At the opening, Padraic remarked that he was “amazed how the dial for the temperature gauge is still intact”.

In regards to seating arrangements, operations manager Margaret Larkin had a firm view from the outset that each staff member should be able to choose whatever desk they liked to sit on each day. However, Margaret became one of the outlaws, claiming a desk as hers alone.

It does work occasionally, as Laura Mannion, communications officer, explained: “Sometimes people working from home for a day will leave a note so anyone can take it while they’re away.”

Meanwhile, everyone is enjoying the new canteen, the Zoom-friendly glass boxes and the spectacular views. You can see the hills of Derry on a clear day, apparently.

Outside I met a local man who swore the sun always shone in this part of Letterkenny.

“Well, there were two times it did rain, but I like to pretend that didn’t happen. It’s sunny every time I come here.”

They have a way with words and a bright approach to weather in Donegal.

To read Changing Ireland’s special report on Co Donegal in full, find our Spring 2024 edition online here.