Remote working in the west: ‘So far it’s been great, really surprising’

For some people working remotely has meant making a move across the country


Anthony Kelly had been preparing to move to Los Angeles with wife Fionnualla and son Darragh (2) when “Covid hit”. The co-founder of Glofox, which provides business management software to fitness studios and gyms, had the visas sorted and a house rented. But suddenly it didn’t seem like a good idea to be getting on an airplane, especially as Fionnualla was six months pregnant .

Instead of LA, the family found themselves living in the townland of Erribul in Co Clare, Fionnualla’s native county. “We thought we’d try a stint here instead of staying in Dublin,” says the father of two.

Glofox, which employs 120 people worldwide, already had a significant proportion of staff working remotely but now the company has gone “fully remote”. Kelly is one of a growing number of professionals, many in the high-tech sector, who are adapting well to a new lifestyle in the west of Ireland.

“So far it’s been great, really surprising,” says the Dubliner, recalling that the company decided to close down its South William Street office before the government directive. “It just didn’t feel safe.”

The buzz of Grafton Street is something he remembers fondly, but the beauty of the Shannon estuary seems to be making up for that, especially as they had “a lockdown baby, Cathal, who was born on 11th June”.

The little things

It’s the little things that have surprised him, such as the personal attention and the quality of service from many businesses. “I am loving it so far. People seem to care. In Dublin it can seem more transactional.” Having lived in the capital all his life, Kelly is pleased to say that “workwise, I haven’t missed a beat”.

The Western Development Commission’s new More to Life campaign aims to showcase both the career opportunities and appealing lifestyle available to those who make the move west.

The campaign is highlighting the attractive job opportunities in the region, as well as more obvious benefits like low housing costs, short commutes and easy access to the great outdoors.

With more and more people working remotely because of the Covid-19 pandemic, the WDC is stressing that now is a good time to make that move.

Nathalie Moyano, like Anthony Kelly, has already said goodbye to the east coast – and she doesn’t intend going back.

Born in France, she moved to Ireland in 2002 , living in Dublin for 10 years and also spent many years commuting from Wicklow to the city.

Coincidentally she moved to Co Mayo on the first day of lockdown and says she found herself surrounded by woodlands, beautiful riverside walks and stunning gardens at a time when many people were confined to city apartments with no access to open spaces.

Moyano now lives and works in the converted stables of Coolcronan House, formerly the home of the Earl of Limerick, on the banks of the river Moy near Foxford, Co Mayo. “It’s in the middle of nowhere – I’m very lucky,” says the founder of Moytilingual, a company that provides language and consulting services.

She has always wanted to live close to nature and says she “couldn’t go back to an enclosed space”. A translator and interpreter who has travelled throughout the US and India, Moyano says that having made a conscious effort to achieve a better work/life balance, being able to walk out the door and see horses and beautiful gardens is blissful.

John Savage swapped an office on Dublin’s Dawson Street for remote working from his new home in the village of Rosses Point, Co Sligo, where his wife, Julie Carty, was raised.

The machine data scientist, who got a job with US tech company Overstock in Sligo last June, is a native of Ballisodare and he and Julie started to feel the call of the west two years ago when son Luca was born.

The couple is expecting a second child in November and, according to John, one of the surprises of the move is that he doesn’t feel he has sacrificed career opportunities in order to avail of the more laidback lifestyle.

“We decided to move back in January before the pandemic kicked off,” he says. They didn’t make the move until June, when restrictions eased, and are finding that their social circles have actually increased. “I know lots of people who decided to move temporarily to Sligo when lockdown started because they were working remotely.”

‘Friendly village’

Not all his friends might stay there, but the family feels it’s the right place for them for many reasons. “We are loving the space, the views and the friendly village,” he says. Also, their rent in Dublin was about €1,500 a month, “so we get better value for money here”.

As part of its campaign, the WDC has launched Talent Tool, a platform to help attract expertise for hard-to-fill roles across all sectors.

It allows job seekers to register for alerts on new roles and give companies information on professionals looking to move west. The WDC believes this will help attract more investment from companies needing a pool of talent, while also showcasing the range of career opportunities available across the region.

For those who don’t relish their kitchen table doubling as an office, a network of more than 100 hubs is being developed by the WDC through the Atlantic Economic Corridor. The commission hopes the initiative will give a boost to towns and villages, while enabling a range of successful businesses to have “second sites” in the west.

WDC chief executive Tomás Ó Síocháin says the More to Life campaign is about exploiting the changed circumstances many people have been faced with during 2020. “Out of adversity comes opportunity and the West of Ireland has a big opportunity to renew and reinvigorate itself. There are now an unprecedented number of career options in the west, some of them caused by the unexpected events of 2020 and the global pandemic.”

More affordable

Ó Síocháin says the more affordable living costs mean money goes further in the region.

Founded in 1997, the WDC is a statutory body charged with promoting social and economic development in the western region.

Anthony Kelly says he is convinced of the advantages of the move to the west but some obstacles remain. One such obstacle is the wifi in his area. “If the Government is really serious abut people working remotely, they have to solve the broadband issue.”

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