The Derry and Strabane area has been ranked as the best place to work from home in Northern Ireland, and the fourth best in the UK.That is according to the Remote Working Index put together by uSwitch.com after research carried out ranking 106 of the UK’s biggest towns and cities on metrics including broadband speed, green spaces, air quality, crime rates, quality of schools, and GPs per 100,000 people.

The Derry and Strabane area ranked second overall for green spaces and low crime rates, and third for low air pollution.The result comes after Northern Ireland was voted as the happiest place in the UK to live earlier this month, according to the Lloyd’s Bank Happiness Index. Derry City and Strabane District Council’s business team have also been working to promote the area as a remote working destination for employees and businesses.When it comes to working remotely, connectivity is a hugely important factor, and Derry and Strabane has been found to have broadband which is fast and reliable. And for those who still have to travel, City of Derry Airport provides a centralised hub.With a unique combination of access to coastline and beaches, woodland, rivers and greenways Derry and Strabane provides a platform for the perfect work/life balance bringing such a positive impact on well-being.

Remote working in Derry and Strabane is also extremely attractive due to the cost of general living here making salaries go that bit further.Mayor of Derry City and Strabane District Council, Cllr Brian Tierney, said that the research showed that the district is attractive for remote working on many levels.”Working from home has become a much more significant factor in most people’s lives this year, and it’s fantastic to see that Derry and Strabane ranks as the number one spot in Northern Ireland, and within the top four throughout the whole of the UK.”Derry and Strabane ticks all the right boxes when it comes to working from home and working remotely, and that’s why we have ranked much higher than some of the largest cities in the UK, such as London (88th) and Manchester (100th).”Not only is there accessibility through strong broadband speeds, but the high scores on green spaces, low crime and air quality show that Derry and Strabane is a fantastic overall location for working and living.”

David Fleming works as a Future Trader for a large independent commodities trading firm and has recently returned from London to work remotely.”The main difference I find is the commute. In London, like many others, I cycled which would cost me an hour one way,” explained David. “Not having to take an hour out in the morning for the commute I found very beneficial as I deal a lot with markets in the Far East and the extra hour in the evening became an add on to family time.”David also explained that he was surprised at the infrastructure in place which has made connecting all over the world from his home base easy and convenient. “Broadband was the first thing I looked at and was surprised that actually the broadband speed I am getting is actually slightly better than what I was getting in London.”Phone signal hasn’t been an issue either and given that EU roaming has become significantly cheaper, crossing the border on a regular basis is not the same bank-breaking process it used to be.He continued: “Everything that I need is available, and when you factor in rent/mortgage costs at a much-reduced rate overall it has been really beneficial.”Looking forward to the future, David said remote working in Derry and Strabane could become much more of a factor.”In general, I think there has to be a balance as people need to learn, develop and share ideas which is more difficult to do remotely, and it is in the junior ranks that this would be felt most.”But losing the strict 9-5 attitude and moving towards a results-based approach which, in turn, would promote better time efficiency and a better work/life balance can only be a good thing.”

Kathryn Nicell, a commercial lead in a wound care company, and her husband Andy, who works in Talent Acquisition for a financial consultancy firm, have returned to live in Derry for the first time since Andy left in 2003. Having spent time working in Canada and the United States, they were most recently based in Edinburgh, with Andy travelling to his company’s head office in London monthly, and Kathryn doing a similar journey to Wales.17 years on from when Andy left, Kathryn said they are glad to be based in Derry which has all they need for remote working and a balanced family life.”We have considered moving here several times, but now that we have the opportunity to work remotely due to Covid-19 we decided that it would be a good time to do it as we have always had the desire to bring our daughter up here in the great schools,” said Kathryn.”Andy is happy to be back in familiar and comfortable territory but is amazed at how Derry has changed through more visible investment and growth. “When things go back closer to the old normal we plan to travel to Edinburgh, London and Cardiff when we need to. The duelling of the A6 is going to reduce my travel time significantly and the introduction of a Belfast to Cardiff route next year will also help. It is very convenient for Andy to fly from Eglinton, and his travel time to the airport would be less than it was in Edinburgh.”Kathryn also credited the green spaces, community spirit, low crime rates and affordability of living as factors in the family’s decision to work remotely from Derry and to plan their future here.”Since moving here in September this year we have enjoyed local walks in many of the parks and green spaces – we are spoilt for choice with outside space. We have enjoyed being within ten minutes out of the city centre as in Scotland we were 40 minutes from the city,” explained Kathryn.”We feel blessed to be able to bring up our daughter somewhere we feel very safe. Derry is also the most family friendly place that we have lived and is what we were in the pursuit of as we moved around to different countries.  We are happy to be surrounded by happy and welcoming people who are focused on the community and family.Kathryn continued: “We are lucky that we can work anywhere (close to airport links) and are confident that Derry was the best choice for us. We considered other parts of Scotland and Northern Ireland and were seeking greater affordability and quality of life.”There was nowhere that we looked at where we could get affordable property that met all of our needs, including home office space, had great schools within walking distance and had the transport links should we start to travel again. We feel that we have found our home for life if we are able to continue to work remotely.”

To view Uswitch’s Remote Working Index, visit https://www.uswitch.com/broadband/remote-working-index/

The head of Allstate NI has paid tribute to hundreds of staff in the North West for helping ensure the firm’s continued success during the Covid-19 crisis. 

The business, which is now Northern Ireland’s largest IT firm, was established in 1998 to provide high quality software development services and business solutions in support of its US-based parent company, the Allstate Corporation. It employs 900 people in its Derry and Strabane offices, and a further 1500 staff in Belfast. Allstate took the decision to move all 2400 staff to virtual working in mid-March, as the global pandemic loomed. Since then, the company said it has managed to maintain productivity levels and a steady order book – an achievement managing director John Healy attributes to the talent, skills and connectivity found in the North West, and Northern Ireland in general. 

“I’m hugely proud of how the workforce has responded to this. We’ve managed to get all our resources home, and maintained high levels of productivity. As I talk to the leaders back in the US, they are incredibly happy with what we’ve managed to achieve here,” the Derry native said. “We already have a culture within the business of people working from home; we have the infrastructure to allow that to happen, and we periodically test it. But whenever you’re doing it for real, to watch how people respond, now for over 11 weeks, it’s just been amazing.” Staff from the Derry and Strabane sites were “incredibly busy” as Covid-19 unfolded, with part of Allstate’s technology helpdesk functionality run in these locations. “During the initial weeks of the crisis, those teams in the North West helped our colleagues right around the globe to move quickly and safely to working from home,” added Mr Healy. “The volumes have now come back down to normal levels, but definitely they were key to the success of the corporation as a whole as we all move to new ways of working.” 

As a major centre for innovative software development, covering the full lifecycle from design to maintenance and support, the local wealth of talent and experience was a huge draw for Allstate. Asked what message he would give to other investors who are considering the North West as a location, Mr Healy said: “The initial set-up of Allstate in the North West was around getting access to a deep talent pool, not just in Derry and Strabane, but also from hinterland such as Donegal. “What we’ve managed to achieve over the years that we’ve operated out of the North West shows that decision was absolutely spot on. These are really talented individuals who are making a great contribution to the success of all of our businesses. “And the innovation, the resilience, the ingenuity of the people who are making it work, from home, in recent weeks has been great.” 

Mr Healy predicted longer term changes to working practices for many businesses, including Allstate NI. “We’ll still have the office and we’ll still have people who are calling in to work with colleagues and interact with others, but I think it will definitely change our perception around how much we need to be in the office and how that space is used,” he said. “Whenever you’re working in a hi-tech environment like ours, as long as you’ve got your laptop and a connection to the internet, you’re able to connect onto the Allstate infrastructure and do your job from wherever you find yourself.” The broadband infrastructure in employees’ homes has been holding up “incredibly well”, Mr Healy added. “We’ve had very few issues with connectivity for our employees when they’ve been working from home. “It’s fantastic that we can have everybody at home, safe and secure, at a time of crisis.”

Mayor of Derry City and Strabane District Council, Councillor Brian Tierney, praised Allstate NI’s teams in Derry and Strabane for their resilience and innovation during the Covid 19 crisis. “The global outbreak of Covid 19 created unprecedented challenges to Allstate and how they provide their software solutions and services,” he noted. “The team in Derry and Strabane displayed resilience and innovation in quickly moving to remote working and a virtual office space to ensure their client’s services continued as normal. “Allstate are a shining example to other prospective investors of the talent pool that exists in this region who can meet the needs of global companies and rise to the challenges posed during periods of uncertainty.” 


Derry City and Strabane District Council has this week launched a range of initiatives designed to support local businesses affected by the challenges presented by the ongoing COVID-19 emergency. With new regulations that will see the closure of many local businesses coming into force today, Council is encouraging local companies to explore their options in terms of establishing an online presence and adapting to conditions as best they can to continue the delivery of products and services.

As well as a special Business Resilience Programme, a series of remote skills development workshops has been announced to give people the support and information they need. The series will comprise of 8-10 two hour workshops to be delivered remotely via Zoom, which will be open to all members of the business community in the City and District including past and present participants of the Business Boost Programme.

Focus areas include managing stress, gearing up to sell on YouTube, the impact of COVID19 on local business, and good leadership.Companies can also apply for a place on the Business Online Programme, part of the highly successful Business Boost Programme, now open to micro enterprises and SMEs across Derry and Strabane.

The programme will assist local companies in going digital. Keeping in mind the challenges presented by the current restrictions around social distancing in the workplace it’s more important than ever that businesses establish an effective online presence for both staff and customers. This programme will also be delivered remotely and safely, using all modern technologies.

Mayor of Derry City and Strabane District, Councillor Michaela Boyle, urged companies to sign up.

While I welcome these new restrictions on people’s movements, I appreciate that this will have a serious impact on local companies and their ability to do business,” she stressed.”As a Council we are putting in place as many measures as we can to support local businesses at this very difficult time. This new series of workshops will provide the latest information on digital technology and how businesses can take their products and services online and support staff working from home. I would really encourage businesses to find out more about what help is available.

Business Support Manager with Derry City and Strabane District Council, Louise Breslin, said:

“With social distancing being a key factor for everyone – your staff, your customers and your suppliers – it’s vitally important that businesses introduce new ways of working.”These are uncertain times and we want to help businesses adapt in whatever ways they can, and both the workshops and the mentoring opportunities will provide the advice and expertise to help local companies get up and running online as quickly as possible.”

To register, simply contact Jacqui at Full Circle – jacqui@fullcircle.eu.com to express your interest in the workshops. The deadline for submission of expressions of interest is Thursday 9 April @ 12noon.

The Programmes are part-funded by Derry City and Strabane District Council, Invest NI and the European Regional Development Fund under the Investment for Jobs and Growth [2014 – 2020] Programme.Ends​