Blog Article 03 Feb 2021
How Business Expansion Can Restore Work-Life Balance 
How Business Expansion Can Restore Work-Life Balance 

How Business Expansion Can Restore Work-Life Balance 

 

By Michelle Loughran, IDA Ireland  

 

Last fall enormous 60+ foot waves crested the coast of Sligo on the West Coast of Ireland, creating stunning scenes and enticing surfers out into the water. A photo of one surfer balancing on enormous waves surging toward the shores that caught international attention provided a reminder of what's possible when conditions are just right.

Throughout 2020, conditions have been anything but right. People are weathering storms on many fronts. Recognizing this, companies have responded by helping their teams achieve greater work-life balance. 

BJ Kidd, a senior software development engineer at tZERO, moved to Ireland in 2018 when working with Overstock, a Utah-based ecommerce company that has its R&D hub in Sligo, close to where the now infamous 60+ foot waves appeared. The company’s Irish site employs over 100 engineers focused on machine learning, augmented reality and blockchain innovation.  

Seeking new experiences and a more sustainable work-life balance, he moved with his wife and four children to Sligo. 

“I really wanted to go. I thought it would be a great personal and professional opportunity. I live in Pleasant Grove, a suburb of the Salt Lake metropolitan area, with about two and a half million people,” Kidd explained. 

His move was made possible by a thriving tech scene in Ireland, and his story is illustrative of the lessons that expanding companies can learn about Sligo and Ireland in general.

Here are four ways that Ireland offers companies a new way to foster growing businesses and healthy teams: 
 

#1 Quality of Life 

Time spent commuting is a critical part of the work-life balance equation. In Utah, Kidd’s commute was one hour and twenty minutes one way, but in Sligo it took him less than 15 minutes to get back and forth to work. It was cheaper than moving to a big city, and it allowed him to spend more time with his family.

He also got to enjoy recreational activities that he loves. “I'm a runner. I bought a mountain bike when I was there and did a lot of biking. I also hiked up the spectacular Benbulbin and Knocknarea mountains. There's lots of trails, lots of hiking to do. I really enjoyed that aspect. As a family, we visited the numerous cultural attractions in the area, including the Wild Atlantic Way,” Kidd explains.

Every corner of Ireland offers a wide range of leisure activities for all tastes and ages. Outdoors for sports, indoors for culture and the arts – Irish life can be a welcoming, mindful and fulfilling experience. A happy workforce is a productive workforce. No surprise, therefore, that the United Nations Human Development Index for 2020 ranked Ireland second for quality of life out of 189 countries.
 

#2 Growth Potential 

Expanding into Europe brings many obvious benefits, including unrestricted access to the European market of 550 million people as well as access to a labor pool of almost 250 million people from across the EU and a gateway to the Middle East and Africa.

When companies are choosing a new overseas location, they also need to consider access to available talent. They need a plethora of available talent to draw from. Several major US tech companies, including TikTok, Riot Games, Activision Blizzard, Qualtrics, Twitter, Facebook, Amazon, Apple, Google, Zendesk, Hubspot, Dropbox, Uber, Airbnb, Salesforce, Stripe, Slack, Zendesk and Microsoft have offices in Ireland, and top tech talent has moved to meet the demand.

Ireland has a few firsts that help expanding businesses: along with having the youngest population in Europe, Ireland ranks first globally for attracting and retaining international talent, according to the 2019 Institute for Management Development (IMD) World Competitiveness Yearbook. The  OECD’s Education at Glance 2019 report found that Ireland scored highest in Europe for the level of education, and fourth highest in the world.
 

#3 Productivity 

For companies with a global customer base, the fact that Ireland is eight hours ahead of California and seven hours ahead of Utah allows for 24/7 'follow the sun’ support, ensuring that there is always someone available to address client needs in real-time. This leads to increased productivity levels for companies operating on both sides of the globe.

Kidd noticed the difference right away: “Each day, we'd come back and we'd have demos to show. We'd have all this work done.”

The results were obvious. Kidd remembers that workers “were actually able just to sit down at their computers and work away. I felt like they were, in a lot of cases, more productive.”

Microsoft recently analyzed data from its remote workforce and found that their employees are most productive in the morning. In response, they opted to move meetings and gatherings to the afternoon.

Ultimately, achieving work-life balance means optimizing productivity to create better divisions between professional obligations and personal care. Ireland positions US companies to achieve both. According to the 2019 IMD World Competitiveness Yearbook, Ireland was the 2nd most competitive economy in the EU and the 7th most competitive in the world.
 

#4 Culture

While employees are looking to earn a quality paycheck, many value workplace culture more than the money. Creating a positive culture is critical for high-growth companies as it helps them to attract and retain talent. Sustaining a culture becomes more challenging when teams work across global offices as a business scale. Allowing HQ employees to spend time in a new office can provide employers with an opportunity to embed its company culture outside of its headquarters. 

Having an overseas office can provide employees an opportunity to work on more challenging and unique projects that may not be available at the company’s US headquarters. Kidd was exposed to and gained responsibility in multiple facets of the company, rather than just in his designated position. 

“You had daily interaction with the senior managers and worked directly with them, not always the case at HQ,” Kidd recalls.

Of course, workplace culture isn’t the only culture that matters. Sligo, located on the Atlantic Coast, has a booming surfing culture, offering access to some of the world's best surfing spots. Kidd recalled: “I would often visit Strandhill and see the surfers, kite surfers and windsurfers out there doing their thing. It looked like a lot of fun. Strandhill has a great surfing environment for people to go and learn, and for more advanced surfers to go and have a good time,” he adds.

Kidd has fond memories of bringing the American tradition of Thanksgiving to Ireland. He celebrated the holiday with his Irish colleagues by cooking the entire office a delicious Thanksgiving lunch!
 

Ireland is the location of choice for work-life balance

While West Coast US companies are well versed in the surf of Malibu or Huntington Beach, Sligo’s 60-foot October waves are a reminder that it’s possible to reach great heights. In 2020, despite the challenges, many US high-growth companies started out on their international expansion journey. With a highly skilled and experienced talent base, pro-business environment and the opportunity of greater work-life balance, Ireland continues to be the location of choice for many West Coast US companies expanding to Europe.  As companies continue to meet market demand, IDA Ireland can assist by providing information and resources to help when they are evaluating international locations.

Moving to Ireland provided BJ Kidd with an invaluable career opportunity along with a treasured family experience they will never forget.

 

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Author Bio

Michelle Loughran is Vice President, Emerging Technology, High Growth Companies at IDA Ireland based in Southern California. She works with US growth companies who are looking for top international talent and to expand in EMEA. IDA Ireland provides many supports and services to companies looking to establish a presence in Ireland to support their international growth and customer base.

 

For further information on how IDA Ireland can support international business expansion, download our Land and Expand Playbook, check out our High Growth Companies infographic, or visit idaireland.com.

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