Readers like you keep news free for everyone.

More than 5,000 readers have already pitched in to keep free access to The Journal.

For the price of one cup of coffee each week you can help keep paywalls away.

Support us today
Not now
Wednesday 29 November 2023 Dublin: 2°C
Brema Berkery and Siobhan McKenna

My remote work 'I traded my two-hour London commute for Donegal and never looked back'

Two fully remote workers outline why they made the decision and what the challenges and benefits are of working from home.

According to the 2022 Census data released last week, 32% of people in Ireland work from home for at least some part of their week; four out of five business, media and public service professionals availed of home working. Many roles were forced into remote during the pandemic, but a new culture of remote working is developing in certain sectors. In this article, two employees explain how their fully remote roles suit their quality of life and ability to live where they want. Siobhan McKenna and Brema Berkery both work for eBay Ireland. Siobhan is a Growth Adviser, having relocated to Donegal from London. She also runs her own outfit part-time curating unique and authentic knitwear pieces made exclusively in Donegal. Brema Berkery is Head of Service and works remotely from Limerick, where her family is based.

Siobhan McKenna

Siobhan McKenna Siobhan McKenna Siobhan McKenna

LAST YEAR, I traded a job in luxury retail in London, where I was based for seven years, for a fully remote position as a Growth Adviser, based out of Donegal, and I couldn’t be happier.

When I decided to come back to Ireland, I wasn’t in a position to move to Dublin, so the fact that the new job was remote was everything to me.

My family is from Donegal, my partner is here, and a couple of years ago I also started a small business which sources products exclusively made in Donegal.

The business was a passion project of mine, born from my experience working in the fashion industry and knowing that Donegal, where I grew up, was where many fashion designers sourced their luxury knitwear from. I touched base with some local suppliers, and it developed from there.

There was certainly an adjustment period when I moved back, however, the ability to work remotely was a big decision factor. I loved being in London, but the two hours daily commute was so draining. It’s now been replaced with time well spent pursuing my interests.

I feel much healthier now. I can exercise and I can pursue my creativity, which makes me happy.

I feel very lucky to have the opportunity to do this while growing my career with my current role at the same time, combining my passion for sustainability and vintage fashion with my business skills. This role was a natural choice for me.

My external experience in entrepreneurship has always been celebrated at work, even in my initial interview it was clear that this was something that would be encouraged at the company. I definitely think the two things complement each other as my daily role is very strategy focused, while my knitwear brand is built off my creative strengths, so I am lucky to get to develop my skills in different areas and apply them to each job.

Benefits of remote

Although remote working can be a big change, the benefits far outweigh the challenges. I have found that there are different ways you can make remote working seamless, particularly in how you communicate with colleagues.

There’s always going to be that element of fun and talking about things that aren’t connected to work when you’re in the office. With remote work, you need to be more proactive when engaging with your team, to inject authentic conversations into the daily interaction, which would happen a lot more naturally in an office setting.

Remote work has helped me improve my well-being, which directly and positively impacts the quality of my work, helping reduce stress.

Ireland is a country with a well-educated workforce but the cost of living and prohibitive housing costs in large cities and towns are a real issue. I believe companies like ours that enable a remote working infrastructure show mature, long-term thinking, empowering employees to make their own decisions on managing life and work.

Expecting employees to work from the office without any leeway means cutting off a significant part of the country, and leaving out talent that the company would be missing out on otherwise.

Brema Berkery

Brema Berkery Brema Berkery works remotely from Limerick, where her family is based.

I joined my current job during Covid and for me, the remote work factor was crucial in my decision to apply for this position. The biggest impact for me was on my personal and family life. Lots of people can identify with the morning stress of getting their children out of bed, trying to feed and dress them, then take them to school.

Before, this used to be a very stressful time in our home. Now, I can keep to the same routine with very little stress in the morning.

Working from home allowed me to be more present for my children. If my kids had a bad day, they can pop their heads in, I can take five minutes out of Zoom and people will understand.

My kids can have that reassurance that I’m there, I’m accessible. If there is an issue, I can solve it before it turns into a meltdown. More flexibility within our home means we no longer have long debates about how to manage all our schedules, summer camps etc.

My husband works set hours, but since I started working from home, the kids’ social calendar can be filled up, and I can be around to mind the kids when the third is being taken to his activities. I can organise my calendar between work and home life to facilitate the schedules of the kids and family.

There’s simply less stress on family life, the pressure is off and conflicts are resolved. I have a really happy home. When you have that environment, it means your well-being is better. With my current employer, there’s a well-developed culture of remote working so it’s never been a question of whether employees can be trusted with being productive while working from home. If you don’t see something as insurmountable, it simply isn’t. If you get the right talent and train them in the role the right way, location shouldn’t be an issue.

Working with the team

I felt I was very well looked after when I joined and the fact that I was remote in the role didn’t impact how I interacted with the team. When you stop being distracted by the definition of location, you realise what really makes a team is not location, but a united commitment to something.

My team are as high performing and as motivated as any team I’ve ever had. You cannot assume that the teams will organically happen. Managing remote teams means using the leadership toolkit in a different way.

You have to consider: who do I have on my team? What motivates them? How do I connect with them? How do I make sure we trusted vulnerability with each other, commitment of confidentiality, how do we make sure we have the right mechanism to talk about things – for me it’s connecting at a human level, spending time, managing the resources.

Brema Berkery 2

If you sow positive intent, set up an environment where people can be successful, have the right connections made and everybody has a shared intent, why wouldn’t remote work? In a progressive workplace with a remote culture, we create a community that allows people to be economically successful.

Community means diversity, and diversity means giving people the option and the opportunity to work where they feel the most comfortable from. Having a great workplace isn’t defined by location. Talent isn’t defined by the postcode.

If you feel remote work is for you, my advice is to do a lot of research before switching employers – look for companies where remote work is part of the company fabric, not just a wallpaper. Try to find out how they implement tangible actions around remote work and diversity, and don’t be afraid to ask around and look for reviews on job sites.

Siobhan McKenna and Brema Berkery. Their colleagues participated in the Grow Remote Summit in Portlaoise today.


Brema Berkery and Siobhan McKenna
Your Voice
Readers Comments
This is YOUR comments community. Stay civil, stay constructive, stay on topic. Please familiarise yourself with our comments policy here before taking part.
Leave a Comment
    Submit a report
    Please help us understand how this comment violates our community guidelines.
    Thank you for the feedback
    Your feedback has been sent to our team for review.

    Leave a commentcancel