As discussions around returning to the office amidst the Coronavirus pandemic continue, many sectors have found ways to adapt and thrive in non-traditional work settings. According to a TechNation report in 2019, Belfast’s thriving digital tech sector employs more than 60,000 people- which equates to a fifth of the city’s workforce. Outside of Belfast, the North West has also become a hub for the sector, supported by alliance organisations like Tech North West. While the sector has been one of the most successful at transitioning to remote working, with strong infrastructure in place prior to the country's lockdown taking effect, is a return to the city's offices on the cards for the 60,000 workforce? Our Specialist Recruitment Team at Staffline Ireland looks at the current climate for the digital and tech sector in Northern Ireland and Ireland against the ever changing world of work and the backdrop of the ongoing COVID-19 outbreak. With 16,853 jobs advertised for tech roles in Belfast throughout last year, and an increasing number of global companies deciding to establish a presence in the city, the roots of a strong tech culture have firmly been planted. Staffline Ireland are a leading recruitment partner for a number of tech companies operating in Northern Ireland, including global firms and local start ups, and contribute to this emerging community and culture. The physical impact of this can be seen in the numbers of workers in the city centre and in offices throughout Belfast and beyond, engaging the local economy and creating a buzz that situates the region as a competitor to the industry's longstanding bases like London and San Francisco. However with the COVID-19 pandemic ongoing, many of these offices have remained shut, following the lead of tech giants like Twitter and Google who have given most employees the green light to continue to work from home indefinitely. While this may raise concerns among some, and the long term impacts of the pandemic on the world of work on the island of Ireland and beyond are still very uncertain, industry experts are finding reason to be optimistic about the region's standings in the digital tech world in the future. TechNation's Head of Insights George Windsor comments outlines how "[Belfast's] digital tech sector may have started with back office and customer-focused work, but it is rapidly becoming home to fast-growing start-ups and scaling businesses that have emerged from the vibrant ecosystem", highlighting the particular growth of the internationally recognised fintech and cyber security sectors within Northern Ireland, and the emergence of work that lends itself effectively to remote or hybrid working. The leading dedicated tech media outlet in Northern Ireland Sync NI also emphasises how the advent of home working globally could be beneficial for Belfast in the long run. A normalisation of remote working could prove to be especially attractive to US based companies who may already be considering Northern Ireland as an option for investment with the availability of cost effective talent in abundance due to the region's graduate stream. Sync NI state that with remote working in place, "the actual location of employees doesn’t seem to matter so much now that companies are used to managing remote work and organising important meetings online, so investing in Northern Ireland may look even more attractive to US firms post-pandemic." With last year's impressive figure of over 16,000 tech jobs advertised in Belfast alone, and with Northern Ireland seeing continued investment in spite of the pandemic, there is certainly still potential for continued growth emerging out of 2020 and into 2021. About the team The Specialist Recruitment Team at Staffline Ireland has a wide breadth of experience in the recruitment industry, and has been highly successful at identifying the best senior candidates for niche roles including Software Developers, DevOps Engineers, and IT Support positions across Northern Ireland. You can contact Specialist IT Recruiter Jamie on LinkedIn or view all our current IT vacancies here.