Huge concerns on the career impact of remote working for NI workers

New research has revealed Northern Irealand workers’ concerns about the impact of remote working on their careers.

By Claire Cartmill
Monday, 22nd November 2021, 6:00 am

The data analysed by employer branding experts Universum, part of hiring platform found that while 82% of workers are interested in remote working opportunities, a deeper data dive shows almost half will feel isolated and miss out on social connections and 37% believe there will be employer bias for in-person workers.

Fears around presenteeism, favouritism, reduced earning potential and poor career advancement are some key themes emerging, particularly for younger professionals.

42% feel that employers will favour those present in the office, whilst 34% feel their earning potential will be reduced compared to 18% in the senior professional category. Of those interviewed, almost one-third feel that remote onboarding in a new organisation will not be as effective.

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82% of workers are interested in remote working opportunities

The survey analysed data from 1,767 people covering a diverse range of topics such as reputation and image, people, and culture, as well as remuneration and career advancement.

Sam McIlveen, general manager at, said: “The analysis of the responses of NI professionals by the employer branding experts, Universum who are part of NIJobs reveals a complete shift in priorities and attitudes in the workplace. While this is not entirely unexpected, when positioned against a backdrop of record job vacancies and the intense competition for talent, it presents a new conundrum for employers. As they face into 2022, businesses will have to master the fine art of balancing employee expectation and filling those key roles.

“Remote working is here to stay- it is vital that trust is built going forwards. Fears around accidental favouritism, social isolation and a negative impact on career development can be addressed through more practical, hybrid working models.

“An office environment typically improves collaboration, knowledge sharing and leadership and could help alleviate concerns around career advancement expressed by younger professionals. Work-life balance and more flexibility can then be integrated to help boost productivity, job satisfaction and, importantly, retain talent on an ongoing basis.”

Sam McIlveen, general manager at

Universum’s data shines a light on the changing aspirations of professionals working in NI. Professionals now rank inspiration, purpose and leadership, ethics, and corporate responsibility as some of the top attractive attributes in an employer. Ethical standards noted the largest increase at 43% compared to 36% in 2019. Interestingly, areas previously deemed as important such as market success, prestige and growth are ranked least significant.

When it comes to people and work culture, research suggests that over 50% expect an encouraging work/life balance. 46% of survey participants believe an organisation that places emphasis on respect for its people alongside a friendly work environment is key, followed closely by leaders who support personal development.

Finally, in career development and advancement, a competitive base salary tops the wishlist at 58% (an increase of 13% compared to 2019). Secondly, 46% still want a clear path for development and over one third expect leadership opportunities. Earnings and bonuses feature further down in 2021 too with 31% deeming it as important compared to 40% in 2019. Whilst only 16% of those surveyed consider a performance-related bonus as an attractive attribute from an employer.

Sam concluded: “As we transition to living with Covid we are seeing softer priorities such as respect and ethics coming to the fore, which ultimately indicates a desire for a more inclusive and satisfied workforce. High Earnings may not be a big winner in our survey, but clear career development, advancement, and flexibility dominate in this new world of remote and hybrid working.

“These insights are a strong marker of emerging trends and allow businesses to respond effectively and demonstrate strong, positive leadership. There is undoubtedly a seismic shift in attitudes towards how the workplace should be and what it should offer in 2021 and beyond. Employers must recognise this in the current climate as they work to attract and retain talent. They should ensure their employer brand and their employment offerings align with the priorities and preferences of the professionals they’re seeking to target.”

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