Finance Minister Conor Murphy has launched Connect2 Regional Hubs, describing them as a transformational approach to working within the civil service.
The 11 hubs are part of a new hybrid working policy which will offer a blended approach to working from home, remotely, or in the office subject to business need. The hubs will become operational in line with public health guidance.
Speaking as he visited the hub at Rathkeltair House in Downpatrick, with head of the civil service Jayne Brady, Minister Murphy said: “The Connect2 Regional Hubs are one of the most significant developments in relation to how the civil service operates and it’s great to get the opportunity to visit Downpatrick to see the excellent range of facilities that will be available.
“Working from home as a result of Covid-19 has provided many civil servants with an opportunity to achieve a more balanced work/life arrangement with many staff describing this as a positive experience. The regional ‘Connect2’ hubs will offer a better work-life balance in the future by providing flexibility and reducing travel time. They will also lower carbon emissions while importantly promoting regional economic balance. They are a key enabler to transforming how civil servants will work in line with their departmental requirements, allowing them to connect to people, technology and the office.”
Hubs in Ballykelly, Downpatrick, Ballymena and Craigavon are complete and hubs in Bangor and Omagh are scheduled for completion over the next two months. Planning has also started for additional hubs in the Antrim/Newtownabbey, Derry, Mid Ulster, Enniskillen and Newry areas, all of which are expected to open over the next two years.
Jayne added: “The Connect2 hubs are an innovative way to give civil servants a more flexible working environment.
“The Covid pandemic meant we had to adjust our approach to how we work. With so many staff now telling us that being able to avail of a range of working arrangements has made a difference to their work life balance, the hubs will offer staff from across all Departments a local, well-equipped and flexible working environment which also support business needs.
“We will continue to have a significant presence in Belfast, however, this network of hubs will be of great value to the civil service across the region. I am hopeful they will also make jobs in the civil service more accessible to those living further away from Belfast who have until now been put off applying to join due to prospect of lengthy commutes five days a week.”