The Coronavirus pandemic has fundamentally changed how we work.
We have moved almost overnight from the vast majority of staff being office-based, to the position we find ourselves in today where over half of us are working from home.
Throughout the pandemic we have still managed to deliver essential services to the people across Northern Ireland and I want to thank you again for your continued dedication and commitment. I also want to thank TUS who have worked constructively to help us adjust.
The Executive has published its plan for a phased, strategic approach to recovery and has recently made a number of announcements relaxing some of the restrictions.
The plan encourages us to continue to work from home when and where we can.
The NICS Board has therefore agreed that those colleagues who can work from home, will very probably continue to do so, by and large, for the foreseeable future.
While there are many benefits to working from home, it can be tough particularly for those who have to juggle child care and/or caring responsibilities. We are also mindful of the impact which being isolated from work colleagues can have on your wellbeing.
Some of you may feel you would be better off in the work-place. If this is the case you should discuss this with your line management and this will be looked at on a case by case basis.
We are preparing plans for returning to the workplace so that the NICS is ready to respond to changes as the Executive introduces further easements to the current restrictions.
In many cases there will be a flexible approach – a mixture of working remotely and coming into the workplace in certain circumstances or perhaps working on a rota basis.
Our aim is to ensure you will feel confident when we say it is safe to come into the workplace. We will of course work closely with our TUS colleagues on these plans.
To help with this, you should use the tools and guidance available to you which will continue to be updated - please keep in touch with your line manager and keep up to date with the latest information and advice for NICS colleagues on the Covid-19 Hub on Department of Finance website.
It is also important to take proper breaks from work and to use your annual leave. We are encouraging line managers to ensure everyone takes annual leave. Where you have not been specifically prevented from taking your annual leave, normal annual leave carryover will still apply. Understanding and flexibility will be needed from both line managers and staff, as we move into the business recovery period. We expect all line managers to set a good example in this regard.
Covid-19 is still in the community. We can’t be complacent and we need to continue to comply with the guidance to keep ourselves and our loved ones safe.
I will keep you updated as this situation evolves.