The Inquiry aimed to investigate how flexible working practices could be implemented successfully and used strategically for maximum benefit and efficiency in the public sector in Northern Ireland. While the Inquiry examined the full range of flexible working options, including flexible time working, there was a particular focus on the further opportunities for flexible location working, such as working from hub/satellite offices, mobile working and sharing office space. Evidence confirmed the potential benefits of flexible working, whether for the employer, the employee, the economy, the environment or society generally. These include, for example: reduced office accommodation costs; increased productivity; better work-life balance; improved staff morale and commitment; reduced staff turnover and absenteeism; promotion of gender equality in employment; reduced levels of economic inactivity; and environmental benefits. It is more a question of how rather than whether flexible working practices should be applied. For the benefits to be fully realised in the public sector in Northern Ireland, there is a need for the Executive to take a strategic and coordinated policy approach rather than piecemeal application, especially in relation to the flexible location of work. It is evident that the greatest challenge is in gaining commitment at the top level of management. Given that technological, social, economic and environmental drivers will force change in any event, government must now take the opportunity to fully embrace flexible working in order to harness its potential. The Inquiry findings and recommendations aim to inform the Department and the wider Executive in taking the necessary steps towards this outcome
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