By Helen Conefrey, EU Delegation to Paraguay and Michael Steffens, EU Delegation to Iraq
Teleworking has been a resounding success and ensured business continuity in EU Delegations
Working from the office and teleworking will be considered as equivalent ways of working
For several months, the Commission has been discussing its new proposal for working arrangements with the aim to fully embrace hybrid options. EU institutions want to foster a modern, digital and flexible work environment, enabling work-life balance and decreasing the environmental impact through a combination of working from an office and teleworking from elsewhere. Whilst there is an overall consensus on the need to modernise the workplace and learn from telework experiences over the past eighteen months, there are still detailed discussions and debates on how exactly to do this whilst maintaining productivity and guaranteeing a fair work-life balance.
For the EEAS, it has been decided that due to the specificity of EU Delegations, two separate Decisions will be required – one for EEAS staff at HQ and one for all staff (Commission/EEAS) serving in EU Delegations. There will however be more limitations to hybrid working in EU Delegations despite requests from staff representatives to minimise deviations and ensure alignment with HQ practices and to guarantee that EU Delegations remain attractive places to work with similarly flexible work arrangements.
USHU is fully supportive of a hybrid system that will permit both presence in the office and remote working for EU Delegations. The ongoing health crisis has demonstrated that not only is it possible to work remotely in EU Delegations but that it has been critical for business continuity and has also enabled staff to fully deliver on expected results. Indeed there is now no longer a need to focus on the place of work but on the results achieved and in ensuring that there is a culture of trust and performance. Managers in particular, must adapt and accept that flexible working arrangements are necessary and beneficial for EU Delegations. Indeed, most tasks undertaken in EU Delegations are fully compatible with a hybrid system (presence in the office and teleworking).
What should the new Decision contain ?
greater autonomy for staff members to manage flexibly their working day
a reduced carbon footprint as fewer staff come to the office every day
at least 1 day of telework per week authorised with the possibility to increase days with the line manager’s approval
the right to disconnect with a bandwidth established for normal working hours
teleworking accessible to all staff categories (Local Agents, Temporary Agents, Contract Agents and Officials)
normal working hours will be 8 hours with the possibility to record up to 10 hours if fully justified
flexitime will be compatible with teleworking with the option to recuperate or offset additional hours
Which challenges remain?
adequate equipment needs to be supplied to all staff (corporate laptops, screens, keyboards, office chairs etc)
managers need to ensure teams are able to work collaboratively and are able to adapt to the new hybrid system
staff need to ensure they have adequate working space at home/elsewhere to be able to concentrate and deliver
Internet Connectivity outside the office needs to be reliable to enable telework and in some countries support may be needed towards increased connectivity costs
physical and mental needs to be addressed better particular for expatriate colleagues who have already suffered from higher levels of isolation during the pandemic
How will an adequate Work-life balance be protected ?
staff need to be able to plan and manage their work time effectively to ensure that they disconnect and avoid longer working hours
managers must respect the normal working hours and avoid requests beyond the established bandwidth
telework from abroad (at least 10 working days each year) must remain in force so that staff have the option to combine annual leave with telework in order to spend more time closer to their friends and family at their place of origin/interest