Updated: Sep 18
Author: Helen CONEFREY Co-author: Sumeet THAKKAR
Telework has been in place at Headquarters for more than a decade and with the adoption and entry into force of the new Commission Decision on flexible working arrangements on 1 April 2022, it is clear that EU Delegations are once again playing catch-up.
EU Delegations continue to be peripheral and secondary despite their critical role in EU foreign and security policy and development cooperation.
Flexible working arrangements are a win-win situation that lead to increased motivation and productivity together with a greater work/life balance.
Staff of all categories in EU Delegations rose to the challenge during the global health crisis in 2020/21/22 and demonstrated that flexible working arrangements including telework offer a wide range of benefits and can ensure business continuity particularly during a crisis. Similarly, in post-pandemic times, telework provides greater autonomy to staff to better organise themselves in order to obtain results and meet targets.
Even before the pandemic, a pilot exercise that began in 2018 and was undertaken in a limited number of EU Delegations, showed positive results and demonstrated for once and for all that telework was feasible in EU Delegations and broke the myths surrounding it.
In all meetings with the EEAS and Commission management, USHU has repeatedly underlined the need to introduce a legal basis for telework in EU Delegations as soon as possible and to ensure a uniform approach towards all staff categories. USHU has requested that EU DEL policy be aligned with the principles of flexible working arrangements at HQ and that any deviations should be fully justified.
Following months of uncertainty in 2022, it is now clear that two separate decisions will be required. There will be a specific Decision for Expatriates and a separate, specific Decision for Local Agents. For the moment, there is no draft Decision on the table for Local Agents, which is disappointing, however there is draft text for the Expatriate Decision and the social dialogue process for has indeed begun albeit after inexplicable delays in 2022.
Working from the office and teleworking are equivalent ways of working under the new Decision
What aspects are in the new Decision for expatriates in EU DEL?
Teleworking will be accessible to all expatriates; officials, temporary agents, contract agents, seconded national experts, junior professionals and trainees.
Greater autonomy for staff to manage flexibly their working day with the proposal of one day of telework per week and achieve a better work-life balance
Local Delegation Staff Representatives (DSRs) will be consulted in order to the local telework plan and other local measures in order to implement the Decision
Flexitime will be fully compatible with teleworking with the option to recuperate or offset additional hours
A right to disconnect between 20.00 – 07.30
Working hours will remain an average of 8 hours per day with the possibility to record up to 10 hours if fully justified
Telework from outside the place of employment ( up to 10 working days each year ) to spend more time closer to their family/friends and support network at their place of origin/interest
Telework remains voluntary and those who wish to go to the office every day, may do so.
Which challenges remain?
Managers need to understand better how to lead and organise hybrid teams using collaborative platforms and co-creation techniques
Staff must be learn to plan and manage their work time more effectively and ensure they disconnect and avoid even longer working hours under new, hybrid arrangements
adequate equipment needs to be supplied to all staff ( corporate laptops, screens, keyboards, office chairs etc.)
staff need to ensure adequate working space at home/elsewhere to be able to work and deliver
Internet Connectivity outside the office needs to be guaranteed and reliable
More attention must be paid to psychosocial issues related to the workplace and hybrid arrangements; digital burnout must be avoided.
USHU is fully supportive of a hybrid system that will permit both presence in the office and remote working for EU Delegations. USHU firmly believes in the need to foster a modern, digital and flexible work environment, enabling a better work-life balance and decreasing the environmental impact through a combination of working from the office and teleworking from elsewhere. Most tasks undertaken in EU Delegations are fully compatible with a hybrid system (presence in the office and teleworking).
Any new system requires a paradigm shift with the installation of a culture of trust and results-based management
USHU will be continue to be at the forefront of negotiations and ensure that staff in EU Delegations are not left behind
USHU CANDIDATES IN THE EEAS STAFF COMMITTEE ELECTIONS
Meet your CLPHU USHU team: Contact us whenever you need support!