100% hot-desking at the new POST-Mercier building

*Update 21.02.2024 OP staff can request noise-cancelling headphones.* Original article: It is confirmed that the new POST-Mercier building will be the first Commission building to be 100% ‘dynamic and collaborative’. Phew! At least it’s not hot-desking, right? Unfortunately, this is indeed hot-desking albeit (here at least) in a limited fashion. It is first come, first served within the area assigned to your team: your working space might depend on how well you get on with your colleagues. Ah, but it’s just certain staff, right? Unfortunately, also no: it is almost everyone in the building. And it has been decided to put the Publications Office (OP) and DG Communications Networks, Content and Technology (CNECT) together in the new building.

For those with specialist equipment or additional specific needs, how will you ensure that you get the desk you need? Imagine the situation: ‘I know you have a recognised health issue, but today my back hurts, so I took your equipment.’ There will be no building-wide booking system. Check out the Commission’s own Frequently asked questions (FAQs) for L107 where the dynamic and collaborative space (DCS) terms and workings are explained.

Dynamic: this means non-assigned desks in a flexible environment, it is also often called ‘flex-desking’, but more commonly called ‘hot-desking’ outside the Commission. You have a locker or space to store your keyboard, mouse and belongings: the desks must be cleared at the end of the day.

Collaborative space’ is also called ‘open plan’, ‘open space’ or a ‘flexible’ workspace/environment. These normally offer different areas for different activities e.g. office desk/workplace/work station generally within an open area (no individual offices), project area/meeting room, silent zone or quiet room: so spontaneity is limited. Conversations, impromptu meetings and language classes will take place around you.

But I already chose my place in my new open area!

Yes, you did. But then it was decided to put the Publications Office (OP) and DG Communications Networks, Content and Technology (CNECT) together. The stated capacity of POST-Mercier is 746 people (FAQs, 19.10.2022) and the OP had 590 in October 2022. So, not quite enough spare capacity for c.190 colleagues from CNECT colleagues from the Euroforum building (EUFO). CNECT colleagues in Brussels are already in dynamic and collaborative space (DCS).

‘DGs CNECT and ENER will stay in EUFO in Cloche d’Or and the Publications Office is foreseen to stay in the railway station area. The Commission will keep these two buildings in Luxembourg … ‘ MyIntracomm 06.06.2018

It’s only for 2 days a week! I can do that!

Yes, under the current rules the majority of staff are obliged to be present in the office for 2 days per week, but conserve the right to be 100% in the office (teleworking is officially voluntary). Note that the overview of the key elements of the decision highlights that individual hybrid-working configurations (e.g. 3 days at home and 2 days at the office)  are renewable every 6 months, have any of you seen this happen?

But my job requires concentration!

Unfortunately, concentration is harder to measure than budgets and much more subjective.  We previously noted that it is becoming less and less attractive to go to the office for many tasks.  On a practical note, check out My IT Support for headphones.

But I can’t concentrate in at home either/I don’t have a dedicated work area

You still have the right to be 100% in the office, though it is becoming less and less attractive to go to the office for many tasks.  Note that the number of available desks will be only 80% or even 70% of the number of staff [1]. While giving the Commission a space in your home might not be the ideal, particularly given the known difficulties with the cost of living in Luxembourg, there are state subsidies available for accommodation, check whether you are eligible.

What if I have to readjust screens/chairs/desks retrieve my keyboard and mouse from my locker?

These all count as working time, but of course, your workload remains the same, unfortunately.

‘The time when you enter your office building or any other building where you have to attend meetings is a reasonable proxy for defining when you actually start working.’ (Working Time and Hybrid Working (WTHW) FAQ, p. 7)

What if I find the chair/screen/docking station broken?

These all count as working time: if you want to leave a record of the issue in case someone queries your productivity (or lack thereof), put the MY IT Support ticket number in the sysper comments together with an explanatory comment. Unfortunately, in open space people often resort to switching broken equipment around, without ever reporting it: you might find that the spot you have found for the day has several broken items, none of which belong to that location.

Won’t this make the Publications Office/CNECT less attractive?

It might, yes. But given that there is a general and long-standing problem with recruitment in Luxembourg for which no demonstrable action is being taken, what difference could it possibly make to put a further 20% of Luxembourg staff (nearly 800 colleagues) into dynamic and collaborative space (DCS)? This same setup is already planned for the JMO2, ‘Phase 1 is expected to be ready end of 2024, and phase 2 in summer 2025’.

Note also that the Gare area is both under construction (rue du Strasbourg, until 2025) and undergoing rerouting, in addition to seeing the return of private security guards (15.03.2023) in the street to address the well-known and long-standing issues.

But the OP colleagues chose to stay in this neighbourhood!

Yes indeed, when colleagues were consulted (long ago, pre-covid) on their priorities for a new building, they gave location (and transport links) as a priority in addition to expressing a preference for remaining together in one building. There was no mention in that consultation of generalised teleworking, hot-desking or open space.  This was not an informed choice. OP colleagues were not consulted on open space or hot-desking.

What are you doing about it? Are you anti-hot-desking?

We insist on a thorough risk assessment in advance of any future move to DCS and regular follow-up with those already in DCS: these changes should be done by the book! The Commission must ensure the appropriate spacing, equipment and considerations e.g. accommodating the needs of colleagues with disabilities (without isolating those colleagues from their team). The corresponding Commission building regulations are not yet published (Housing conditions manuals 1 and 2 make no mention of hot-desking/open spaces).

Similarly, the corresponding health and safety committees and staff committees are there to be consulted and informed. These committees should not discover changes by accident, such as the November 2022 announcement of the handing back of the Hitec (HTC) building (Luxembourg) to the owner by the end of 2022.

What can we do about it?

Come to the office, make use of all of the available options. The Commission appears to be working on a use-it-or-lose-it plan. If when you find things missing or broken, report it:

For any other questions, do not hesitate to get in touch or leave a comment below.

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[1] DG HR management meetings debrief – 18 January 2021: said at 13:50.

See also from 10.20 onwards: the future holds more extensive telework but we will still have the option of being 100% office based if we like. Most new buildings will have a dynamic office configuration: most buildings were only occupied 70% pre-COVID. 13:20

‘We are going to dynamic space, I want to be clear on that: whatever building we go to it will be in dynamic space.’

Obsolete updates:

*Update 25.01.2024 the Gare neighbourhood will stage another demonstration asking the government to address the deteriorating security there on Sunday 03.02.2024.*

*Update 21.07.2023 the Mercier building, home of the Publications Office since 1973 officially closed its doors for the last time 17.07.2023.*

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