Evaluation of hybrid working, room for improvement

More than one year into the implementation of the Decision on Working time and Hybrid Working (WTHW) and with the deadline fast approaching, DG HR started the obligatory evaluation process at the end of May to ‘assess whether adjustments … are required’ (see Article 17, WTHW decision). Generation 2004 welcomes this evaluation and the fact that HR has requested feedback from (selected) joint committees, even though it is not formally required. Nevertheless, we do find it unfortunate that an evaluation envisaged from the start should have such limited scope. We have 7 proposals: 2 to make the evaluation more meaningful and inclusive and 5 on the decision itself.

First, we ask that the staff-consultation part not be limited to a small focus group (as indicated on MyIntracomm) but open to all staff everywhere. If not, how to ensure that this random sample of staff is representative of the >32000 staff at the Commission, the numerous places of employment, the many different contract types and diversity and inclusion in our workplace? The stated intention to use the ‘[r]esults of the recent pulse surveys and available data, such as use of teleworking and presence in the office’, while useful, cannot replace full and thorough engagement with staff, giving each of us an opportunity to respond. Empower staff to help you shape the adjustments! Pulse surveys (and here) were not designed for this purpose, staff were consulted in June 2022 and February 2023: 2 and 10 months post implementation of the WTHW decision and the two show increasing satisfaction on  every single point measured, from flexible working overall to physical working arrangements in the office to impact on work-life balance and impact on trust within the organisation.

Second, any evaluation worth doing must also duly take into account the input of trade unions and staff associations (OSPs) as part of the consultation itself. We have dealt with the fallout and have seen where colleagues have difficulties, why is our input only to be sought at the end? For a genuine, useful and transparent collaboration on the evaluation, why not consult as far and wide as possible?

‘DG HR shall perform an evaluation of the implementation of this Decision by 30 September 2023. On the basis of that evaluation, the Commission shall assess whether adjustments to this Decisions are required, after concertation with the trade unions.’ (Article 17(2), WTHW decision)

Third, we insist that the void created by the WTHW abolition of the local part-time committees be addressed: the  new WTHW committee is not able to deal with situations where a request to work part-time has been refused, leaving colleagues with no option but mediation or a Article 90(2) complaint (options which are mutually incompatible since they cannot run concurrently).

Fourth, we reiterate our proposal on teleworking from outside the place of employment (teleworking from anywhere/abroad (TWA)) in order to allow to our institution to remain forward-looking and attractive for the best talent on the job market, while taking the best possible care of its staff. Check out out the latest TWA status showing managers acknowledge its positive impact.

Fifth, Generation 2004 asks DG HR to allow any remaining TWA days to be carried over to the following year[1], at least until the number of TWA days is increased to 60 days/year. This would go in the direction of flexibility and trust management that is at the core of the decision and foster a better work-life balance, especially as our population is overwhelmingly made up of multilingual colleagues, expats or those with family and interests or commitments far from the place of employment.

Sixth, when can we reasonably expect to see the as-yet-unpublished ‘… register of types of tasks incompatible with teleworking.’ (Article 8(3), WTHW decision)

Seventh, the lump sum payment for additional teleworking costs: we would like clear information on when/how this can be provided and figures on claims accepted/paid so far (we believe it to be zero). Remember that the colleague who sought reimbursement of costs via the courts lost, not because it was an unjustified request, but because of all the possible teleworking-related costs, internet is not listed.

‘Where appropriate, DG HR may adopt a decision providing for a lump sum covering certain costs of teleworking staff, subject to budgetary availability.’  (WTHW decision, Article 13(4))

If you want to share an experience or situation that could be of interest, or have a comment on the implementation of the decision, get in touch with us.

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As always, feel free to contact us if you have questions: we’re here for you!

[1] This was (partially) done in 2021, the first year these 10 TWA days were made available. On 08.12.2021 an email communication announced that the days could be combined with the end-of-year days (annual leave days no longer necessary) and that these 10 days could be used up until 15.01.2022. This did not happen in 2022 (there was no announcement stating that it would not happen) resulting in any days intended for January 2023 being lost.

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