Evaluations of working time and hybrid working so far

It’s been a year since the implementation of the working time and hybrid working (WTHW) decision (entered into force 01.04.2022). The only official feedback sought during this time are the Pulse surveys of June 2022 and February 2023 (comparative) which 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. Are you surprised? We were surprised.

In the interests of transparency and collaboration we publish some of the reflections and conclusions drawn from the analysis of the results of our own June 2022 survey. it is notable that the vast majority of our participants (95.8%) wanted an official survey on the effects of the WTHW decision. The Pulse surveys [1] only partially fulfill that request: the detail sought in them is limited. For example, is that (albeit limited) documented increase in satisfaction with the physical working arrangements in the office (from 60% to 64% positive) from the February Pulse survey evident among colleagues already in ‘dynamic and collaborative spaces’ (called open-plan hot-desking outside the Commission)[2] or is it those who are not (yet) in this set-up who are comparatively more positive?

Feel free to make your own comparison between the 3 surveys and remember that Generation 2004 considered the WTHW decision as released as unfinished (unfortunately, we were unsuccessful in our request to continue the negotiations).

Information available on introduction of the new WTHW rules

More than one third of the >900 participants of our survey consider that they didn’t receive all the necessary information about the applicable WTHW rules. This is consistent with the Pulse surveys and is both very high and very worrying. It shows, on one hand, that staff were (to a large extent) not able to take conscious decisions about the conditions of their work and apply them in their daily, professional lives, and on the other hand, that the WTHW-rules communication campaign was less than successful.

While on the topic of WTHW communication, we mention here that the draft WTHW guidelines were abandoned 10.03.2023 in favour of reworking the corresponding WTHW frequently asked questions (FAQs), but that this has not yet been done (as of 18.04.2023)[3]. Some of the now-abandoned draft rules described there are still creating work for the OSPs: evidence that an already-unclear situation was further confused via this draft document.

The availability bandwidth

Our survey showed that for many (40.6%) the imposed bandwidth for the new working time (08:00-19:00) is problematic. The main 2 reasons mentioned are firstly, that it is too narrow (it’s 2 hours shorter than what we had previously) and secondly, that it may be interpreted by hierarchy as a ‘standby’ mode of working and as such abused [4].

In the light of those 2 main reasons a question ‘why has the previous bandwidth (07:00-20:00) been modified?’ seems justified. Anyone who previously started work at 07:00 now has to depend on the goodwill of their line manager to continue to do so. There are no equivalent questions in the Pulse surveys.

Days in the office: variation in the interests of the service?

Our survey revealed that 73% of those who responded are allowed to telework at least 3 days per week, while the others are not, depending on their DG. The Pulse surveys limit themselves to asking how much time staff spend in the office, without asking whether that was through choice or obligation, why not ask the question? In August 2022 we listed the different teleworking/presence rules in place for Eurostat, OIL and DG SANTE).

Our survey confirmed also that in delegations (where the WTHW decision is not applicable, they will have their own version) teleworking is often not allowed or allowed only under conditions set by head of delegation.

These differences are often without a reason which could be justified by the specificity or needs of the job. These situations should be monitored closely by DG HR since they can and do lead to structural discrimination.

Another interesting observation resulting from our survey is that many respondents who have their own office (72.6%) would be willing to trade that for the possibility of teleworking more than 3 days per week. Again, the Pulse surveys did not ask about the office set-up but simply whether staff were satisfied with it. Pulse survey respondents mention shared offices in Q3a but the survey gives no context, meaning this information serves no useful purpose.

Those who responded expressed a desire for the WTHW rules to be applied equally and they were very sensitive on this point. 45.3% of participants felt that the WTHW rules were not applied equally within their DGs, and 83.2% of those who responded would consider changing the job/DG depending on the flexibility offered in their interpretation of the WTHW decision. Pulse survey Questions 3a, 5 and 7 make mention of potentially related elements, but without detail, meaning no comparison can be made.

Generation 2004 urges the administration to equalise the working conditions of all staff of the institutions without considering the place of work (this would also cover items such as internal competitions and the teleworking lump sum of €40 per month). We also ask for the detailed comments related to Pulse survey Questions 3a, 5 and 7 to be shared.

Teleworking from anywhere

The question in our survey on the number of days of telework from anywhere/outside of place of employment (TWA) permitted gave a strong answer: 70.4% of respondents would like to be able to telework more than 10 days from abroad and 72.3% of those who responded stated that they would be willing to give up an individual office if in return they could telework substantially more from abroad. The issue is the first one listed in the response to Pulse survey Question 7 but with no corresponding information enabling action to be taken.

Generation 2004 will continue to raise the issue of increasing the number of TWA days in the negotiations with administration.

Workspace arrangements

In general, the move to hot-desking was viewed negatively by respondents to the Generation 2004 survey. As stated, the Pulse surveys avoid this topic.

About 63% of those who responded to our survey consider that the hot-desking working arrangement are not suitable for their job. The reasons why it is so are shown in the graph below.

In addition, our survey revealed that 53.9% of participants would consider the hot-desking conditions while deciding whether to move to another DG.


Last, but not least, information confirmed by our survey is that the current food offer in canteens is not satisfactory for 65.5% of participants. Generation 2004 will urge the Office for Infrastructure and Logistics in Brussels (OIB) and its counterpart in Luxembourg (OIL) to improve the offer and quality of food[5]. We will also ask OIB to reconsider the internalisation of the canteens. Again, it’s possible comments were made on this within Pulse survey Questions 3a, 5 and 7, but the detail provided is insufficient for this to be known.

Generation 2004 is here to support you, do not hesitate to contact us, whether you need help with an issue or even just to share your thoughts.

If you appreciate our work, please consider becoming a member of Generation 2004.

The Generation 2004 team

[1] Unfortunately, neither Pulse survey has specific questions about hot-desking, TWA days or improvements to be made. While participants could (and did) comment on these aspects (Questions 3a, 5 and 7), the details were not shared.

Participants Response rate (%)
Pulse survey 28-30 June 2022 10682 33
Pulse survey 14-17 February 2023 12896 40
Generation 2004 survey May-June 2022 913 02

[2] E.g. DG BUDG, DG TRADE and DG ENV staff. Note the next to hot-desk will be some 600 Publications Office (OP) and 180 DG Communications Networks, Content and Technology (CNECT) colleagues, all of whom will move to the new POST-Mercier building (Luxembourg) later in 2023. There are similar plans for the Jean Monnet 2 (JMO2) and The One. To date, there has been no impact/risk assessment done and we find no evaluation/improvement documents for teams already in this set-up.

[3] These (defunct) WTHW draft guidelines were made available to staff committees and joint committees 13.12.2022 with a deadline for feedback to HR 16.01.2022. The guidelines specified several limitations not mentioned in the WTHW decision itself such as these 3:

‘… staff must be able to answer a call and reply to emails within 15 minutes.’

‘10 TWA days being 10 ‘tickets’ i.e. that they could not be taken as half days.’

‘Staff should telework from a place allowing them to physically come to the office within a reasonable time without being dependent on the hazard of transportation …’

[4] Please note that this is explicitly forbidden in the WTHW decision itself, thanks to the insistence of the OSPs.

‘The time frame … shall not be considered as stand-by duty. Staff may not be expected to be reachable outside the working time agreed pursuant to paragraph 1, except in duly justified situations as defined under paragraph 6.’ (WTHW decision, Article 5(2))

If you are being asked to cover standby please check out our template email in footnote 1 of our standby article.

[5] Luxembourg (OIL) even has different prices  at Commission canteens, depending on contract type. Why is this not done in Brussels?

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