*Update 06.12.2023 we don’t see the proposed HR evaluation published yet, if you find it please send us the link.**24.11.2023 it has come to our attention that we mentioned ‘evaluat[ing] pets as a hitherto-untapped source of heat’ as a joke in an article on cold offices in October 2022. We made many outrageous suggestions in that article: watch out for any others appearing soon in an office near you – eek!**Update 20.11.2023, thanks to the colleague who brought the 2 corresponding (now closed) surveys and proposed HR evaluation to our attention. There is no date announced for publication as yet and its full scope is unclear.*
Original article: While for DG HR the first ‘Bring your dog to work day’ at The ONE (L107), ‘to reduce stress and anxiety and improve well-being’, was a barking success. Generation 2004 is convinced that more reflection and clear data are needed before coming to such enthusiastic conclusions (but we know, at the Commission pilot projects are always a success!).
Many colleagues in the last couple of days have informed us that – despite all their sympathy and even love for pets – they have allergies, or a fear of dogs, or simply didn’t feel at ease working in open space with dogs walking around, possibly barking at one another. Considering the already-difficult working conditions for those hotdesking in open space, it would be normal that also the opinion of those who beg to differ would be respected, and that health and safety at work – in this case combined with the utmost respect for animal rights and well-being – be a priority. It is very unfortunate that the corresponding Committee on Health and Safety at work (CPPT) was not informed of the initiative nor asked its opinion. Another unilateral decision?!
In any case, according to our information the operation was rather a failure, as around lunchtime only around 13 dogs were registered at the entrance desk, while 16 (!) out of the 21 floors of L107 were open to dogs. We also spoke with a number of colleagues working in the building who preferred to leave their ‘best friends’ at home, mindful of the fact that for a dog this could be a stressful experience.
Spending in times of tight budget
This project, as with any other, incurs costs, all of which hit the Commission budget. On top of the time and energy spent by colleagues working on this idea for days, we note, in particular, the thorough cleaning needed to allow all colleagues – including those with allergies – to be back in the office safely the next day.
It is very interesting to notice that the G2004 request to open a social dialogue on a reduction on canteen prices for those who find themselves lower on the salary scales (as is done in Luxembourg) was met with the usual reply: good idea but there is no money! The same reply was given once again to our request to implement a payment to contribute to the additional costs incurred while teleworking, as set out in the Working Time and Hybrid working Decision and as is done in the Parliament.
Not to mention our constant request to substantially increase the number of height-adjustable desks, particularly in hotdesking environments, as data show that musculoskeletal disorders are one of the main causes of sick leave at the Commission and these desks are standard in other EU institutions.
Clearly, the money goes where our political masters fancy it is “cooler” so as to showcase the Commission as a nice workplace, and not to make substantially improvements to staff working conditions.
Mental health at the Commission: Houston, we have a problem?
What is even more striking, is to notice that this initiative of having dogs in the office was aimed at fighting against loneliness. Wasn’t hotdesking in open space supposed to be the perfect environment to foster collaboration, teamwork and socialisation?
Generation 2004 has been ringing the alarm for years now, and especially since the Covid crisis accelerated the move to new workspace arrangements. We know that currently the number of colleagues suffering – or having suffered – from burnout and poor mental health is very worrying, but not much is being done in terms of tangible, measurable outcomes. We are convinced that having dogs in a building is no real, long-term solution to these important problems affecting a growing share of staff, as long as the root causes are not recognised and tackled.
The causes lie first and foremost in the increasing workload and pressures to deliver, coming from managers, who often don’t have enough staff to do the job. As a consequence, many services run on goodwill: many colleagues find themselves obliged to accumulate extra working hours that they cannot ever recuperate because of the limits in the staff regulations (2 days/month) and which are due to the sheer workload, in a downward spiral (Generation 2004 proposed a special leave to compensate extra hours, but it fell on deaf ears…).
This is made even worse by the move of several thousands of colleagues to hotdesking in open-space environments, which creates additional stress and reduces productivity for many. With the ensuing need to work longer hours from home to compensate for the distractions and time lost. Under such conditions it is no surprise that burnout and other mental and physical troubles might be just around the corner.
Generation 2004 reiterates that the time has come to stop and reflect on the way forward. What has to happen before this discussion can be held, and the elephant in the room addressed? We hope it is not another suicide that someone is waiting for.
Generation 2004 asks once again to DG HR to open a social dialogue with the trade unions and staff associations (OSPs) to discuss the long-term working conditions of staff for the future, on the basis that cutting costs cannot be more of a priority than protecting health and wellbeing. A healthy, happy workforce is most the important capital in which to invest.
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