Get ready: the return to the office is starting in June

At last, on Wednesday evening (19.05.2021) HR announced a date for the start of operation ‘return to the office’: from Wednesday 9 June onwards the Commission anticipates moving from phase 0 to phase 1. In practice, this means that while teleworking will remain the norm, staff will be encouraged to go to the office, still on a voluntary basis. The maximum presence in the buildings – to be complied with at all time – will be raised to 20%. The canteen in the Berlaymont building will be reopened.

However, the rules on trips (‘missions’), meetings and visitors will remain unchanged.

At the same time, there will be a small modification to the rules on the 10 days (in total) of teleworking from abroad: the days are to be combined with at least 5 days of annual leave [1], and not – as is currently stated  – precede 5 days of annual leave (teleworking guidelines, 31.3.2021 p.7). While Generation 2004 welcomes this added flexibility, we highlight once again our request to increase the possibility to telework from abroad, following the lead of other institutions. Let’s not forget we are still in a pandemic: in the framework of  duty of care for staff, we’ve been asking the administration to allow 60 days of teleworking from abroad since November 2020 and we first asked HR to temporarily lift the requirement to telework at the place of residence in March 2020.

Such adjustments would help staff to enjoy their summer holiday (it’s been many difficult months for us all), while better coping with all the rules still in place in many countries, facilitating a better work-life balance and ensuring business continuity while making sure staff are able to travel and comply with quarantine where necessary.

A new step in the path towards returning to office is planned for July, when the move to phase 2 should see the staff-presence ceiling raised to 30%.

If the COVID-19 pandemic continues to be under control, especially in terms of hospitalisations, in September the Commission should go to phase 3. At this point teleworking would not be the norm anymore, and 1 day per week in the office would become compulsory. The staff-presence ceiling will be 50%.

Missions will be allowed, as well as visitors: subject to national rules.

Wearing a mask and all other protective measures will still be in place, with a view to reducing them as the public health situation and the national regulations will allow.

As Generation 2004, we stressed several important issues to be considered, including the health and safety in the buildings especially in new open plan/hot-desking environment (e.g. ‘The One’: L107, DG BUDG and DG TRADE). We are part of the common front on this issue and signed the letter to the President:

‘All Trade Unions and staff associations (OSPs) together with the Central Staff Committee (CSC) wish to share with you their serious concerns about the implementation of the new open space/hotdesking working environment at the European Commission.’ (12.05.2021)

Another key element is the reopening of canteens and cafeterias (while we still have them), to allow colleagues a smooth transition to going back to the office and to encourage socialisation and networking, something many have missed dearly during our more than one year of compulsory teleworking (since 16 March 2020).

Additionally, we asked for clarification for the situation in Italy [and delegations] [2], (remember that vaccination everywhere is a national competence) where, in spite of all the efforts, some difficulties remain for staff and pensioners to be vaccinated. We were reassured that, things seem to be going in the right direction and contact with the national and local authorities to solve the outstanding issues continue. If the worst comes to the worst, other solutions could be envisaged, including allowing special leave for staff affected to be vaccinated in another country.

As usual, do not hesitate to share your comments and ideas with us.

[1] p. 6 Teleworking guidelines 26.05.2021 (with effect from 09.06.2021).

[2] Update 26.05.2021 email coronavirus update 36: ‘In Italy, the authorities have announced that all residents with an affiliation to the EU Institutions, including active and retired staff as well as their dependents, will be included in the national vaccination campaign regardless of their registration in the Italian Health System. We are currently working on a webpage that will collect the information to be sent to the national authorities. We will inform all JSIS affiliates residing in Italy as soon as this page is ready, with all the relevant details about the procedure.

For staff in delegations, beyond those who come to Brussels to our vaccination centre or those included in national campaigns, the EEAS is working with the Belgian authorities to organise vaccinations. The Commission is providing all the support needed.’

02.0602021: Information on vaccine passports/certificates for Italy and delegations is not yet available, (best ‘guesstimate’: guidance will be published within the next 5 days on FAQ).

2 thoughts on “Get ready: the return to the office is starting in June

  1. Good news for being able to combine teleworking with 5 days of leave. Pity that we are not allowed to combine them with the end-of-the-year holidays (I checked with DG HR).

    1. Thanks for bringing this to our attention, we have brought it up in several meetings and communications and will get in touch with anything we find out.
      Last year this type of telework was allowed to be combined with the end of the year period (Coronavirus: communication to staff – update 24.), setting a precedent.
      We also see potential issues with people having some of the 10 days remaining at the end of the year and requesting to use them next year.
      As ever, the situation is changeable.
      Thanks for getting in touch with Generation 2004!

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