New working time and hybrid working committee

*Update 14.09.2022: no date has been set yet for the first (September!) meeting of this new committee.*

As we noted in July 2022, the absence of general guidelines for the March 2022 working time and hybrid working (WTHW) decision means that dozens of DGs and services and numerous agencies are doing their own thing and drafting their own guidelines[1]. This is inevitably leading to differences in interpretation and application of the rules, to say nothing of the efficiency of having so many parallel drafting projects on the go, particularly when they all might need to be revised when the general guidelines are finally published (they are still currently being drafted by HR in August 2022, over 4 months after the publication of the decision).

This widespread variation appears to have been anticipated, since Point 17 in the WTHW decision provides for a WTHW joint committee[2] to monitor the implementation of the decision and issue ‘recommendations to DG HR in case it detects inconsistencies and/or unequal treatment in the implementation of this Decision’. While the creation of a dedicated committee is welcome, we find that the work of that committee will be much better supported when the general guidelines are finally made available.

In the interests of transparency and facilitating collaboration, we list below the DG guidelines that we have found published. We’ll add any others we can find here in order to allow all colleagues to compare what’s happening in practice [3].

  • Eurostat: staff are to be present on 2 fixed days set for 6 months,
  • Office for Infrastructure and Logistics in Luxembourg (OIL) staff are expected to spend a minimum of 16 hours in the office over 2 days (originally 3 days)[*],
  • DG Health and Food Safety (DG SANTE): staff continue with the 2 days of presence introduced in March 2022.

The new WTHW committee met for the first time in July and will next meet in September. We can present your examples of what is happening on the ground at that September meeting. Please send us links to your DG’s guidelines and tell us about how the new rules affect you via our survey.

This WTHW committee consists of 4 couples (a full member and backup (‘alternate’)) from each side, plus observers. The first meeting set up:

  • priorities for the work of the committee e.g. to draft internal rules to govern the internal working of the committee.
  • a list of the data from HR necessary for the committee to start its core task, namely monitoring the implementation of the decision:
    • the new general guidelines (once they are finished),
    • the specific rules applied by DGs
    • the number of (weekly) teleworking days registered so far in Sysper, per DG and per site.

This constructive first meeting was characterised by an atmosphere of active collaboration and genuine interest in making the best of the WTHW decision. We are therefore confident that the committee will be a tool to foster the culture of trust and flexibility on which the decision is based, while ensuring a fair application of the rules.

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

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[*] Thanks to the colleague who got in touch to say that OIL changed this rule.

[1] As a common grouping, all trade unions and staff associations together (OSPs) (‘Common Front’) wrote to Ms INGESTAD:

‘We are still very concerned about the fully decentralised governance of working time and telework policies, which means that there are as many implementations as there are DGs/services/directorates/units. We can understand the Commissioner’s approach to give as much flexibility as possible to services, but this should not be at the expense of staff.’ (Common Front, February 2022)

[2] Joint committees are made up of colleagues from HR and from the trade unions and staff associations (OSPs) with a 50-50 split.

[3] Generation 2004 also notes that, while the WTHW decision mentions training for managers at several points, we find little or no evidence of a corresponding supporting framework of activities e.g.:

  • published figures on training provided so far or planned,
  • published material and guidelines on all related aspects,
  • guidance on the collecting and sharing of best practice,
  • interactive training on EU Learn (our searches returned brochures and videos on managing remote teams only),
  • follow-up or mentoring.

‘Human Resources and Security (‘DG HR’) should provide adequate guidance, training and material resources as well as streamline good practices throughout the institution.’ (Point 4, Page 1, WTHW Decision)

‘The implementation of teleworking arrangements should take into account psycho-social risks such as those linked to digital overload, a blurred line between professional and private lives or social isolation. Accompanying measures should therefore ensure good working conditions and, where relevant, provide targeted training and guidance. (Point 9, Page 2, WTHW Decision)

‘Managers shall follow trainings concerning the specificities of managing teleworking staff,  including leading a team and building team spirit, monitoring performance and motivation of each team member as well as the possible risks and dangers of digital overload and digital burnout.’ ( Article 14(2), WTHW Decision)

‘To set up a new culture of trust, it is in itself not enough to just announce it in the decision. This change in the culture of our managers must also be implemented through training, campaigns, seminars, workshops, etc. and carefully assessed and reinforced or corrected when necessary.
Provision regarding digital burnout and its consequences must be put in place.’ (Common Front, February 2022)

 

 

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