Return to the office well out of sight

As we have done since the very beginning of the COVID‑19 pandemic, we at Generation 2004 continue to closely monitor developments and their repercussions on our working conditions, as well as the health and well-being of staff. In November we participated in two Social Dialogue meetings with DG Human Resources and Security (DG HR) to discuss all the issues pertinent to the health emergency.

Teleworking has become our daily routine and many of us dream about finally meeting our colleagues face to face. In the meantime we have started to master all the digital tools available to facilitate our work from Webex to Microsoft Teams. Nevertheless, proximity, interaction with colleagues and socialising remain the missing link. Some of us will be leaving shortly to finally spend the festive period with our relatives abroad. Here yet again Generation 2004 succeeded: in advocating for teleworking from abroad (subject to your line manager’s approval) starting from 10 December for up to 14 calendar days to cover the quarantine period imposed by certain Member States and the requirement to self-isolate before reuniting with family. Upon return to their place of employment, parents with children in the European Schools will have to homeschool them from 6 to 18 January as a measure against spreading the virus after the holidays. The November teleworking guidelines provide more detail on this. We hope that these rules will be applied equally across the DGs with a great deal of flexibility and sensitivity to individual situations, even though this was not the case in recent months. However, the questions remain open e.g. the provision of corporate laptops for certain categories of staff. It is time to stop the discrimination.

Generation 2004 also pushed the administration to take the staff health seriously. In the current circumstances we have noticed that we are not moving physically as much as we usually would, which can lead to weight gain and increase the risk of other related diseases. Additionally, most of us have started noticing the effects of social distancing on our well-being as the satisfying of our basic psychological needs becomes increasingly challenging [1][2]. Therefore, we are incredibly pleased that our voice was heard and our concerns addressed by introducing various initiatives and online courses to foster our health during the pandemic. Apart from that, Generation 2004 decided to tackle the rise of burnout by offering its own very-much-in-demand prevention training (currently ongoing).

In addition to this, to compensate for the increased teleworking, we have repeatedly asked (since the beginning of the pandemic) for financial support to ensure appropriate ergonomics when working from home. In this context, Generation 2004 welcomes the initiative to contribute to the cost of a screen (EUR 150) and an office chair (EUR 200). However, we believe that the purchase deadline of 31 December 2020 is very short. These items might not be readily available due to closed shops, an increased delivery period before Christmas or the common requirement pre-order ergonomic chairs. We are still awaiting a reply to our request for more information on the so-called 2021 home-kit scheme to enable colleagues to make informed choices on which of the two systems might better suit their needs. For these reasons we have requested that the deadline for the purchase be extended until the end of January [3]. What remains to be clarified is whether the additional costs related to internet and office supply will be covered to any extent in the new scheme.

Almost 7 000 staff members have been vaccinated against the seasonal flu so far. Some doses are still available: book here! The campaign has been reopened for any staff aged 50+ and should continue until the end of January. The flu-vaccination campaign is also a test run for the future COVID‑19 vaccination distribution. At this stage, the Commission is not yet sure whether the medical service will be able to administer the COVID‑19 vaccine to staff at its premises or will have to do it under the various national systems. Nevertheless, the preparations are under way: if you meet the criteria, submit your request to be vaccinated against COVID-19 as soon as it is available: the deadline is 15 January 2021. In this regard, certain challenges arise, as most of the vaccines currently announced need two doses within 2-3 weeks, some of them need to be refrigerated at approximately – 80 °C or administered in a short timeframe. Belgium plans to start vaccinating the most vulnerable sections of the population as of 5 January [4]. It is however unclear how much time this, the biggest vaccination campaign in history, will take. This is one of the many reasons why, at this moment, the return to the office unfortunately remains out of sight. In a few years we are sure COVID‑19 will remain in our memories the same way we think of the bubonic plague of medieval times. We know it is not easy but remember, we are all in it together.

If you need any help, contact relevant services, check out offers of assistance from colleagues (My IntraComm>Small Ads>Covid-19 volunteering) or get in touch with Generation 2004.

#UnitedAgainstCOVID19

For more information on our coverage of the COVID‑19 crisis, see here all our articles on this topic.

[1] Human needs in COVID-19 isolation

[2] The Role of Basic Psychological Needs in Well-Being During the COVID-19 Outbreak

[3] 31.12.2020 deadlines were indeed extended: purchase deadline is now 31 January 2021 (inclusive) and the deadline for submitting the claim for reimbursement 15 February (midnight, Brussels time). (Source: Coronavirus: Communication to Commission staff – Update 27).

[4] Added 23.12.2020: Luxembourg plans to start vaccinating from 28 December.

Leave a Reply