*Update 24.07.2023 Luxembourg national legislation now includes the right to disconnect, though the situation on the ground needs some work.* *For those of you who remain in the office keeping the Commission standing (thanks!), please check out the heatwave instructions for dealing with hot offices and the list of buildings to be temporarily closed under Buildings Energy Saving Together (BEST) 2023. Read our related article on how these closures undermine the insistence that working from home is voluntary.*
With many of us now looking forward to enjoying some well-deserved leave over the summer, we remind you that annual leave is your time to do with as you will. It is not there for you to catch up on work still needing done, it is not there for you to ‘clear your feet’ with projects, it is not there for you to monitor what is or is not happening back in the office. Being reachable all of the time is draining, contributes to burnout and can allow bullying/harassment to continue round the clock and unabated. Take this time for you and leave the office behind!
It is common ground that the purpose of the entitlement to paid annual leave is to enable the worker to rest and to enjoy a period of relaxation and leisure. (EurWORK European Observatory of Working Life, 2019)
Only by focusing fully on their holiday will [staff] return to work energised, refreshed and focused. (The Happiness Index, 2019)
Here’s our checklist to ensure that you are able to make the most of this opportunity to distance yourself from work and recharge those batteries!
Disconnect and let the work continue without you
- Set your out of the office now: let the countdown to rest begin! You can set this to begin on a future date; you don’t need to wait until you are leaving.
- Mute work-related groups on messaging apps. Is there really a need for you to follow events while on leave?
- Start the knowledge transfer/identify your backup. It’s not much of a rest if work simply accumulates awaiting your return. Ensure work continuity in your absence e.g. check/confirm Ares signature options and the points of contact for your current projects.
- Are you genuinely obliged to check your corporate mobile phone and/or laptop during leave? Where is the written rule and how will any such work be declared/compensated? Note that sysper will not allow you to declare work while on leave, so feel free to query the workarounds your hierarchy have put in place to address this (or to contact us and we can do it on your behalf, without mentioning you).
- Are you genuinely obliged to take your corporate laptop with you when you travel? Again, we can find no obligation for this and believe that it blurs the line between work and rest. While this was useful during the pandemic and its ever-changing Covid restrictions, which saw the possibility of colleagues being stuck on the wrong side of a national border, it should not ever be part of the ‘new normal’. What if you are going sailing on your well-earned rest: will the Commission furnish you with a waterproof case for your laptop and a maritime-roaming dongle for network connectivity, just in case your input is needed?
- Write down passwords in a safe place. A measure of how well you disconnected from work is how many passwords you’ve forgotten.
- You have no leave left? Buy some!
- ‘Call me if you need me!’ We recommend that you avoid this phrase: it promotes bad habits and creates expectations.
- ‘If I don’t do the task then no one else will’. Then something has to change. If the work is always getting done and the deadlines always being met then no one need ever address the problem or even acknowledge that there is an issue.
Just in case (but we hope you don’t need them!)
- Recover sick days during annual leave: act within 48 hours and know your rights!
- Check out our Unwritten or lesser-known rules for some sickness-related pitfalls:
- sick immediately before or after annual leave (medical certificates needed)
- already sick and intend to travel (you need to inform the Medical Service).
- Joint Sickness Insurance Scheme (JSIS) certificates for use while travelling are available via JSIS>certificate. (Here are the JSIS summer contact details.)
- Accidents need to be declared within 10 days (for medical treatment to be reimbursed at 100% instead of the usual 85%).
Food for thought
15 Percent of UK Employees Work on Holiday Through Fear of Falling Behind; Substantial Number of Bosses Think It’s Okay To Contact Employees on Holiday (Glassdoor, 2018)
This is a pre-pandemic source but have things improved at all since then? Note that the last available figures show that some 7 664 days of annual leave days were lost at the Commission and not carried-over from 2020 to 2021: this is far from ideal.
Use your annual leave! It is there for you!
For those with a child leaving full-time education (something to sort on your return)
You can request to extend the sickness coverage for that child for an additional maximum duration of 12 months (see comments on MyIntracomm).
Feel free to send us your ideas and we’ll add them to this list.
As always, if you have questions or comments, feel free to contact us.
 We’ve asked many times about provision for colleagues with a specific workplace set-up: i.e. those with an sitting/standing desk. Are these same provisions replicated in the alternative building? No corresponding information is present on MyIntracomm and we have received no clear answer. How does this fit with diversity and inclusion in the workplace: are we pushing colleagues with disabilities to stay at home when they might have preferred to exercise their right (and it is a right) to come to the office? If you have any experiences or information to share on this please contact us!