The ‘new normal’: is this it?

*Update 20.07.2021: Check out the MyIntracomm discussion below Towards more attractive and flexible working conditions: Staff working arrangements: major changes in the pipeline*

The Working time and hybrid working decision sets out the proposed ‘new normal’ with an invitation to discuss this with the trade unions and staff associations (OSPs) in a social dialogue on 30 June. Here are the current Working time and flexitime rules  and their corresponding frequently asked questions (FAQs) for comparison.

Send us your comments or questions on how this might impact you or add a comment below!

Here are the edited highlights.

Abolition of core time [1](Article 4)

We will now have a ‘disconnection bandwidth’ (19.00 to 8.00) and a corresponding ‘connection bandwidth’ (8:00 to 19:00). The obvious worry is that this 11-hour connection stretch then becomes the time where a response is expected, we have stated this to HR. Remember that the current bandwidth for registering hours is 7:00 to 20:30. The new working time decision states that those registering hours outside this ‘connection bandwidth’ (8:00 to 19:00) would need permission: so 07.00-0800 and 19.00-20.30 would need to be negotiated with line managers. Also, how easy will it be for those working part time to set boundaries for their colleagues and managers? Staff are already at risk of burnout.

Hybrid working: 2 days in the office (Article 8)

It is proposed there that we work generally 2 days from the office and telework 1 day. The remaining days are to be negotiated with the line manager and it’s up to that manager to ensure that the teleworking/office working days are distributed evenly and fairly and also that there is no gender disbalance [2] in terms of this distribution. It is still possible to work 100% at the office (either by choice or obligation) and it is set out there that line managers can insist on presence in the office e.g. for meetings or training on specific days ‘for the needs of the service’.

Note also that:

  • management training will address remote dealing with remote teams (Article 13(2)), this is well received and long overdue.
  • Unfortunately we are to be provided with information on ergonomics only, not the ergonomic equipment itself (Article 13(1)) [3]
  • Article 12(1) mentions the provision of a laptop only [4] and that laptop must be used both at home and in the office: so you will bring it with you: how does that affect your commute?

Teleworking from abroad: no big changes (Article 9)

Teleworking is still linked to colleagues living ‘within two hours’ of the office. Where there are technical or connection difficulties staff are expected to work from the office. The possibility to telework from outside the place of employment [5] remains limited to 10 days (Article 10), but in specific cases a month can be granted (though the colleague can be compelled to return within 48 hours and at their own expense) or in exceptional circumstances people can be authorised to work e.g. from their holiday location, who packs their laptop when going on holiday and how reasonable is it to be expected to return within 48 hours? Is this not more likely to result in people switching off their phones while on holiday?

Pause for thought

Article 12(2) sets out that the ‘Specific needs of staff with disability on telework shall be catered for under the reasonable accommodation rules’ [6](please let us know if this is you!) and also mentions the possibility for a ‘lump sum covering certain costs of teleworkers’, we are curious to know what costs might be covered here and for whom would theses additional costs be covered? E.g. additional insurance costs:

Article 13(3) ‘Staff on telework are covered by the insurance against accident and occupational disease provided in Article 73 of the Staff Regulations to the same extent as staff working at the office. They shall take out private insurance as required by the laws of the country in which the telework takes place.’

Added 29.06.2021 greenwashing

The decision also highlights the greening/environmental credentials of these changes, we believe that this is simply outsourcing emissions: what is no longer consumed at the office is consumed at home, the energy consumption is unchanged, but the one paying for it has indeed changed.[7]

‘Hybrid working will require adaptation of the office working environment, including the size and the lay-out of the office space, in order to offer excellent working conditions for staff coming to office. This will contribute to reducing CO2 emissions arising from buildings and lead to a greener and more flexible use of the office working space.‘ (Point 9, Page 3) [bold not present in original]

Again, please let us know how this affects you and your circumstances, we’re always glad to hear from you!

__________________________________

[1] Core time meant that we could work a minimum of 4 hours and a maximum of 10 hours in any one day and consider that day ‘worked’. What is the new minimum with the new ‘disconnection bandwidth’ system?

There is an exception (‘derogation’) to core hours (Monday to Friday 14.30-16.00 instead of 15.00-16.30) granted to the following DGs: DGT (14.4.2016) Eurostat, DG CNECT, DIGIT, EAC, MOVE/ENER, ESTAT, OIL, OP, PMO, DG SANTE (15.10.2014).

[2]’… allowing employees to choose their WFH [work from home] schedules could contribute to a diversity crisis. Single young men could all choose to come into the office five days a week and rocket up the firm, while employees with young children, particularly women, who choose to WFH for several days each week are held back. This would be both a diversity loss and a legal time bomb for companies.’ Don’t Let Employees Pick Their WFH Days 

‘… these initiatives may have implications in terms of gender equality … social support and interactions with colleagues must be ensured in order to avoid a lack of visibility and assumptions of low commitment associated with remote work.’ Telework and ICT-based mobile work: Flexible working in the digital age (Eurofound)

[3] Article 13(1) also covers precautions against theft: please note that some laptops were provided without a kensington-style lock to anchor the laptop to furniture (imperative for a return to the office).  You can request one via My IT Support:

REQUEST TYPE [choose] Install NON-STANDARD peripherals for a user
Misc. (specify) [write] ‘laptop locking cable’

EXTRA INFORMATION
Justification*: [write] ‘No locking cable was provided with laptop and I will need one for the return to the office’

[4] In spite of that, there is an IT package (any combination of: screen, keyboard, mouse, docking station (provides additional USB ports), webcam (means you can close your laptop)). Note you can still purchase a chair and/or screen and note that My IT Support allows you to request a (wired) headset for videoconferences (item: ‘Request telephony peripherals (Skype for Business)’), but still no news on a desk.

[5] Update 08.07.2021: New SYSPER feature to request teleworking outside the place of employment

[6] Update 05.07.2021, even if it were available, who among you has space e.g. for a height adjustable desk in your home (especially colleagues in Luxembourg). Will this be a factor in how you decide to work in the ‘new normal’? How many of us will return to the office for this reason?

Mobility and dynamic spaces is covered here in the FAQ for new building L107.

[7] Update 29.06.2021 Why homeworking may be less green than the EU thinks

Leave a Reply