16 March 2022: exactly 2 years since 100% teleworking became obligatory for almost everyone at the Commission. On that first day in 2020 some of us did not even have an internet connection at home or a computer. Nevertheless we did what we could with what we had and ensured business continuity at the Commission in the face of a global pandemic. We bought computers, got the internet connected, used our own mobile phones, joined work whatsapp groups, made space in our homes and assumed the additional, associated costs. We allowed colleagues and strangers to see inside our homes: to see our living rooms, kitchens and even bedrooms. We met families and pets. We answered messages and emails overnight and at weekends, we became always reachable. We went above and beyond the call of duty and now, 2 years on, continue to do so. So, where are we now?
Teleworking costs  and digital overload: a timeline
- April 2020
- European Parliament (EP) staff began to receive a monthly flat-rate allocation of €40 
- Generation 2004 wrote to HR to request that Commission staff receive the same compensation.
- November 2020 Coronavirus update #23: partial reimbursement of screen and an ergonomic chair with partial repayment required for non-permanent staff.
- January 2021 EP adopted a resolution containing recommendations to the Commission on the right to disconnect.
- February 2021 JSIS made it easier to access Psychological support
- March 2021 Generation 2004 wrote to HR to demand staff have the right to disconnect
- April 2021
- The Permanent Delegation of Translators (DPT) teleworking survey, April 2021 and corresponding note.
- European Parliament publishes The impact of teleworking and digital work on workers and society, where it notes:
- that with mandatory teleworking ‘there is now a growing consensus that employers should contribute to the cost of teleworking (e.g. in terms of covering Internet and electricity fees, rent, etc.)’ 45.
- ‘The positive effects on cost-reductions are … proven. Employers may reduce direct capital, energy and maintenance costs, which may be shifted onto teleworkers.’ p. 119
- May 2021 Generation 2004 ‘Wild West of Teleworking’ Photography Contest: winners! Inviting colleagues to show their home-office set-up and increased bills. We encouraged staff to file Article 90 complaints to try to have additional costs reimbursed. None have yet been successful (as far as we are aware).
- July 2021 Generation 2004 survey on workload, digital overload and burnout (ongoing: almost 500 participants). Here are some preliminary results on whether staff really ever disconnect.
- January 2022 Generation 2004 conference on energy price increase and launch of survey
- February 2022 Generation 2004 invites you to come and walk with us (ongoing, please feel free to join!)
- March 2022
- New decision on working time and hybrid working (WTHW) mentions the possibility of a lump sum ‘if appropriate’ (Article 13(3)) while the Commission states that is has no budget for this. It also establishes a ‘disconnection bandwidth’.
- 1193 colleagues respond to our additional teleworking costs survey: only 2.85% saw no utility-bill increase. With 27% of respondents seeing their monthly bills increase by a total of 51-100 EUR.
- Colleagues are ‘encouraged’ to install Teams and Outlook on their mobile phones, leading some to downgrade to a pre-smartphone device e.g. an old Nokia.
- Staff survey results published: Commission colleagues more engaged than ever! Record numbers ‘Speak Up’ and share their views but the biggest losses are recorded for ‘This Institution is an attractive employer’ and ‘I would recommend this Institution as a great employer*’ (Full report)
So, in short, we are still assuming additional costs due to teleworking and still being pushed to be always available. The Commission is well aware of the issues and is making mention of solutions (WTHW) but the corresponding action has yet to be seen. Colleagues are expected to provide out-of-work-time availability without compensation (‘well, you’re at home anyway, right?’) and DGT standby duty systems, intended for emergencies, are being used for routine work (03/02/2022 (2022)793994). So, as far as work-life balance and digital overload, it appears that it is still up to us as individuals to set boundaries and defend them: to make a point of disconnecting our devices. Please send us your tips and tricks for doing this!
Generation 2004 is here to support you, do not hesitate to contact us, whether you need help with an issue or even just to share your thoughts.
The Generation 2004 team
 Update 21.03.2022 some colleagues got in touch to say that they are happy to accept additional teleworking costs because they save in other ways e.g. transport and time. While there will always be a range of circumstances (depending on staff category, function group and personal circumstances) for many other colleagues there were no or little cost savings to counterbalance the expense E.g.
- those having to take children somewhere and then go home to work,
- the Contract Agent (CA) colleague (FGII) spending >44% of take-home pay on the cheapest flat available after moving from a flat share (Luxembourg) in order to have space to work from home (May 2021)
- those who live close to their place of work i.e. those paying higher accommodation costs to reduce commute time and costs.
 Update 17.03.2022 we forgot to add here the corresponding Staff Regulations text (Article 71)
‘An official shall be entitled, as provided in Annex VII, to reimbursement of expenses incurred by him on taking up appointment, transfer, or leaving the service, and also to expenses incurred by him in the course of or in connection with the performance of his duties.’