Winter is coming – and with it come new guidelines on workwear for the office

*Update 18.11.2022 many buildings will be closed between Christmas and New Year.* *Check out the 16.11.2022 video explaining the heating system* If you have not already experienced them yourself over the summer, you all have by now at least heard some rumours. ‘Which  rumours?’, you ask, there are so many! Is it the one about the reopening of the staff regulations? No. The payment of the lump sum mentioned it the Working Time and Hybrid Working Decision (WTHW)? No, but we admire your optimism. The rumours about switching off the heating? Yes! That’s the one! The most recent pilot project[1] of the Commission:  the measures to reduce both the energy consumption and the overall costs of Commission buildings.

‘Taking these steps will allow the Commission’s buildings in Luxembourg to meet the 15% savings target, while keeping a comfortable working environment.’ (14.10.2022 email Luxembourg) [Bold not present in original]

  • Reduced temperatures in buildings during working hours (probably 19°C in Brussels and 20°C in Luxembourg, the difference being due to differing local labour laws)[2].
  • Switching off air-conditioning and heating outside working hours or at least reducing the temperature even further.
  • Probable (but unconfirmed) continuation of the periodic temporary closure of some buildings – ‘while this measure is being evaluated, no decision has been taken so far’ [3]
  • Making the office environment so unpleasant that colleagues prefer to work from home, using their own utilities and paying for it out of their own pockets Sorry, these measure were forced through during Covid-19, taking advantage of unprecedented circumstances and are now being justified via supply cuts from Russia. Our apologies, but it is becoming increasingly difficult to keep track of precisely which temporary crisis is currently being used to justify precisely which unpleasant permanent measure is introduced forever.

However, Generation 2004 has been warned about yet another, until now unknown, measure that DG HR is planning. After careful investigation, we can today reveal that a new ‘standard’ workwear for the office will be proposed. Until now, our environment was characterised by relatively formal workwear: suits, shirts, shiny shoes and the like. These options are not designed to deal with the temperatures that we will soon have in the buildings, especially outside standard office hours. As the Commission is a facts-based organisation, a scientific study was commissioned to find appropriate solutions.

Apparently, the study turned to nature and evaluated how other lifeforms deal with low temperatures. Without going into details, we can share with you some preliminary images giving an idea of the findings of this study and what HR is apparently planning to introduce in the coming weeks.

To see the proposed solution, please click here.

Large Office bear Small Office bear

These solutions can also be worn while teleworking and have the additional energy-saving advantages of allowing you to lower the temperature in your own home and of requiring only minimal ironing. We have been assured that different sizes of these unisex garments will be made available.

We are very interested in your opinion on this  new proposed office wear. We are not yet  clear on the line to take on this issue. Do you  like it? Is the office onesie the future? Are  professional onesies the way to go or would  EU posters/Eurostat calendars printed as  blankets do the job better? Would you prefer  greater variety (e.g. a blue-yellow ‘Support  Ukraine’ edition, a blue one with yellow stars  for those favouring a more corporate  statement or a rainbow version to show your support for diversity and inclusion?) Alternatively, would starjumps/burpees/group hugs tie in better with Be Well at Work? (the successor to the now-obsolete Fit at Work) or should we evaluate pets as a hitherto-untapped source of heat? [4] What about a hybrid solution?

Finally, we would like to confirm that no animal was harmed in the production of this article!

As always, we would love to hear from you. Please do not hesitate to get in touch with us or leave a comment below.

If you appreciate our work, please consider becoming a member of Generation 2004.

[1] Be wary of the word ‘pilot’ as used in the Commission. This word should normally be used for a programme or project that is still in a trial phase, but it was used erroneously to describe the Junior Professionals Programme (JPP) in all 9 of its (largely unchanged) editions and still after the  decision to make the programme permanent post-JPP5.

With this current building-closure/energy-consumption project, unfortunately, we are seeing the differences between the editions, at the expense of Commission staff.

[2] The Commission’s own Manuel des conditions d’hébergement (2e partie) (Section 1.1.2) (in FR only) specifies 20°C as the minimum temperature.

*Update 26.20.2022: The office temperature issue is a legal one: there are national laws that must be complied with. Also, the building temperature is measured at a specific location within each building, so there will inevitably be variations and ‘cold spots’ in buildings even while the heating is switched on. While sitting in a cold spot is fine for those who are relatively fit and healthy, what of our colleagues who are a bit more vulnerable?

The Commission has only recently complied with national legislation on minimum wage for the lowest-paid staff in Luxembourg and the EEAS local agents had to go to court to enforce their right to be paid in the currency of the contract: non-compliance with national laws is at odds with any promotion of the rule of law.

We agree that we must all make an effort with the current crisis, but we’d like to see figures on how much is really expected to be saved by this initiative (in terms of consumption, not just cost).*

[3] This should not be confused with the ongoing general reduction in office space across the Commission. Every time we asked whether the Buildings Energy Saving Together (BEST) action of periodic temporary closure of some buildings would continue in the future, we were assured that ‘while this measure is being evaluated, no decision has been taken so far’. Neverthless, this does indeed appear to be the plan.

‘Looking ahead, the Commission will further decrease its own consumption … Other avenues will be explored such as making more efficient use of our buildings. This will allow the institution to further decrease the overall number of buildings to be heated or cooled.​’ (Save gas for a safe winter)

[4] The original image here of a camper and his dog was changed 26.10.2022 to avoid misunderstandings.

2 thoughts on “Winter is coming – and with it come new guidelines on workwear for the office

  1. 19° degrees is not so bad, it is the maximum i ever reach at home. I would not see it as very catastrophic.

    1. Dear Francesca,
      thank you for taking the time to comment.
      The optimal working temperature varies a lot across the precise work one does (a bit of movement vs no movement at all) and also personal factors. The German association of occupational physicians has published some information about this:
      Summary: 19°C will probably not increase sickness levels, but can decrease performance – which is something that is not mentioned at all in any documents by HR.

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