The European Commission entered a new phase on Monday in its gradual return of staff to office work but teleworking from home still remains the norm.
When the lockdown in Belgium started, the Commission sent all non-critical staff – 90 % of the overall workforce - to work from home. The intention was to keep the staff in teleworking mode until at least 25 May depending on the situation in the host country.
A Commission spokesperson confirmed to The Brussels Times that phase 1 of its “return to office” policy started on 25 May but that teleworking continues to remain the rule. Even critical staff may telework in cases where they can perform their tasks remotely. Where the presence of critical staff at the office is necessary, they alternate between working in the office and teleworking in most cases.
Labelling staff “critical” or “non-critical” depends on the nature of the tasks carried out and their essential character for the proper functioning of the Commission. The designation of critical staff may be changed where and when necessary in the interest of the service, according to the spokesperson
“For the vast majority of the staff, teleworking remains the norm and productivity has remained very high. Within the limit of 10% of overall staff present at the office at the same time for safety reasons, staff may come back to the office, mainly on a voluntary basis.”
Critical staff who need to come to the office, and staff coming to the office on a voluntary basis, must alternate on a weekly basis between working in the office and teleworking with all safety, hygienic and physical distancing measures in place and applied, not only by the institutions but also by all staff.
Many restrictions will continue to apply during a transition period to protect Commission staff. No missions or physical meetings are allowed unless they are essential. No event involving public audience will be organised for the time being.
Only 24 % of the staff have signalled their interest to return to office but it is not clear why. Teleworking reduces the need of office space, work travels and pollution and could become more frequent after the crisis. Has the Commission evaluated the effectiveness of teleworking?
“No evaluation of teleworking as such has taken place yet but there has been constant monitoring of the Commission’s overall productivity,” the spokesperson replied. “The Commission has been able to remain highly productive thanks to the joint efforts of all staff members, those teleworking and those coming to office."
The Commission refers to the high number of legislative proposals and decisions adopted since the beginning of the crisis as a performance indicator. One Commission service which continued to operate effectively during the crisis is the Spokesperson’s Service which has been organizing daily virtual press conferences.
The Brussels Times