The Covid-19 pandemic has kickstarted a new European Commission Human Resources strategy, doing away with old-fashioned approaches to the workplace.
Diversity and gender equality, hotdesking and flexible working are no longer nice-to-haves but must-haves. The pandemic has fundamentally changed the way people work, and the Commission is responding. Driving the overhaul is the Commission's new HR Director, Swedish Gertrud Ingestad.
"On 5 April 2022, the European Commission adopted a new HR strategy, offering a modern workplace and rewarding careers that attract top talents from all Member States," a Commission spokesperson confirmed.
How Covid-19 left its mark
It wasn't always this way. When Danish Kasper Rasmussen, who works in the Commission's legal service, was interviewed a few years ago for a position at the Commission, he told Politiken that the strict rules on work were clear: "This isn't a place where you work from home."
However, the outbreak of the pandemic left no option but telework, proving that daily tasks could be done without being at the office.
Consequently, the Commission developed a new HR strategy during lockdown to make it a more appealing place to work. Equal representation between men and women, increasing digitalisation and becoming climate neutral by 2030 are key aims.
The changes aim to make the institution more representative of the European population. It will now be a family-friendly workplace that allows for better work-life balance. The strategy also seeks to simplify the recruitment process.
Crucially, the Commission will "significantly reduce" its office space in Brussels and promote hotdesking – when desks are shared and used only when needed. So long to the days of assigned desks ranged with family photos.
Rasmussen admitted that the changes aren't to everyone's tastes, with older employees unhappy with the change from the status quo. Yet he and younger colleagues are excited about the upcoming changes.
"When I started as an intern, you had to print hardcopies and get everything signed. It was hopelessly old-fashioned," he said.
- Almost a third of all employees in Brussels are non-Belgian
- Circular economy: New rules put the EU at the forefront of sustainability
It looks as if the Commission is about to go through a minor revolution. Commissioner Johannes Hahn summarised the new strategy, saying "our key words are: trust, people first, flexibility, digital and green.”
A people-first approach and mental health support are crucial for Rasmussen, who thinks that the Commission has, until now, been behind the times.
"But with that in mind it's wild that we've gotten to a place where everyone now works from home and everything has been digitalised," he concluded. "Suddenly we're in front of many (workplaces) and with a modern HR-strategy to boot, I actually think that the Commission can become the best workplace in Europe."