Back to the office in “The One”?
“Back to square one” concerning the Wild West of open spaces?
In the first episode of OIB TV recently launched (https://myintracomm.ec.europa.eu/dg/oib/Multimedia/Videos/Pages/VideoDetails.aspx?guid=7f70c310-1614-4da9-aa23-1d46c9cf8e8a), Marc Becquet, new Director of OIB, announces the entry of The One tower into the building stock of the Commission (link) designed with revolutionary and ultra-modern workspaces.
On the one hand, we take this opportunity to welcome the OIB director Marc Becquet and to express our availability and openness for quality reflection and constructive dialogue, which has not always been possible in the past.
On the other hand, it is clear that the OIB seems to have already thought about the optimal use of the available square meters inside of the “The One” tower (20 floors in 94-meterheight), which has already become a symbol for citizens who are resistant to the installation of projects of towers at Rue de la Loi.
Has the abandonment of the Beaulieu site been announced “on TV” to the personnel concerned?
By reducing the carbon footprint (i.e. the amount of square meters available per colleague), the director of the OIB declares that the Commission will save 3.300.000 Euro per year in terms of rent on the first buildings to be released, i.e. the Beaulieu 1-5-9, known for its large common areas of conviviality and interactions between colleagues, which makes it more difficult to “optimize” and turn into open spaces.
Telework is not the adjustment variable for obtaining savings on real estate policy, in particular through the widespread and thoughtless implementation of “open spaces” …
R&D has always defended telework as a tool to be integrated into modern human resources management, by negotiating more favourable conditions for staff and by firmly denouncing the unacceptable attitudes of small managers, particularly within executive agencies (telework : real progress!; teleworking; untenable situation within EASME)
Since the start of the health crisis, telework has become the rule at the Commission, forced by lockdown.. It is a safe bet that it will remain so in part, and that it will be necessary in the coming weeks to provide adequate equipment in terms of ergonomics and technology for all the colleagues. Many colleagues are currently working on their kitchen tables or in their living rooms without having been previously equipped by their employer, such as the additional screen left behind in the office or an ergonomic chair. It is also a safe bet that within a few weeks or even a few months, some of these colleagues will have to consult for musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs) which will certainly require significant numbers in sick leaves spread over time. For information, in Belgium, MSDs are by far the leading cause of occupational disease.
The management of OIB thinks that, perhaps, there is no longer any point in having large office and reception spaces in the post-COVID world…
Except that, independent experts confirm that following the COVID 19 crisis, office buildings must be redesigned with less open spaces, general de-densification and more spaces dedicated to meetings.
However, OIB seems to have already started the procedures for the imminent implementation of the fitting-out work for all the tower platforms according to plans communicated to the owner of the building.
• But what about the colleagues’ opinion?
• Have they been informed, consulted on the development plans?
• Have the colleagues from DG REGIO and DG ENV been informed by their respective Director-General of the situation and the timing of the reloctation from Beaulieu to rue de la Loi?
• Has a dialogue been or will a dialogue be established in order to inquire about their opinions on their future workspaces or will it again be about of inviting the Staff to attend an “after-sales” debriefing to introduce them to their new workspace?
To date, no such initiative has been put in place. Will it again be a unilateral decision without consultation of the most important part of this project, namely the staff?!
R&D requests that Commissioner Hahn’s political commitments, which we support with conviction, of putting staff at the heart of human resources management and confirming his attachment to social dialogue, be followed up with concrete effects…
Commissioner Hahn has set up four work teams to think about new ways of working, giving staff more autonomy and putting their well-being at the centre of concerns, while confirming his commitment to social dialogue.
R&D, which has never spared its criticisms concerning the current management of human resources, firmly supports these orientations, which must not remain simple slogans contradicted by the decisions adopted in fine.
Thus, this major relocation project must put the well-being of colleagues at the heart of the decision-making process and cannot be simply announced by the new OIB channel without detailed discussions with the staff and their representatives.
The era of the “Wild West” in the establishment of open spaces is definitely over!
What the OIB TV-show seems to “forget” is that by its communication “on the workplace of the future”, by welcoming R&D and staff representation requests, the Commission has decided to put once and for all an end to the real “Wild West” which, until then, allowed each DG to organize their own conception of a landscaped space (open space), being blindly supported by OIB, which disguised itself as “open space sales office”.
It must be recalled that by this communication the Commission confirmed once and for all that it is the well-being of colleagues and not only the purely economic and technical considerations which must be at the heart of any project concerning the development of the workspace within all the buildings and towers of our institution.
We easily understand that some within the OIB can feel nostalgic about the “good old days” where it was enough to agree with a Director-General to fit out a whole building into open space, and we count on Mr Becquet for the new legal framework established by the Commission to be duly taken into account by OIB.
In particular, as the Legal Service recalled in its opinion of 9 March, thereby confirming in every point the R&D and staff representation analysis, any establishment of a new landscaped area must respect the principles and stages established by the Communication of the Commission and is subject to governance at central level through the establishment of a steering committee: “responsible for advising on individual workplace change projects supported by the integrated Workplace Service, overseeing the implementation of the workplace of the future principles and recommendations and overseeing the work of the integrated Workplace Service ”.
In this respect, faithful to its ever constructive spirit, R&D is proposing to OIB the topic of its second TV-show on its new TV channel: “The association of staff and their representatives throughout the process of conceptualization and implementation of the new workspace and the steps to be followed for the creation of a landscaped space”
We take the liberty of suggesting that on this occasion special attention be devoted to illustrating Principle 9 established by the Commission communication:
PRINCIPLE 9. Staff affected should be involved throughout the process of conceptualising and implementing the new workspace.
Two-way communication before and during the implementation process is vital. A consultative approach to designing the new workspace requires good processes for dialogue and taking on board feedback. Consequently, staff affected should be highly involved in the process from the very beginning, including expressing their needs for the workspace and helping to make decisions about its final design. They may call upon relevant staff representative organisations to assist in that process.
As well as the following obligations imposed by the Housing Conditions Manual of Commission services – part 2:
“(…) (2) preliminary internal study by the requesting DG in association with the personnel concerned, in particular to check the compatibility of the tasks with a landscape working environment and to define the project”
(4) (…) transmission of the entire file to the requesting service and to the CPPT (CSHT for Luxembourg) ”.
Staff health at the heart of any Commission policy
R&D reminds those concerned once again that the Commission, as an employer, has duties to comply with, in particular Article 1e of the Staff Regulations and the case-law which insists on the application of Directive 89/391 on the fact “… that the employer shall have a duty to ensure the safety and health of workers in every aspect related to the work and that in this area, the obligation for the institution, as employer to ensure the safety of its staff , imposes itself with particular rigor and the margin of appreciation of the administration, without being non-existent, is reduced ”.
1 See item 3.5. of the Housing Conditions Manual of Commission services — part 2 “The stages of a dossier for the creation of a landscaped area”:
“In order to create a landscaped office space, it is suggested to follow the following steps: (Ì) definition of the objectives to be achieved by using the landscape space (author DG / Service) in contact with the Office concerned (OIB / OIL); (2) preliminary internal study by your requesting DG in association with the personnel concerned, in particular to check the compatibility of the tasks with a landscape working environment and to define the project; (3) analysis of the request by the Office (OIB / OIL) and verification of the architectural and technical feasibility of the project (compliance with standards, OSH conditions, cost, schedule, etc.); (4) transmission of the entire file to the requesting service and to the CPPT (CSHT for Luxembourg); (5) finalization phase of the project (any clarifications or corrections); (6) final decision of the requesting service; (7) technical implementation (OIB / OIL); (8) evaluation of the layout after a few months of operation and determination, if necessary, of the necessary corrective actions ”.