Brussels, 22 February 2021

Spacious individual offices, parking spaces and luxury chairs for managers and dynamic offices for staff

“Leading by example” approach, the establishment of the

‘culture of trust’ advocated by

Commissioner Hahn cannot remain a mere slogan,

but must be accompanied by visible changes.

Thank you for your support!

So many of you have supported our analyses in our special Renard déchaîné Teleworking/Hotdesking ( readand we would like to thank you very much for this.

You were also pleased to see all unions acting together as a common front to denounce the poor management of this matter ( read). R&D confirms its full commitment to the Trade Union unity.

Dynamic offices for some and individual offices for managers

In particular, you asked us to continue our work on all aspects by denouncing, among other things, that it is unacceptable for managers to “be exempted” from these decisions imposed on staff under their responsibility.

You shared our view that it is unacceptable that management does not need to worry about reserving its place in “dynamic office” as it will occupy a spacious, individual office as usual! And that’s not all!

Parking spaces… only for heads and… well supervised!

Similarly, while parking spaces will be reduced in all the buildings, managers should not worry about their reserved parking spaces improperly occupied by “simple” colleagues… Nothing is left to chance… the Security Directorate is already planning on detecting and severely punishing any abuse… thus reducing our colleagues, whose skills are absolutely recognized, to the role of simple car park guards… probably the best paid in the world… But it is still not enough…

Even the quality of managers’ chairs will be different!

As confirmed without blushing by the Director of OIB, at a meeting with the staff representatives, not only is it planned to exempt managers from dynamic offices, but even the quality of their chairs will be different (SIC!)

Just to confirm once again that all staff members are equal but some are more equal than others… even when it comes to the care given to their seats!

“Ridicule never killed anyone, but it is uncomfortable” (Louis Gauthier)

While the aim of this new work organisation would be to break the boundaries of privileges between managers and lambda staff, DG HR and OIB seem to believe that this is quite different in the Commission.

If this approach were to be confirmed, far from any modernisation, it would simply strengthen a ‘business culture’ worthy of the Middle Ages with coral roots firmly rooted in the ground and a strengthening of the very old ‘control culture’ to enable managers to control their staff even better.

Real and modern leadership cannot continue to be based on the msurface area of office spaces, reserved parking spaces and even the quality of chairs!

It is not about turning colleagues against each other

It is simply to point out that building a true culture of trust also requires HR and OIB to set a good example by making the sharing of the workspace, that is intended to be decreased more equitable, and by refraining from implementingprivileges that are part of another century!

The organisation of the workspace for managers is far from being an insignificant detail

Studies in this area have always confirmed that changes in culture within an organisation also involve symbolic but significant measures such as the abolition of the hierarchy in offices.

In particular, in organisations based on the “culture of monitoring and fear”, hierarchical power is directly transposed into size and office furniture. For example, the most powerful manager has an angle office set apart, large enough to fly a kite in it, accompanied by a gatekeeping secretariat to control access, all designed to discourage any intrusion on the part of subordinates.

Therefore, shifting to a true “culture of trust” also requires a focus on the availability, transparency and abolition of physical hierarchies.

‘My door is always open’: this old, sometimes hypocritical invitation to subordinates is easier to take seriously when there is no door at all! The manager must always remain accessible and colleagues can come to see him directly and ask questions if necessary.

For managers, the means to shape the psychological environment of employees are endless. Physical spatial planning does not appear to be directly linked to the culture that is to be applied within an organisation, but in a certain way it is a crucial choice among management choices.

For the organisation of workspaces, as is the case for markets, transparency leads to fairness.

On the contrary, in the current approach, managers are supposed to be exempted from the measures envisaged, concerning firstly  the shift towards dynamic offices.

Were such an approach to be confirmed, it would no longer be the creation of a new ‘culture of trust’, but rather  strengthening the very old ‘culture of control and fear’, even increasing the staff’s sense of dependence on their superior. In such a case, it would instead be a managerial approach of physical restraint aimed at enabling managers to even better control their staff placed in hot-desking.

Respecting the rules is not an option left to the goodwill of DG HR and OIB

In addition to forgetting to take into account the Commissioner’s positions, the experiences of the past and the lessons to be drawn from them, it is a total amnesia that would have struck DG HR and the OIB which continue to move forward without even worrying about the reference legal texts that we take the liberty of recalling for them:

1) Communication C (2019) 7450 ” The Workplace of the Future in the European Commission, and in particular its principles 7, 8, and 9 ( link)

2) The Housing Conditions Manual of the Directorates-General and Commission services applicable to European Commission buildings in Brussels and Luxembourg (part 1and part 2) establish the rules and harmonized guidelines for the allocation of spaces for offices and other premises in the Directorates-General and services in Brussels and Luxembourg. However, part 3 relating to the use of hot-desking has not yet been adopted … but is already implemented by DG HR!

Moreover, the Manual should be revised in accordance with the principles and recommendations contained in the Communication on “The Workplace of the Future in the European Commission”

So many managers commensurate with their role and which we should be proud of!

While the DG HR and OIB are able to defend the fact of taking into account the criterion of  hierarchical level, even in the choice of the quality of chairs, we are delighted to note that there are also large numbers of managers absolutely commensurate with their tasks, including at the highest level, who have already taken on board the change of culture, by supporting it with conviction.

Thus, they have told us that they share our concerns about the hitherto sluggish management of this matter, want to put the well-being of their colleagues at the heart of their concerns confirming that : 

· they want to fully implement principle 9 of the Communication C (2019) 7450 ” The Workplace of the Future in the European Commission : A consultative approach to the design of the new workspace requires good processes of dialogue and consideration of feedback. Therefore, affected staff should be closely involved in the process from the start, including expressing their needs for the workspace and helping to make decisions about its final design. It can call on relevant staff representative organizations to help it in this process”

· they are absolutely available to share with their staff the layout of the workspace that will be decided at the end.

· Several Directors general have already confirmed to refuse any re­served parking spaces in their building.

Conclusion: it is still time to stop this mascarade of bad taste

Since this new work organisation is based on flexibility, it can now be changed and designed to improve the well-being of the staff, preserving their mental and physical health and limiting all future psychosocial risk factors.

R&calls for the call of the COMMON FRONT to be heededand asks Commissioner Hahn to ensure that genuine negotiation is opened without delay on ALL aspects of these files.

Leading by example” approach, the establishmentof the “culture of trust” advocated by Commissioner Hahn cannot remain a mere slogan, but must be accompanied by visible changes.

Cristiano Sebastiani,