European Commission to give up office buildings
In the last two years, the Covid-19 pandemic and teleworking have generated significant changes, forcing employers around the world to adopt a new working style.
Although initially, the remote work seemed like “unknown territory”, later it triggered strong reactions among people, who started to reconsider aspects such as family, commuting to work, hobbies, etc.
Therefore, not everyone is pleased with the 9-to-5 jobs anymore. Thus, most organizations had to find new ways to balance the company’s needs and employee satisfaction. The solution for that: work from anywhere.
If so far, the changes have been mostly dictated by the business environment, this time, the “wind of change” comes from the administrative sector, more precisely from Brussels.
The European Commission plans to close half of its 50 office buildings located in the capital of Belgium by 2030. At the same time, the EU’s executive branch has made it clear that employees can work remotely after the Covid-19 pandemic ends.
In this regard, European Commissioner for Budget and Administration Johannes Hahn stated that the institution is planning to significantly reduce the number of buildings over the next 10 years.
Thus, despite closing a great number of buildings, the total space for the European Commission’s offices will only go down 25 percent, from nearly 780,000 to about 580,000 square meters, since the Commission will bring together several directorate-generals, into more spacious buildings.
“Like all public and private organizations, we are now looking at the most useful balance between office and home working for the longer term… It’s the new norm. We made surveys and more than 90 percent of our staff is very much in favour of having two to three days per week of teleworking. Our office surfaces will be adapted to the generalized use of teleworking.”, said European Commissioner for Budget and Administration, Johannes Hahn.
For an institution that collectively represents the second-largest economy in the world, it is an important shift in policy, while also signaling how much the pandemic has changed the expectations people have from their jobs.
The new ideology also underlines the increasing coordination of environmental protection goals with management decisions. Besides that, we’re talking about one of the world’s most powerful institutions.
In other words, according to a Commission spokesman, closing part of the buildings will help the administrative authority save money, reduce carbon emissions and work more efficiently.
The office reorganization is part of a strategy crafted by the Commission’s Human Resources department with the aim of becoming a more flexible and attractive employer, considering the latest global reactions to remote work.
This centralization of offices means that the Commission will need to move some of its departments to new buildings. Brussels’ Northern Quarter was mentioned as one of the options. The Northern Quarter is considered one of Brussels’ greatest failures in urban planning.
In the 1960s and 70s, the city council demolished a residential area in order to build a new business district. The current government of the Brussels region has prioritized making the Northern Quarter more lively as well as diversifying the European Quarter, where many EU institutions are currently located, in order to ensure offices are not all clustered there.
One of the major European institutions, together with the European Parliament and the Council of the EU, the European Commission has one representative office in each EU country.
Main role: to promote the general interest of the EU by proposing and enforcing legislation as well as by implementing policies and the EU budget. The current president, also the 13th in the history of the European Union is Ursula von der Leyen, a former German government minister and physician.
According to official data, the institution has around 32 000 permanent and temporary employees working as policy officers, researchers, lawyers and translators.
Moreover, not only the European institutions allow public servants to work in a more flexible way. Recently, Malta launched the first remote working policy for civil servants, giving a significant number of workers the opportunity to work away from the office. This decision follows a pilot project that started in 2019 because of the pandemic.
While the policy enters into force on October 1, there will be a transition period of 18 months to shift from the existing teleworking system to the new remote working policy.
Therefore, employees whose performance and skills in the workplace, as well as the nature of the job, are suitable to be carried out away from the traditional office environment, may request to work fully remote. Thus, according to a Maltese government spokesman, about 6.000 employees are eligible to apply.
Teleworking represents our response to the pandemic situation, which also offers the prospect of significant long-term benefits for employee health and productivity. The public and business sectors are both involved in this process and can share experiences, advice, empathize and address challenges for the same purpose.