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Working Time and Modes

You can find our previous work on this topic here.

Telework: a source of productivity and well-being for workers? Let’s discuss  it.

In the wake of the health crisis and the ensuing lockdown, a new way of working has emerged: hybrid working, where remote and face-to-face working are now part of our daily routine.

According to the results of the evaluation of the implementation of the Commission’s decision on working time and hybrid working, published last November, staff and management on the whole appreciate the changes and the flexibility of working conditions. However, the relatively small number of people who took part in the survey means that we have to put the significance of this result into perspective.  Similarly, we do not yet know the reasons for the negative opinions.

This evaluation of the decision showed, according to DG HR, that “work productivity has been maintained, while the new working conditions have improved the work-life balance and reduced various types of leave and part-time work”. The evaluation concluded that staff had achieved an appropriate balance between office work and telework, with an average of 54% of working time spent in the office. (for more details, see article …).

This new way of working is giving rise to a great deal of debate and deserves to be examined in greater depth, with reference to the existing literature on the subject.

On 26 October, Claudia Senik, Professor at the Sorbonne University and the Paris School of Economics (PSE), gave one of our GRASPE presentations entitled “Is teleworking good for employee well-being?

His presentation, based on a large number of studies and surveys, raised a number of open questions that have already provided some food for thought.

Here is an overview of the conference:

  1. Effective” rate of office and home working

American studies have shown that office occupancy rates in the United States today (in October 2023) are only 50% of what they were pre-Covid: on average, only half of office space is occupied.  But today we are seeing a kind of attempt to turn back the clock by employers who are trying to get their people back into the office – because, after all, there are some drawbacks to telecommuting. For example, Zoom itself, the largest remote communications provider, has decided that all of its employees who live less than 50 miles from the office must now return to the office at least twice a week.  So there is a tension between what employees want or do and what employers want.

The Global Survey of Working Conditions, an online survey of workers and employers in 34 countries between April and May 2023 found that a quarter of working days are spent remotely, and a third of workers work from home some or all of the time.

More specifically:

  • 67% still work five days a week on site,
  • 26% have a hybrid arrangement and 8% work full-time from home. It should be noted that this result varies from country to country: the level of homeworking is higher in English-speaking countries.

The result is that, globally, employees would like to work remotely two days a week and employers would like to let employees work remotely one day a week.

In every country, there is a one-day gap between what employees want and what employers want.

  • Main advantages of working in the office and at home
Advantages of working in an officeBenefits of working from home
Socialising with colleaguesNo journey
Clearer boundaries between work and personal timeSaving on transport and meal costs
Best facilities/equipmentMore flexibility to organise your day
 Save time
 More time for yourself, family and friends

The benefits highlighted are essentially those relating to self-organisation and life in general, rather than work itself, which may explain why there is ultimately this difference between what employees want and what employers want.

However, the authors found that:

  • People work fewer hours on days when they are at home. On average, they work 80 minutes less on days when they are at home. On the other hand, they work more hours on days when they are in the office and at weekends.
  • People who benefit from working from home say it’s convenient because they can go to the dentist, pick up their children from school, play sports, etc.
  • Even when they are in the office, teleworkers communicate more by individual messages: telework has accustomed people to a synchronous style of communication (I send a message when it suits me, I reply to a message when it suits me, etc.).

The argument of saving travel time wins the day.

Virtual communication is a real and lasting change brought about by teleworking.         

  • Links between telework and well-being

Field experiments on whether or not employees choose to telework have shown that, on average, people – especially the most skilled and those with long commutes – would be prepared to accept an 8% pay cut for the opportunity to telework.

These experiments showed that workers who were given the opportunity to work in a hybrid way did not lose productivity, were more satisfied with their jobs and had 35% fewer resignations than those who continued to come into the office.

On the basis of this local experience, the hybrid working proposal was then generalised to all the companies concerned for those whose work is more naturally done remotely or who are more accustomed to self-organisation.

As for the possibility of being forced to return to the office, a quarter of employees worldwide who already telework said they would quit their job if their employer forced them to return to the office 5 days a week.

The conclusion was that teleworkers reported much higher levels of happiness at work and the resignation rate was halved: allowing people to work from home increases their happiness and their chances of being retained.

However, it is important to emphasise individual heterogeneity: not everyone appreciates the opportunity to work from home in the same way. There are sometimes imperceptible differences between people, characteristics that depend on the individual and not on whether they telework or not.

  • Does teleworking make workers “happy”?
  1. Identifying sources of well-being at work :
  2. – Autonomy.  Freedom is a factor in well-being at work: people are generally happier in small units, or at least when the chain is less hierarchical and long, when they can decide more about how they do things.
  3. – Work-life balance
  4. On the face of it, teleworking is a good thing because it means you can pick up your kids from school and so on. But in practice, we’ve found that it creates a porous gap between work and home life, which is a source of tension, particularly for women, for whom telecommuting and working from home are not a factor in increased well-being.
  5.  However, women are still more likely to want to telework than men. They still bear the brunt of the family burden. All the studies show that when women work from home, there is a negative impact on their mental health. There is no reason why women should want to telework more than men. Unless teleworking is an indicator of the division of labour between men and women…
  6. – Social capital, i.e. the quality of relationships within the group.
  7. Exchanges between colleagues are not necessarily bilateral, they can also be multilateral (can I ask someone for a favour, can they ask me for information, do we have exchanges, cooperative services, etc.).
  8. People help each other: this is what we call social capital. But it takes time for trust to develop, for cooperative behaviour to take root and for information to be exchanged. It’s only by “working together” that we get to know each other and even anticipate people’s reactions in unforeseen situations much more easily, without having to send each other millions of messages. It is true, however, that for some people, if social relations in the office are uncomfortable or bad, working remotely eases tensions: it can work both ways.
  9. – Prospects for progress.
  10. Employees have expectations and live in anticipation of what will happen in the future. Prospects for advancement in terms of responsibilities, promotions, etc. are therefore more complex to manage when working remotely. Being further away from the decision-making centre, you have less understanding of the perspectives set by the hierarchy, which is not necessarily a good thing.
  11. – The question of the meaning of work.
  12. The fact that I’m not on site somewhat reduces my identity at work (Does what I’m doing make sense? Does the company have a good impact and do I like it? Is there a congruence between my values and those of my employer? Is my identity at work strong? )
  13. To have a real identity at work, the worker needs a set, costumes, a scenario, and this only happens when we are in real presence with each other (cf. Erwin Goffman, sociologist).

    1. Identifying psychosocial risks and ill-health:
  14. – Longer working hours
  15. Eliminating the need to commute is obviously a good thing, but working remotely means that working hours can be longer and less synchronised, which can be a destabilising factor.
  16. – Less support from colleagues
  17. – Mixing personal and professional life
  18. This mix has given rise to the term ‘technostress’, which refers to an overload of work where you don’t know whether you’re working or not. You are never able to escape the demands of your work, which can lead to tension and stress.

All these channels can be activated or deactivated in a positive way: the sources of well-being at work are in the office and the sources of balance are at home. So we lose something of the office life when we stay at home: that would be social capital, i.e. interactions with others, the feeling of belonging to a cooperative group and being aware of all the information that is circulating…

This loss of social capital can lead to a sense of destabilisation.

  •  Is there an optimal solution for implementing teleworking?

If teleworking offered all the advantages of autonomy and real interaction with the group, it could indeed be a good solution.

From an individual point of view, teleworking seems ideal: I come to work when I want, and when I do, I can see colleagues, exchange ideas, take part in seminars and so on.

But let’s not forget that individual actions come together and need to be coordinated: if I come to the office and nobody is there, it makes no sense, except in terms of logistics and material comfort if the home is less suitable than the office.

So how do you coordinate workers so that they are all there at the same time?

  • If the employer has a large number of employees working in teams, they may decide that the whole team must be present on certain days.
  • But if the employer has fewer employees, this means that some days the offices will be empty, which raises the question of premises, unless a rotation system is put in place.
  • We also need to consider whether workers should be allowed to decide when they come into the office.

Employers will need to find solutions to these coordination problems.

  • Conclusio

The standard question is life satisfaction.

The confinement that has brought workers to full teleworking has had a negative impact on their life satisfaction and mental health.  In particular, difficulties with concentration and feelings of uselessness were observed, especially among mothers of school-age children. In general, there was a negative effect in these two areas.

On the other hand, there were no negative effects for employees who teleworked part time. So it’s the whole thing that’s harmful.

There are positive and negative aspects to teleworking. Employees want to telework, at least part-time. Employers would rather give them a bit less. But when they telework all the time, employees are unhappy. As we have seen, these feelings are due to the advantages and disadvantages of telework, with the risk that the latter will take over.

We will have to pay attention to all these issues. We are navigating between different traps.

These open questions are the responsibility of managers, but it’s also up to all of us, the workers, to come up with ideas.

Participative leadership in the vocabulary of the European institutions – We tell you more !

Given the increasing complexity of the challenges facing the European Commission and the need to do more with less, a change has been underway for several years: Participative Leadership (PL), which involves a move away from top-down management towards collaborative decision-making.

PL fosters collective intelligence by encouraging a diversity of views and expertise. Through open dialogue and collaboration, it harnesses the collective knowledge of its diverse workforce, enabling more informed decisions and innovative solutions to complex problems, rather than relying solely on hierarchical decisions.

This approach strengthens the overall intelligence of the organisation by drawing on the experiences and viewpoints of colleagues from different departments and backgrounds.

The challenge is to create meaningful conversations based on the following key elements to facilitate dialogues that go beyond the simple exchange of information:

1. Build trust: Create an environment where team members feel comfortable sharing their thoughts, ideas and concerns openly, demonstrating transparency, reliability and support..

2. Active listening: individuals are genuinely attentive to the perspectives of others and actively seek to understand different points of view and experiences.

3Constructive dialogue: Conversations focus on constructive problem solving and idea generation with the aim of finding solutions that benefit the community.

4. Inclusion: all participants, regardless of their position within the institution, are encouraged to contribute, ensuring a diversity of backgrounds, experiences and points of view, fostering a sense of belonging among team members and recognising the strength that this diversity brings to decision making.

5. Respectful communication: Interactions are characterised by respect, courtesy and recognition of the value that each person brings to the conversation.

6. Depth of understanding: Participants seek a deeper understanding of the reasons and motivations behind ideas and opinions, which facilitates more informed decision-making. It can also be interesting to ask questions that stimulate critical thinking and create a culture that values curiosity and continuous learning.

7. Empathy: recognising the feelings and experiences of others, fostering a culture of empathy and support within the team.

8. Focus on solutions: When discussing challenges, the focus is on finding solutions together, rather than just focusing on the problems.

The LP approach encourages and empowers team members to take ownership of their work and make a significant contribution to the institution’s objectives.

Of course, changing an organisation’s culture to value and promote LP takes time and commitment, and presents a number of challenges.

Some colleagues may be reluctant to move away from traditional hierarchical structures, making it difficult to adopt more participative approaches. We also find that language barriers or multiple communication channels can hinder the exchange of ideas and collaboration.  Ensuring that all voices are heard and taken into account can be difficult, particularly in organisations of our size. On the other hand, it is important to strike a balance between inclusion and efficiency. Reaching consensus in participative processes can take longer than in traditional top-down decision-making, which can affect the speed with which decisions are implemented. Staff may need training to develop the skills needed for effective collaboration, communication, and conflict resolution in a participative environment. Seminars and training have been provided by DG HR, which has also encouraged the creation of a community of practice to provide support at inter-institutional level.

The hybrid working model can pose additional problems

The use of digital communication tools could potentially hinder the spontaneous and informal interactions that are crucial to the LP. Technical difficulties could be an obstacle to the smooth running of participatory processes.

When it comes to inclusiveness, it is important to ensure that remote and in-office colleagues have equal opportunities to participate in decision-making processes, as physical presence can unintentionally influence participation.

Building and maintaining trust between team members is essential to the LP. The physical distance that exists in hybrid work systems can make it more difficult to build and maintain trust between team members. Similarly, spontaneous collaboration and the sharing of ideas can be limited in hybrid environments, affecting the dynamic and interactive nature of the LP.

To meet these challenges, departments need to establish clear policies for virtual collaboration and foster a culture that values and supports participative practices, regardless of the physical location of employees. In addition, managers need to be proactive in ensuring that team members, whether remote or in the office, feel equally included and engaged in decision-making processes.

Tackling these challenges requires a strategic and patient approach that focuses on the long-term benefits of improved collaboration, innovation and employee engagement.

Preconceived ideas about participative leadership

  1. Lack of decision-making: Some people may mistakenly think that LP is synonymous with a lack of decisive action. It is about taking decisions in collaboration with the various stakeholders.
  2. Equal participation in all decisions: not all decisions require the same level of participation. LP involves recognising when broad collaboration is needed and when more streamlined decision making is appropriate.
  3. A process that takes time: while participatory approaches may take longer for certain decisions, this does not mean that every decision requires in-depth consultation. An effective participatory approach combines inclusiveness and efficiency.
  4. Removing hierarchy: LP does not necessarily mean the removal of all hierarchical structures. It implies a more inclusive and collaborative style of leadership within existing structures.
  5. Achieving full consensus: Achieving full consensus in a participatory decision-making process is a real challenge. It involves gathering diverse information, understanding viewpoints, and making informed decisions that benefit the community.
  6. Misinterpretation of data: Managers must avoid misinterpreting participatory input. It is not just a matter of collecting ideas, but of understanding and genuinely integrating different perspectives into the decision-making process.

Clear communication and training are essential to dispel these misconceptions and ensure effective implementation of LP in institutions.

We are increasingly being asked to participate in surveys. What role do they play in the LP?

While surveys can gather valuable data and opinions, they are not inherently LP methods. Surveys typically involve one-way communication, with participants answering pre-defined questions. This is at odds with the interactive and dynamic nature of LP, which encourages ongoing dialogue and collaboration.

LP emphasises collective decision-making and collaboration, whereas surveys often involve individuals responding independently, without participating in group discussions or shared decision-making processes.

Surveys have a predetermined set of questions, which limits the flexibility to explore different perspectives or adapt the survey according to ideas that emerge during the process, which is a key aspect of LP.

Surveys may lack the depth needed to fully understand the context or underlying reasons for participants’ responses. LP often involves exploring these nuances through open dialogue.

Surveys can be open to misinterpretation as respondents may have different interpretations of the questions. LP aims to reach a common understanding through ongoing conversation and clarification.

LP emphasises empathy and understanding between team members. Surveys, being a more detached method, may miss the opportunity to develop empathy through direct interaction and sharing of experiences.

While surveys have their place in quantitative data collection, participatory learning methods often involve more qualitative, interactive, and continuous approaches that go beyond the structured nature of surveys. Effective learning by doing involves ongoing dialogue, active listening and collective exploration of ideas and solutions.

We wanted to address the issue of participative leadership because it is in line with U4U’s values, such as the holistic approach to our professions, inclusion, and societal, social, and cognitive diversity. Let’s all play an active role in the European project, let’s contribute by being who we are, every day.

On 24 March 2022, the Commission adopted Decision C(2022) 1788 on working time and hybrid working.

Hybrid work: what should be assessed?

Decision C (2022) 1788 on hybrid working and working time establishes teleworking as a right and puts office work and teleworking on an equal footing. It rests on two essential pillars: flexible working time arrangements and a management system based on trust. Its main objective is to improve working efficiency while reconciling the private and professional lives of officials and other staff of the European institutions. However, the achievement of these objectives presupposes that psychosocial risks for teleworkers are avoided and that telework does not compromise the cohesion of the European civil service.

The evaluation exercise launched by DG HR shows, on the basis of staff survey data, a certain level of satisfaction, including among managers, although many questions remain, particularly as regards the implementation of the decision. Overall, hybrid working and its corollary, flexible working hours, have met the objectives of efficiency and reconciling private and professional life. A number of positive elements were put forward in the opinions expressed by the various committees, including management based on trust, increased flexibility, the various arrangements set out in the decision, which recognises hybrid working as a right (20% of working time) and on a voluntary basis, the right to disconnect, 10 days’ teleworking abroad and finally the creation of a joint committee.

We have to recognise that we are in a transitional period of fundamental change in the way the Commission works, and that it will take time to understand its potential impact and wider implications for the way our institution operates. This is why we need to put in place rigorous monitoring and evaluation tools as well as adequate communication and transparency procedures. In this respect, the Joint Committee on Hybrid Working (JCHW) has an important role to play. However, having spent several months discussing the rules of procedure, the committee has not been able to devote the necessary time to evaluation work, including the involvement of experts and a review of existing literature. As a result, it does not have the detailed data (e.g. by age, gender and place of work) or an objective evaluation methodology to be able to assess the merits of the current provisions on hybrid working.

In the interests of constructiveness, U4U would like to raise a number of questions to inform the current evaluation exercise. These are largely derived from our paper on the 21 theses on telework that were developed in 2022 where we argued that telework is “flexible, voluntary and based on trust”.

First of all, what is important for a modern public service is to be able to function effectively with a flexible organisation and appropriate tools and infrastructure. Ensuring a weekly presence in the office is a way of guaranteeing regular interaction between team members as well as with external members, and therefore work collectives and team cohesion, which is a necessary condition for their effectiveness. This presupposes formal or informal arrangements for hybrid working, enabling managers to organise the work of their teams, as well as better organisation of the balance between family life and professional work. For example, the European Parliament has set teleworking at two days a week, but allows more flexibility. For example, the European Parliament want to set a two-day week for teleworking, but this allows for greater flexibility, so that staff can take a whole week off and then be present at their office for the whole of the following week. However, this flexibility is made difficult, if not impossible, at the Commission because of the buildings policy, which tends to drastically reduce the number of places available.

Secondly, we need to assess whether the right to disconnect, which is regulated in most Member States, has been respected and whether it has been implemented uniformly and consistently. One of the major risks associated with hybrid working is that some Commission staff tend to remain permanently connected, working beyond working hours and during disconnection periods, weekends and public holidays. As a result, the boundaries between the work sphere and the family/private sphere are becoming increasingly blurred. A recent study by Eurofound1 tends to show that there is an overall increase in workload due to hyperconnectivity (for example, reading and replying to emails at all times) and therefore an intensification of work, without this necessarily being accompanied by productivity gains. Similar practices are also tending to develop within the Commission’s departments. The right to disconnect must therefore be encouraged at all levels in order to safeguard the well-being and health of European civil servants.

Thirdly, in relation to the non-respect of the right to disconnect, the psychosocial risks linked to work overload must be better understood through objective evaluation data, which remains to be constructed given the paucity of information in this area. The decision on hybrid working (art. 14) emphasises two aspects: the responsibility of managers, who will have to undergo appropriate training to avoid the “possible risks and dangers of digital overload and digital burnout”; and the individual responsibility of staff, who will have to take “preventive measures” to avoid physical risks in their teleworking space, while the “Commission will organise regular and appropriate prevention campaigns in the field of health and safety at work”. This is the essential minimum, but what is needed is a holistic approach that covers all aspects of well-being and health at work, including an ergonomic teleworking environment and, above all, much stricter rules to avoid situations of stress and burnout, the human costs of which need to be more fully integrated into the evaluation exercise.

Fourthly, the right to use 10 working days of telework abroad at different times of the year or in conjunction with annual or parental leave must be preserved. The survey carried out by DG HR shows that this right is widely used by officials and agents, which tends to show that it meets a real need for flexibility. However, as indicated in the COPEC opinion, it is necessary to assess the extent to which its use is not restrictive or discriminatory against women (who make greater use of this form of work), for example during periods when buildings are occasionally closed. In the event of exceptional authorisation, as permitted by the Decision, care will have to be taken to strike a balance between greater flexibility and the necessary work efficiency, which also depends on physical interaction between colleagues and the cohesion of work teams. This list of questions is not exhaustive, but reflects the state of discussions in the Joint Committee and other committees that have issued opinions on the matter. Generally speaking, without prejudging the conclusions of the evaluation exercise, it emerges that the Decision is balanced and that its basic principles should be preserved, even if improvements are needed on certain aspects in the light of experience gained to date. Given the short time available to us, it is clear that the evaluation exercise will be limited and that more time is needed to gain an overview of the implementation of the Decision and its impact on the operation of our Institution. In this respect, it is essential that the Staff Committee and the various Committees be able to complete their respective opinions on the basis of the information requested from DG HR, in the absence of a consultation of experts, which would have been much needed if not for the lack of time. The future of the European civil service and the way it operates are also at stake.

[1] Eurofound, The rise of telework and the impact on working conditions and regulations, 2022. Voir aussi la conference dans GRASPE n.47 ,  

Teleworking and well-being

We have been conducting a discussion on teleworking for the past two years, we would like to briefly review the scientific literature on the relationship between teleworking and well-being. This will enable us to see the effects of this way of working, which is becoming increasingly popular outside the European institutions.

According to a study carried out in 2023 in 34 different countries, in several waves and involving several tens of thousands of participants, 56% of respondents would like to work at least one day a week from home, and 19% would like to work 2 or even 3 days a week (17%). Similarly, in a 2017 study of 7,000 American employees, Alexandre Mas and Amanda Pallais found that workers were prepared to accept a salary that was on average 8% lower if the job in question offered teleworking. According to the same authors, one of the decisive factors in the choice of teleworking is the reduction in the number of journeys between work and home.

However, if the studies conducted before the Covid-19 epidemic are to be believed, teleworking does not necessarily make people happier. In fact, Sabrina Pablionia and Victoria Vernon point out in a 2022 analysis of US employees only, that teleworking does not always enable them to spend more time with their families, take care of household chores or get more sleep.

This dichotomy between what workers want and the effects of teleworking once it is in place seems to be the crux of the problem. The often forced experience of teleworking during Covid-19 has exacerbated this tension. For example, studies carried out in the UK and Germany before and during Covid-19 show that teleworking during this period proved damaging to the health of the people doing it. As the households studied were still largely rooted in the traditional, gendered division of household tasks inherited from patriarchal society, it was often women who suffered most from teleworking during the epidemic. This is due in particular to the fact that children were being schooled at home, which meant an additional burden that was unevenly distributed across households. It should be noted, however, that Covid-19 and the successive confinements/deconfinements associated with this period greatly altered the nature of teleworking. Many families, particularly those from the most precarious backgrounds, found themselves confined to housing that was often too cramped and had no social life outside the family circle. What can we say about isolated students, who have often lost the job that enabled them to pay the rent, or violence against women and children, which also exploded during this period? All these factors make it difficult to isolate the variables which suggest that telework was harmful to employees from the other factors specific to Covid. The negative elements put forward by the studies carried out in Germany and the United Kingdom, such as the loss of social contacts and flexibility, are just as much attributable to teleworking as to the measures taken by governments to manage the epidemic.

These considerations suggest that hybrid working would be a good compromise for the majority of workers. The survey carried out by Aksoy and colleagues shows the most frequently cited benefits of teleworking: “No commute”, “Less time to prepare for work”, “Flexible working hours”, “Quiet” and “More time with friends and family” and for on-site work: “Face-to-face collaboration”, “Socialisation”, “Work-life boundaries”, “Better equipment”, “Face-to-face with my manager” and “Peace of mind”. This shows that teleworking is appreciated not because it increases well-being or efficiency at work – which is not mentioned very much in the studies – but because it enables better time management and greater reconciliation between professional and private life. However, we should not forget that employers have put in place numerous means of remote control, some of them not hesitating to charge their employees more than usual for fear that they will work less. On the other hand, on-site work is valued for the social relations it allows. If these two aspects are to be reconciled, hybrid working needs to be coordinated at the level of the organisations practising it, so that we are not in a situation where people who come on site to find human contact find themselves in front of empty offices.

We could envisage, as is already done in some companies or national administrations, imposing one or two fixed days of compulsory presence. Unfortunately, this type of solution is impossible at the European Commission because of its restrictive building management policy. The drastic reduction in the number of office spaces will only allow 50-60% of staff to be present on site at any one time. We should also remember that the essence of human contact is not only found in the performance of work-related tasks, in meetings or even in one-off events, but also in what goes on around it, what we might call the socialisation of the corridors. It’s also these light, short, unexpected interactions that we look for when we come to work.

[1] To do this, we will be relying mainly on an article published in the AOC media by Claudia Senik, professor of economics at Sorbonne University (formerly Paris IV and Paris VI): Senik, C. « Télétravail et bien-être : épilogue ou travaux en cous ? », AOC, 11 septmbre 2023, [En ligne], URL :

[2] Aksoy C., Barrero J-M., Bloom N., Davis S., Dolls M., and Zarate P. (2023). Working from Home around the World. 2023 Report. CESifo EconPol Policy Brief 7(53).

[3] Mas A. and Pallais A. (2017). Valuing Alternative Work Arrangements. American Economic Review 107 (12): 3722‑59.

[4] Les préférences des travailleurs à ce sujet ont similaires en Chine, cf. : He H., Neumark D., and Weng Q. (2021). Do Workers Value Flexible Jobs? A Field Experiment. Journal of Labor Economics 39 (3): 709‑38.

[5] Pabilonia S. and Vernon V. (2022). Telework, Wages, and Time Use in the United States. Review of Economics of the Household 20 (3): 687‑734.

[6] Gueguen C. and C. Senik (2023). Adopting telework: The causal impact of working from home on subjective well-being. British Journal of Industrial Relations: 1–37.

[7] Senik C., Clark A. E., D’Ambrosio C., Lepinteur A. and Schröder C. (2022). Teleworking and Life Satisfaction during COVID-19: The Importance of Family Structure. IZA Discussion Paper, 15715.

[8] Op. cit. Gueguen C. and C. Senik (2023).

[9] Entité des Nations Unies pour l’égalité des sexes et l’autonomisation des femmes (ONU-Femmes). COVID-19 and Ending Violence Against Women and Girls,

[10] Service Statistique Ministériel de la Sécurité Intérieure. Analyse conjoncturelle des crimes et délits enregistrés par la police et la gendarmerie à la fin du mois de juin 2020. Interstats Conjonct N° 58.

[11] Op. cit. Aksoy C., Barrero J-M., Bloom N., Davis S., Dolls M., and Zarate P

Hybrid Working Committee: the evaluation has finally been launched, but by DG HR!

After many months of discussion in the Joint Committee on Hybrid Working (JCHW) on the rules of procedure and then on the guidelines, which were replaced by a short document and questions and answers, we are finally getting to the heart of the matter, perhaps too late given that the review of the implementation of the hybrid decision will take place in the last quarter of this year.

The evaluation exercise has also recently been launched by DG HR to collect data on the implementation of the Commission Decision on working time and hybrid work and, if necessary, to propose recommendations for a possible revision of the Decision by September 2023. DG HR has proposed a series of focus groups of up to 15 members (HR correspondents, Heads of Unit, Directors General, etc.) who will be consulted on three general questions to guide this exercise. In essence, these groups will be asked to assess (1) whether the implementation has worked well; (2) whether improvements are needed; (3) and what the possible scenarios are for the future. The results of the survey, together with available data on office attendance and use of the ten days of teleworking away from the workplace, will be included in the evaluation report. It would be desirable for this report to be submitted to staff representatives for their opinion prior to publication.

U4U has made proposals for the organisation of working groups within the CPTH. At its last meeting at the end of May, the CPTH decided to set up a working group on data collection and indicators. Meanwhile, the Central Staff Committee (CSC) has been consulted as part of the consultation process organised by DG HR, with a deadline of 15 working days for comments. 

It is important that the CPTH, and in particular the staff representatives, are fully involved in this exercise so that it can fully play the role for which it was set up. Otherwise, we run the risk of having a useless joint committee, when it should be providing staff representatives with food for thought and enabling them to make an active contribution to social dialogue on an issue that is so important for the future of the European civil service.

Hybrid work: what are the issues for monitoring?

Following the Commission’s decision on working time and hybrid work, based on a proposal made by U4U, a joint committee made up of members of the OSPs and DG HR was set up for a period of 18 months to follow up on it and issue opinions on relevant issues. An evaluation of the implementation of the Decision is planned for September 2023 with a view to a possible revision.In December 2022, the Committee adopted the rules of procedure that allow it to function to fulfil its mandate. In the meantime, the DG presented its guidelines on the implementation of the decision and consulted the other joint committees, which presented their own opinions.
The guidelines were the subject of intense debate in the Joint Committee on Hybrid Work, but no agreement was reached among its members. While recognizing the usefulness of this document in clarifying certain legal provisions with concrete examples, the fact remains that this guidance should not go beyond what is provided for in the decision. Its purpose is twofold: on the one hand, to help implement the Commission decision and, on the other hand, to facilitate an effective, efficient and coherent follow-up of this decision based on experience and problems encountered.A number of issues were raised in the Committee, including the organization of the 8-hour working day, the need for staff to be contactable outside working hours if necessary, the right to disconnect, internal arrangements for teleworking (and possible derogations), and teleworking outside the place of employment. However, it seems to us that some important issues have not been specifically addressed, such as health and safety risks – for which DG HR refers to other provisions and guidance documents. Beyond these specific issues, the organization and structure of hybrid work is ultimately based on trust, flexibility and the ethics of responsibility.Given the important role of this Committee on the implementation of the Decision, it is necessary that the Joint Committee takes up issues of importance to staff and that it does so by adopting an empirical approach based on experimental data and research findings, following the example of Eurofound. The role of experts is essential to inform the Committee’s thinking and work.This is in no way to diminish the role of other committees, which may raise legitimate issues within their remit (such as COPEC, which may rightly raise potential risks of discrimination in terms of equality and reconciliation between work and private life). However, we must not lose sight of the overall coherence of the new hybrid working environment, the issues of which are complex and which therefore call for an appropriate course of action.

EUROFOUND report on the rise of telework : slides (Jan 2023)

Telework: the issues at stake in the follow-up of the implementing provisions established following the social dialogue with the unions

Telework is an important issue for the future of the European civil service. The rules adopted on working time and hybrid time are subject to a rigorous framework and joint monitoring. Telework is an important issue for the future of the European civil service. It raises a series of questions about the exercise of the profession, about opportunities and constraints, rights and obligations, implications linked to the nature of the work and potential psycho-cognitive risks. It is also a delicate balance between ensuring well-being at work, increased efficiency and the interest of the service.The rules adopted by the Commission on 24 March 2022 on working time and hybrid time1 must be subject to a strict framework and monitoring , in close consultation with the organisations representing staff. To this end, provision has been made for a joint committee to be set up for one and a half years to monitor the implementation of the Commission’s decision.This Committee is chaired by an official (director grade) appointed by DG HR and composed of four members appointed by DG HR and four members appointed by the Central Staff Committee. In particular, it must adopt its own rules of procedure and decide on its own working methods. It may also set up joint working groups to carry out preparatory work.The first meeting of the committee was held on 11 July 2022 and provided an opportunity to share the experiences of the various participants and the specificities linked to certain Directorates-General with staff based in Brussels and Luxembourg or the delegations, certain functions (e.g. nuclear inspectors) and certain categories (e.g. executive agencies with a majority of contract staff). On the other hand, the discussion highlighted differences of opinion within the group, in particular concerning different interpretations of the decision, notably on teleworking outside the place of employment. Rules of procedure will also have to be defined in order to ensure the functioning of the group.It is important that the members of the group – whose establishment is regrettably late – adopt a collegial and unitary approach in the interest of the staff.The group will also have to consider the question of the balance between what has been established in the decision, i.e. the discretion left to Directors-General and Heads of Service in its application, and the need to ensure fair, just and transparent treatment for all.Particular attention should also be paid to health and safety issues, which are known to be crucial for many colleagues who are often overworked, affecting their individual and family well-being.Finally, the effectiveness of the Committee depends to a large extent on the need to have objective data on the diversity of practices existing within the Commission through targeted surveys of a representative sample for monitoring and evaluation purposes. The working groups will be able to provide valuable assistance through the active support of experts who can advise on the most relevant issues.This is a vast undertaking to which we will contribute, on the basis of the work of this Joint Committee, and provide constructive support in the interests of all.18/11/2022

1 Commission decision on working time and hybrid working, C(2022) 1788 final

Our theses on teleworking

Theses on teleworking in the European Institutions

For the debate

Definition: “Telework: professional activity carried out at a distance from the employer through the use of telematics”. By extension, professional activity that does not involve a specific, defined workplace.

Teleworking is not the same as working from home. Teleworking can take place at home, in decentralised offices, in central offices, which can be both individual, collective and collaborative, or on a temporary basis (for visitors), or even abroad (on a limited basis, e.g. 3 weeks/year).

Preamble: The primary objective of teleworking should not be to save budgetary resources, even if this could result in hindsight; rather, it should be to enable staff to perform their duties more effectively and achieve a better work-life balance.

Teleworking is also implemented in the interests of the service, to improve work efficiency. Its implementation should not weaken the necessary cohesion within the European civil service, nor jeopardise induction, integration and apprenticeships.

For U4U, telework is :

Voluntary / Reversible / Variable / Supervised / Flexible / Supported / Controlled / Negotiated

  1. Voluntary: Essential point of all agreements between social partners at European level and in the Member States. No obligation, no constraint (except for compelling reasons, such as a pandemic).
  2. Reversible: Corollary of the voluntary nature. You can choose to go back to face-to-face.
  3. Variable: More generally, teleworking can be chosen in a variable way: one week and not the other, mornings or afternoons, etc.
  4. Box: 40-hour week, “coretime”, working hours from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., excluding night work (art. 56 of the Staff Regulations); particular attention to the porosity between private and professional life, hyper connectivity, risks of “digital overload”.

Note: Arrangements to be put in place to allow teleworking abroad for longer periods in the event of exceptional personal circumstances.

  1. Flexible: Flexible implementation: differentiated needs, identified within sectors/units to respond to the reality of businesses, sites, projects, teams, deadlines or crisis situations.
  2. Accompanied: Officials’ working conditions comply with health and safety standards (Article 1 sexies par. 2 of the Staff Regulations). Guarantee a specific place to work at home (ergonomics, lighting, furniture, etc.). Ensure that the costs incurred by the employee are covered.

Caution: Ensure that there is a sufficient supply of social services such as crèches and nurseries, or community catering (work-life balance, mental health, work efficiency, cohesion, conviviality, etc.).
Training in new ways of organising work groups and leadership, to adapt to a more autonomous and flexible way of working, managed by objectives.

  1. Controlled: like all forms of work organisation, teleworking presents certain risks, which need to be recognised so that they can be better controlled and/or supported:

a. on a technical level :

Study the emergence of a new culture of work relations in a continuum of hyper connectivity. Assess its effects in order to correct any negative impacts (fragmentation of groups, overwork, isolation, etc.). Prepare and support implementation with new staff and management training, including training to avoid “digital overload”.

b. on a personal level :

Pay particular attention to the porosity between private and professional life. Reconciling the two also depends on :

(i) setting up or maintaining services for colleagues that meet their needs and
(ii) promoting regular working patterns that respect well-being.

Ensuring workplace flexibility. Restricting teleworking to the home hampers needs that are essential to human development, and even results in poorer working (and living) conditions.

c. on an organisational level :

Understand the fundamental importance of significant face-to-face work to ensure the training and cohesion of multicultural and multidisciplinary work teams in the European civil service.

Prevent learning from being set back simply by watching others do it. Prevent delays or even failures in the integration of newcomers.

d. motivation :

Ensure that teleworking is not a form of escape, leading to isolation and a loss of sight of the purpose of the tasks assigned. Work defined by others becomes even more formal when you have no contact other than your screen. It is only by integrating the individual into a collective work context that we can give him or her the opportunity to flourish.

  1. Negotiated: with the social partners, staff representatives, and with the staff themselves.

Learn from experience. Teleworking offers an option rich in potential for the future. If it is to be implemented successfully, it must be considered on the basis of an objective assessment of the effects observed, while leaving the necessary time for reflection. Its full success depends on the ability and willingness of the institutions to win everyone’s support.

Context and issues

The implementation of telework must be the result of social dialogue between the social partners: this dialogue must first concern this issue, and then deal with related issues: buildings policy, the provision of catering in the workplace, crèche and childcare systems, mobility to and from the various workplaces, financial compensation for the costs of teleworking, respect for health and well-being in all workplaces, etc. This dialogue must be preceded by an assessment of the impact of telework on the workplace.

This dialogue must be preceded by a discussion based on full information. Consultative methods without prior debate and information should be avoided at this stage.

It is important to understand from the outset the importance of significant face-to-face work to ensure the integration, training and cohesion of multicultural and multidisciplinary work teams in the European civil service.

The implementation of telework in the European context must take account of cultural and linguistic diversity. It must not hinder the formation of work teams, of “in-house” professional relations necessary for the handling of files, nor exclude a common, unified workplace, at least by team. On the contrary, it should enable and encourage this by regularly organising face-to-face working opportunities.

The challenge is also to prevent learning from being set back simply by watching others do it. It is just as important to prevent delays or even failures in integrating newcomers.

All those who work in the European public service must be able to continue to support the European project and deliver high-quality public policies. It is difficult to be together, committed together, when you work in two imposed modes: the discomfort of ill-prepared hotdesking and the comfort of a home office isolated from the world and its diversity.

If teleworking offers an option rich in potential for the future, reason dictates that it should be considered on the basis of an objective assessment of the effects observed, followed by the time needed for reflection. Its full success depends on the institution’s ability and willingness to win everyone’s support. However enthusiastic we may be, we cannot ignore the suffering of those who do not express themselves – in pulse surveys, for example – or who have fallen off our radar because of depression and/or an inability to adapt to new working environments.

Observation of reactions to teleworking reveals a nuanced and complex picture where autonomy vies with malaise. Teleworking is not a miracle solution. If it is not accompanied properly, it can even encourage a feeling of isolation, fragmentation and loss of social ties, or even the impossibility of creating these ties. And all this will inevitably have an effect on the quality of our results, both individually and collectively.

The primary aim of teleworking is not to save money, even if this could result in hindsight. Rather, its aim is to enable staff to carry out their duties more effectively and, if possible, to achieve a better work-life balance. Savings must be the result of a specific discussion on this subject, as requested by staff representatives.

For us, the buildings policy is a consequence of the implementation of telework and not the other way round. We also believe that teleworking is voluntary, reversible and variable, and that its implementation should be flexible and decided at a decentralised level. As a result, we believe that the choice of where work is carried out should allow for a combination of locations: at home, in decentralised offices, in central offices, which can be both individual, collective and collaborative, or just passing through. It should also be possible, within the same team, to operate in a hybrid way: some at home, others on mission in other workplaces, still others in the central offices.

In short, the integration of teleworking into our practices remains to be invented, without preconceived ideas. The establishment of a new work culture requires us to take into account different dimensions: spatial organisation, but also temporal, managerial, relational, etc. This is the aim of the theses above, which aim to react and to think about its generalisation in the context of the European civil service and its specific population of expatriate staff.

June 2021

Special leave for the arrival of a child

Developments in special leave on the occasion of the arrival of a child: an interesting step forward Originally, the Staff Regulations recognised the rights of families: widow’s/widower’s pension, orphan’s pension, family allowances, etc. They also covered the member’s family, which benefits, for example, from the sickness insurance scheme (under certain conditions for the working spouse). In the course of the various reforms, the EU legislator has developed the rights of staff, in particular with the recognition of partnerships, under certain conditions, including for people of the same sex. It has also recognised new rights and/or principles, such as non-discrimination (art. 1d of the Staff Regulations) or guaranteed access to social measures (art. 1e of the Staff Regulations). These changes to our Staff Regulations show that the EU legislator and the Commission are attentive to the societal changes taking place in the Member States and that they can take them into account, even if sometimes belatedly. The Commission is today proposing to adopt a new decision on special leave and maternity leave in the event of adoption, so that at least one of the parents can take full care of the child. The Staff Regulations already provide for the possibility of granting ad hoc special leave to take account of certain specific situations. For example, the Appointing Authority has granted special leave in the case of adoption, in order to guarantee the best interests of the child and to ensure an inclusive interpretation of the provisions of the Staff Regulations.The draft decision provides that when a child arrives in the home, special leave equivalent to special leave for adoption shall be granted to the member of staff when neither he or she nor his or her spouse meets the conditions for maternity leave.U4U considers that this decision is a step in the right direction and helps to adapt the rules to modern society. We can only encourage the Commission to continue along this path!

Telework and Us

Editorial by Georges Vlandas, Chairman of the Commission’s Staff Committee in Brussels

Teleworking had already been part of our working environment before the pandemic of March 2020. But it was used in a limited, if not marginal way, for both structural and occasional telework.

The pandemic has pushed our institution to generalize telework in order to protect staff from the negative effects of the disease.

This widespread use of telework has immediately posed a first challenge, that of our technical capacities. Could we connect and make more than 30,000 colleagues work remotely at the same time? The answer was positive. Then, there was the question of costs to be borne by the staff, followed by questions of office automation, or the possibility of working from one’s home country.

Gradually, the staff’s approach to working in a safe environment has changed, with anxiety taking precedence over serenity. The second episode of the confinement shows that the induced social isolation is becoming more and more difficult to bear. Qualitative issues take precedence over material ones. Many colleagues notice the acceleration of work rhythms and experience an increasing mixing of their private and professional lives, along with a growing difficulty to maintain the balance between them. The difficulties inherent in the lives of families, especially single parents and expatriates, have in fact been exacerbated. The integration of newcomers recruited at the beginning of 2020 has proven to be a failure for many of them. And our managers are not trained to lead groups remotely. Some have even been lost from sight…

A new reality is taking shape: the facilities granted by the administration in terms of acquiring office automation equipment will be in the hands of the lowest bidder in terms of offices, workplaces and spaces in general, when it comes to returning to work.

The prevailing impression is that teleworking will become partly compulsory to allow the setting up of collaborative spaces, or even “open spaces”, or worse, “hot desk” spaces. Although this is being discussed, it must be noted that no dialogue with the staff representation has yet taken place on the consequences of this generalisation of telework. A dialogue based on critical and comprehensive information on the experiences of telework in our services, and in other services and organisations, is however essential.

Do we really know how to telework? A relative mastery of the technical dimension of telework had to be acquired quickly. But the major discovery was a general lack of knowledge of what modes of work have to be adopted. If to a certain extent, telework has been a progress, to another extent, it has favoured the atomisation of the civil service and it has invaded the private sphere with professional activities. Conversely, it has not favoured a correct welcome of new colleagues, nor the links with our external interlocutors; it has damaged our well-being and our health. At a first glance, the negative effects would come from the generalisation of structural telework, which isolates people; whereas occasional telework, even on a more massive scale, may arise from the choices of organising a team’s work.

Telework has brought us a lot: first of all, it allowed for an accomplishment of our mission in a period of pandemic in a delicate context of crisis and budgetary discussions, when European society needed its public service. However, while enabling the continuity of service, widespread teleworking has distanced us from one another, at the risk of endangering the work collective, the esprit de corps, the conviviality indispensable to any human organisation, as well as our physical and mental well-being.

These reflections are questions to be addressed among the staff. We have to form our own opinion on how to work in the most effective and best way for us. This is the challenge of the beginning of 2021.

Note from the PAC concerning Microsoft’s protection of the personal data of employees of the institutions (Jan 2021)

CESI signs EU social partner agreement on digitalisation for central government administrations

U4U is a member of CESI. We are proud to inform you that on October 6th CESI, as European social partner for central government administrations, has signed a landmark agreement on digitalisation, aiming at covering every worker in this sector.

The signed European digitalisation agreement is a stepping-stone towards workers’ rights to telework, to disconnect, to a better work-life balance, to training, health and safety, to data protection or against abusive use of artificial intelligence.

In an innovative and ambitious way, the new agreement establishes the voluntary, reversible and available nature of telework for every worker. The decision of granting telework should be based on a joint analysis with the unions of tasks and activities and the necessary support and equipment to work from home should be made available, with enough compensation for the additional expenses which might occur.

The agreement may, following a decision of the European Commission and the Council, become a legally binding directive. Its content remains a source of inspiration for other sectors and levels and reflects EU’s ambition to adapt its workforce for the future.

The cross-sector social partners recently started their own negotiation of the 2002 framework agreement on telework and we hope this digitalisation agreement will be a good source of information and inspiration for them.

The press release for the official signature with the interventions of Klaus Heeger, CESI Secretary-General, is available here.

Commission decision on working time and hybrid working

Decision taken by the Commission in 2022

COVID19 has generalised teleworking

The current pandemic has enabled us to telework on a larger scale with certain benefits, for example, working more easily and regularly with colleagues in other locations, working in safer health conditions in times of epidemic, ensuring a better balance between family and working life, reducing the burden and arduousness of daily mobility via public or private transport, etc. But teleworking also raises problems.

The generalisation and sustainability of teleworking will pose problems which are not yet suspected and will have to be discussed in terms of the cohesion of the working teams, the reception of new colleagues, psycho-social risks, office automation problems, difficulties in collaborative communication and the maintenance of a necessary break between the professional and the private life.

With the widespread use of teleworking, there is an excessive presence of the professional sphere in the personal sphere (and vice versa) at the same time as the interpersonal dimension of work is lost. Attention should also be drawn to the existence of inequalities between members of staff depending on whether or not they have a sufficiently large housing and adequate working conditions, the permanent presence of children, the situation of the spouse (when two teleworkers work or only the person who works is responsible for the children), etc.

To a large extent, some of these difficulties can be solved by adapting tools and environment to the realities of work in the institutions. However, this needs to be properly discussed.

We call for gradual changes taking into account the time needed for adaptation, based on in-depth reflection, on the basis of independent expertise and an internal discussion within the European civil service. This reflection will have to take place outside the current epidemic context, which does not provide sufficient opportunities.

Télétravail : un document pour le dialogue social   Lettre à la DG HR sur le télétravail (Nov 2015)