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DG TAXUD's move:

How do you feel about “open plan” offices?

A number of tasks continues to be further outsourced by the Commission: security guards, canteens, drivers, IT, crèches, etc. To this list we can add the tasks already delegated to the Executive Agencies and the Offices (OIB, PMO, OIL…), which operate as semi-privatised bodies (albeit not always very effectively).

Many colleagues from DG TAXUD have contacted the FFPE. They are annoyed about the information they are receiving regarding their DG's move to a new building. The reason for their annoyance is the prospect of being moved into "landscape" or "open plan" offices.

The Commission is promoting the wider use of open plan offices, allegedly to improve communication between staff. But many colleagues consider that "open plan" or "landscape" offices resemble hangar-like halls or noisy factory floors and they see the true rationale underpinning the policy is the administration's desire to shrink our office space so as to reduce costs.

Previous petitions launched by FFPE showed that, while some staff do not reject the principle of open plan offices, a large proportion of colleagues are reluctant to envisage any move in that direction. Dozens of solid medical and sociological studies have shown that the concept, conceived in 1950ies America for people doing dull, routine paperwork, are a disaster for an administration that should be focussed on European projects that make constant demands on conceptual and intellectual tasks.

In an effort to mitigate staff reaction, it appears that Heads of Unit in the Directorates concerned will be informing colleagues of what is envisaged and will then channel feedback to the DG’s office. It is then foreseen that Director General will meet the management team to review the situation, possibly on 22 January.

In that context, the FFPE would like to remind you that moving departments to open plan offices should follow a well-structured procedure including an internal study in which staff are involved, a feasibility study by OIB and the involvement of the CPPT (the joint committee for prevention and protection at work).

This procedure, as laid down in the "housing conditions manual, part 2" (only available in French) provides for the following procedure in its point 3.5:

1. Definition of the objectives sought from the open plan office.

2. An initial study, internal to the DG and involving staff concerned by the move, to assess the compatibility of the tasks performed with the new working environment.

3. Analysis by OIB of the DG's request and verification of its feasibility (cost of and calendar for the move, etc.).

4. Transmission of the complete file to the DG and to the CPPT.

5. Finalisation of the project.

6. Final decision of the requesting DG.

7. Implementation by OIB.

8. Evaluation after several months in the new premises, followed by modifications if necessary.

The FFPE stresses that proper consultation of the staff concerned means doing more than simply informing them.

The procedure also foresees that any move must be thoroughly analysed by both the DG and OIB and their conclusions transmitted to the CPPT so that it can give its opinion and make recommendations on the matter.

To help the CPPT perform its role and protect staff, the FFPE invites all DG TAXUD staff to express their views on the move to open plan offices by answering this question:

"Are you happy to move into an open plan office?"


You are also invited to send us more detailed information and comments on this issue by email to: REP PERS OSP FFPE BRUXELLES


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