Marie : The move was announced as compulsory. We had to leave the existing building, due to the termination of the lease. In addition, we were told that we were moving to hot-desking, due to the willingness of the staff to work partly from home, a measure appreciated under COVID. The One on Rue de la Loi 107 was not discussed in the Commission’s Joint Committee on Prevention (CPPT). This was an obligation. No risk analysis beforehand; the file will be presented to the CPPT 100 days after the resumption of full employment.
Ana : The move to The One building was announced to the staff at the end of February/beginning of March 2021 by the Director. After the announcement, messages followed to prepare the move itself. Pictures were also published on the EPSO intranet. The move took place in July 2021.
Sam : It was presented in regular Town Hall meetings hosted by the Director General where staff could ask questions and comment live (on Teams). The lease contract on two buildings occupied by DG HR on Rue Montoyer and Rue de la Science (MO34 and SC11) was due to expire. In line with the European Green Deal and ‘Greening the Commission’ project, all Commission offices will move to a greener and more energy efficient environment aiming for carbon neutrality by 2030. The One was designed as a ‘green’ building.
Marie : I had the chance to participate in the OIB visits. During this visit, I could see that the format was imposed by the OIB without consultation with the staff. Everything was uniform, without any consideration of the specific needs of each unit. These needs were subsequently addressed, but not completely. This lack of consideration for the needs of the staff is now leading to stress. It was a copy/paste of the OIB open spaces of seven or eight years ago. The spaces were not adapted to the needs of a real hybrid working environment. A stereotype that does not make room for people (the question arises of an inadequate occupancy forecast).
Ana : I was concerned about having to work in The One, as I felt that the open-plan system did not provide the best conditions for work that requires precision, care and attention. Furthermore, in terms of confidentiality and discretion, it did not seem ideal either. In practice, I cannot say that I really moved into The One because of the COVID situation. However, I did go to work in the building on two occasions and went there on other occasions to drop off documents.
In terms of layout, the space is what I expected to see: new furniture in a large space. The open spaces are long and not very wide with movable partitions. It is not really ideal for working. Of course, it is possible to take a “silent room” if you want to work in peace and quiet or if you have a virtual meeting scheduled. However, in the open space, work is disrupted by colleagues talking on the phone or talking to each other or by colleagues passing by (you have to arrive early to get a good spot!). During my visits, I came across two or three colleagues who were working on site. Obviously, as there were not many people there, the atmosphere was calm. However, it was enough for a colleague to talk on the phone to require putting the headphones back on (absolutely must be used in open spaces!) to reduce the noise. It should be noted that most people tend to speak louder when they use the headset. When the occupation becomes more regular, it will be very difficult to concentrate.
Sam : Staff were able to do a ‘virtual’ visit of The One online. I have worked in open plan offices for many years in the private sector (before joining the Commission) so I had a good idea based on this experience. My first impressions were positive. The One is bright, clean and well designed. All furniture and appliances are new and cleaned regularly. The meeting rooms have state of art technology, allowing for efficient hybrid meetings. The cafeteria offers a panoramic view of Brussels.