The Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) has said that starting September 7, all offices should open and operate fulltime and until then the management should prepare for offices to operate within the COVID-19 norms.
The PMO said strict physical distancing at workplaces should be ensured and options to “work from home” or in shifts should be introduced.
In line with the above the Royal Civil Service Commission (RCSC) has already issue an official email to various government agencies to ensure COVID-19 norms and physical distancing are followed.
While the RCSC had already instituted work from home and split teams earlier given the new post lockdown reality there are new updated measures like wearing facemask at all times.
However, like in the past the implementation and adaptation to these measures have been left to the agencies in question.
RCSC said that under the “new normal”, all Civil Servants are expected to observe the health protocols of ensuring physical distancing, washing hands regularly and compulsory wearing of face masks at all times.
It says that all Civil Service Agencies are required to reconfigure their physical office environment/setup and working procedures to align to these health protocols.
Agencies are to ensure that necessary hand washing facilities and resources like hand sanitizers are made available to the staff and clients, ensure good ventilation in the office and proper safe distance marking for staff and clients moving and engaging within the office.
Agencies can work as normal if their office space allows for sufficient safe physical distance while delivering services.
However, they can also work in split teams if their office space does not allow safe physical distancing. The staff can be divided into teams that alternatively work from home every week.
RCSC said that staff who have breastfeeding babies, children below age of one and those who have serious health issues can work from home. However, civil servants working from home must abide by the Work From Home (WFH) guidelines too.
Agencies, if required, may customize the WFH to their specific requirements.
RCSC said that until the 6th September, agencies are requested to begin their preparation for office reopening with the new protocols.
“It is possible that lock-downs can reoccur in near future at the National or Local levels or in specific locations. Therefore, every agency is required to draw up a Staff Engagement Plan which ensures that the Agency is in the state of preparedness for future lockdowns and subsequent re-openings,” said the RCSC letter.
RCSC said that should they require a reference or sample; they are sharing RCSC’s Staff Engagement Plan.
RCSC said it shall regularly update the agencies with additional information as and when required.
Civil servants have also been asked to observe the general dos and don’ts announced under ‘Our Gyenkhu’ for the safety of the individual and the community at large.
In the Guidelines for WFH the objective has been listed as continuing to deliver services during and post lock-down period and maintain safe physical distancing in the workplace after easing of the lockdown to reduce the spread of COVID-19.
The guideline is to help agencies outline the protocols of official communications and reporting, fixing accountability, protocol on document movement and protocol on use of government resources while WFH.
Managers have to sit with their teams and come up with an agreed WFH expectations, hours and rules of engagement and WFH activities and deadlines.
The channels and tools of communication like WhatsApp, email etc. should be listed.
Supervisors should be available for virtual hangouts and weekly one-on-one chat with team members to know what is happening.
ICT Teams should make themselves available to support the other team members and provide technical support.
Agencies should institute protocol for document movement between the office and home and agencies should also classify those documents that cannot be taken home.
In line with the WFH Schedule drawn by Divisions/Services/Sectors, every staff shall be required to list tasks to be completed with a deadline and can be verified by the supervisor.
RCSC has asked meeting minutes to be in a shared document that the team can refer to. In the event if a team member couldn’t sit in for an important virtual meeting, they can use Zoom’s/Google Hangouts auto-record feature so they can playback to keep themselves in the loop.
Staff are to keep their teammates and supervisors updated of their daily activities using various tools.
Agencies in discussion with their staff must ensure that they have the necessary facilities like computers/laptops to work from home.
RCSC has also listed some general do’s and don’ts. The do’s are about staying home, social distancing, personal hygiene, exercise, staying updated and ready for duty, following news and seeking help in case of flu like symptoms.
The don’ts are not organizing or attending social gatherings, getting into alternative employment like driving taxis or running a business in the guise of staying home, not playing contact sports, not leaving without informing the immediate supervisor, changing contact info without informing, using public transport unnecessarily and spreading fake news.
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