Upon entering the office suite, which is on a single floor in a block on a side street in Birkirkara, the atmosphere is more like a hip new café than a traditional workplace.
Inspirational quotes and bright colors decorate the walls. Friendly conversations are held over a cup of coffee.
The space is informal and relaxed, with people comfortably seated in their workplaces, many from different government departments.
The pandemic has highlighted the pros and cons of working remotely. But there is no longer a need to switch an entire workforce to remote work. It is now an option that the public service is considering to strike a better balance between personal and professional life.
It does this by creating remote jobs for officers who are away from home and in the office. These are hubs that provide all of the technology needed to work efficiently and where working parents can look after their children.
The Birkirkara Suite is the first of 15 suites planned across the island. Designed as a place where employees can access services such as conferences, high-speed Internet and printing, it is uncompromisingly high-tech.
As ICT manager Jonathan Gerada explains, many of the services offered work via an NFC card.
Employees can use the card to enter the building and register for attendance at the same time. The NFC reader logs and saves the coming and going of each individual and automatically adds it to the data record.
Employees are free to request a copy of this log at any time.
Even the post is managed via NFC readers: the card opens the letter slots for your own department. The system also notifies the employees in each department by email when something is dropped through their mail slot.
Although the office is compact, it still offers a variety of workstations that meet the needs of everyone who wants to use it.
There are four different areas: a lounge area with four pods for small meetings, a so-called “bistro” area for informal meetings, three hot desks and two executive offices.
For larger team meetings, there is also a conference room fully equipped for video conferences.
The workspace works with a booking system that employees can access via an app in order to book their rooms or rooms for a specific time of day.
“The special thing about the remote workstation is that there is a technological puzzle that enables it to work,” says Gerada.
It’s almost better than an office
“We have a system of transparent technology that we promise you will not, even if you absolutely hate the use of technology.
“Our automatic filing system can be accessed from anywhere, we are almost 95 percent paperless and our entire telephony is based on Microsoft cloud.”
But the move to remote working is not only one of the most technologically advanced jobs on the island, it’s also having a noticeable impact on people’s lives, especially those who access it through a pilot that has been running since 2019.
Since the remaining work centers are to be opened in several locations by the end of the year, around 6,000 public sector employees can apply for remote work.
The Birkirkara Suite is the first of 15 suites planned on the island.
“When they announced we were moving to remote work, there were concerns that working from home would not be as comfortable,” said Daphne Borg, while her son Nicholas sat quietly by her side and into a tablet was absorbed.
“But the fact that we have these hubs that you can come to and find all the facilities you need to work is almost better than an office.”
As a working mom, she adds, the system has been of great help in taking care of her son while keeping her job.
“At the moment it is a great help, especially since there is no school. I know that I am always available for him and my colleagues are very understanding.
“It’s a relief to know that I can be there for him.”
Vanessa Camilleri, who works in IT, agreed.
“The hub is a great remote working resource because when you need it, it has all the conveniences of an office,” she said.
“Working remotely made all the difference, especially when you have loved ones. It gives you the flexibility to achieve a better work-life balance. I am very happy to have this opportunity because not every job enables people to work like this. “
Secretary of State Anthony Gatt said the civil service was “less interested in when employees show up for work and more concerned with whether they are punctual in all of their commitments while doing quality work”.
“We want to move away from the idea that all government departments should be based in Valletta,” he said.
“We are very satisfied that the private sector sees us as an exemplary employer in this context, both in terms of our environment and working conditions.
“This concept is a good platform to see how the new structures of our work in the public sector can be designed.”
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