Post-lockdown guidelines | Work from home may stay for government staff

Draft paper moots staggered attendance and variable hours as a matter of policy.

May 14, 2020 12:07 pm | Updated May 15, 2020 12:00 am IST - New Delhi

A man wearing a mask walks outside North Block in New Delhi.

A man wearing a mask walks outside North Block in New Delhi.

In a post-lockdown scenario, Centre will continue with staggered and variable work hours and the Personnel Ministry has floated a draft consultation paper to adopt best work from home practices for Central government employees.

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The Department of Personnel and Training (DoPT) may provide option for work from home to the eligible officers/staff for 15 days in a year as a matter of policy, the paper said as it asked Ministries and departments to send their suggestions by May 21.

“Extra protocol for all VIP and Parliament matters” that require utmost attention is proposed.

Classified files

However, “classified papers/files” cannot be processed while working from home.

“As per instructions of the Ministry of Home Affairs, no classified information shall be handled through e-office. Therefore, classified files shall not be processed in e-office during work from home,” the draft guidelines said.

The National Informatics Centre may evaluate the existing security protocol for remote access of classified file/ information in consultation with the Home Ministry and propose suitable guidelines and Standard Operating Procedures (SOP) for handling classified information in e-office, the guidelines said.

“Till the time, classified files shall be processed on standalone computers only as specified in the Central Secretariat Manual of Office Procedure (CSMOP),” it said.

There are 48.34 lakh Central government employees. The third phase of lockdown continues till May 17 and a fourth phase may be announced by the government. Several Central government employees are not able to reach office in absence of public transport.

 

In a communiqué to all Central government departments, the DoPT said the COVID-19 pandemic had necessitated many Ministries to operate from home to maintain social distancing.

“Many of the Ministries/Departments in Government of India have successfully managed and rendered exemplary results in combat against the ongoing pandemic outbreak during the lockdown period by leveraging e-office and video conferencing facilities of National Informatics Centre. This was the first-of-its-kind experience in the Government of India,” it said.

It is quite likely that for the near future, the Central secretariat would continue to go for staggered attendance and variable working hours to maintain social distancing at workplace.

“Therefore, a broad framework for work from home is important to standardise the operating procedure even post-lockdown situation and to ensure safety and security of information, while accessing government files and information remotely from home,” it said.

Accordingly, a new set of SOPs have been finalised for the employees to ensure smooth and seamless functioning of the government for continuity of the office works besides imparting resilience in the ecosystem even post-lockdown situations.

Laptop or desktop

Employees would be provided with the logistic supports in the form of laptop/desktop by the respective Ministries/Departments.

“Ministries may use the inventory of laptops on rotational basis for the officers who are working from home and needed such logistic support,” the draft guidelines said.

They may also get reimbursement for Internet services that they would use while working from home.

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“Department of Expenditure may consider reimbursement for data uses to the officers working from home and if required may issue separate guidelines in this regards,” it said.

“Therefore, SMS alerts should be sent for all such receipts and files to the next officer in the channel.”

Ministries/Departments concerned, who were not yet using the e-office module, would make endeavour for its expeditious implementation in their secretariat, attached and subordinate offices in a “time-bound manner”.

At present, about 75 Ministries/Departments are actively using e-office platform of which 57 have achieved more than 80% of their work. E-office refers to digitisation/computerisation of office working.

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