Archive for February, 2014
The following article was published this morning in the Canberra Times. While not strictly about bullying, the physical work environment can either enhance or destroy working relationships and employee productivity. What is alarming about the statement;
“The spokesman [CSIRO] said staff would be able to provide feedback on the new design in coming months.”
is that it is clearly indicative of the CSIRO Management’s predilection to come up with an idea in isolation, and ram it down the throats of CSIRO employees under the guise of ‘consultation’, which the CSIRO Enterprise Agreement (2011-2014) mandates in relation to any significant changes to the way in which employees undertake their work.
The statement above doesn’t even attempt to suggest that consultation is occurring. True consultation would engage employees before a design is produced to ensure the employees requirements are incorporated into the design from the very beginning.
But what would the people actually undertaking the work know, right?
Instead, employees are being force-fed a solution based purely upon the ideology of economic rationalisation which may very well reduce the efficiency and quality of their work.
Any you can bet that the CSIRO has not conducted any reasonable risk assessment to understand the potential risks associated with such changes to the work environment.
Whilst it is indisputable that an employer has the right to make decisions relating to the operation of the business, far too often this occurs to the detriment of productivity and the creative endeavour upon which true innovation is dependent.
CSIRO staff fear they will be squashed into tiny, noisy workspaces
- February 6, 2014 – 12:24PM
Public service editor
Canberra scientists fear they will soon be squashed into tiny, noisy workspaces that make it too hard for them to do their research.
The CSIRO is set to abandon its headquarters in Campbell, near the War Memorial, and move all ACT staff to its Black Mountain campus.
The proposal involves building a new research centre and refurbishing other areas, and its first phase should be finished when the Campbell office’s lease expires in 2016.
The scientific organisation told a parliamentary committee the new “open-plan” offices would allow 14 square metres of workspace per employee – the goal set for public servants last year – even though the CSIRO, as a statutory authority, does not need to meet the target.
An audit of government buildings in 2009 found the typical public servant had about 1½ times that much space.
However, the CSIRO Staff Association says the plan, which will help cut maintenance costs, will undermine staff’s work.
Its secretary, Sam Popovski, said “widespread open-plan office accommodation is unsuitable for the work role and function of many CSIRO staff and that it may lead to reduced productivity and increased workplace absenteeism”.
He said scientists, engineers and other researchers needed “isolated spaces for concentration and contemplation”.
The association had also observed a trend of staff staying at home to avoid interruption and get more work done.
“There’s no objection to shared facilities – scientists often congregate and talk about what they’re doing – but they need that quiet space to think and write.”
Associate Professor Leena Thomas, of the University of Technology, Sydney’s school of architecture, regularly surveys people’s perceptions of their workplaces, and says staff often complain about the noisiness of open-plan offices.
However, she said intelligent design could make even a 14sqm workspace suitable for most people.
She said activity-based working – offices with multiple areas that catered for different types of work – was increasingly popular, and had been adopted by companies such as Macquarie Bank and Google.
“So you have spaces for people to talk without disrupting others, and spaces for meetings, and spaces for quieter work that requires concentration,” Professor Thomas said.
“In the end, you may save money because you understand that not everyone is at their workstation all the time, though you may struggle to reduce the building size.”
A CSIRO spokesman said on Thursday the new offices would meet the 14sqm target while still catering to staff’s needs.
“This can be achieved through a mixture of environments, which includes open-work areas, quiet areas, informal meeting and project areas, meeting rooms and offices,” he said.
“All these are in the interests of achieving an adaptive workplace to meet the current and future needs of the organisation.”
The spokesman said staff would be able to provide feedback on the new design in coming months.
The staff association also fears the childcare centre at Black Mountain will be overwhelmed by the accommodation changes.
The CSIRO says the centre is “sufficient to meet the expanded needs of the site”, but Dr Popovski said an extra 470 staff will blow out what is already a “significant waiting list” for childcare.
The consolidation of CSIRO properties will cost about $196 million, but the organisation says it is critical to the sustainability of its operating budget, too much of which is spent maintaining old, dangerous buildings.
Victims of CSIRO have recently become aware that the CSIRO have yet again “fiddled” with the terms under which its Investigation into Workplace Bullying is being conducted.
However, this time the changes are far more insidious and pose a flagrant violation of the privacy of the individuals who have provided submissions to the investigator in the belief that their individual submissions will not be provided to CSIRO.
The Privacy Statement published in relation to the investigation has been modified in the following manner:
At commencement of the investigation, the Privacy Statement contained the following paragraph:
“CSIRO will not be collecting any personal information directly from individuals making submissions to HWL Ebsworth Lawyers.”
However, the following change was published on the CSIRO website yesterday:
“CSIRO will be co‐operating with HWL Ebsworth Lawyers and the Independent Investigator to facilitate their consideration and investigation of submissions (“Investigation”). CSIRO will receive personal information from HWL Ebsworth Lawyers and the Independent Investigator or while working with HWL Ebsworth Lawyers and the Independent Investigator during the Investigation.”
If you have already been contacted by the investigator seeking your consent to a change of the privacy terms, you should also consider whether it is pertinent to formally withdraw your consent by writing to the Investigator, particularly if you have not been fully informed of the ramifications of agreeing to the changed policy, i.e. your submission will be provided to CSIRO.
Should you discover that your personal information has been disclosed to an unauthorised third party without your expressed consent, you are entitled to make a complaint to the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner (AOIC) under the Commonwealth Privacy Act 1988.
Coupled with at least three significant previous changes to the published Terms of Reference under which the investigation team were initially bound to operate, it is no wonder that serious concerns about the conduct of the investigation are being raised.
When the Investigator inappropriately attempts to publicly vilify those raising concerns rather than responding to the criticisms in a reasonable and constructive manner, there is serious cause for concern.
One must seriously question the benefit to the Australian Tax Payer for what is likely to be an exorbitantly priced investigation when the “independent” investigator in a workplace bullying investigation will not even make a determination on whether the complaints under investigation constitute workplace bullying!