Most public sector employees working from distance

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The 'super-ministry' building in Tallinn, home of the finance ministry and several others. Source: Siim Lõvi /ERR

The public sector workers capable of working from home have begun doing so. However, positions that have recently been created, are finding it difficult to develop team chemistry.

Kristi Mikiver, head of human resources at the Ministry of Education and Research, said there are close to 700 workers at the ministry, also including the the Education and Youth Board. Less than 10 percent are occupied in work that cannot be done from home, such as advising.

Mikiver noted that since there are establishments all over Estonia, the staff were already honing their skills before the crisis. "We have decreased coming into the office during this period and our rules have been to avoid being in the office over recent months. We know today this will last until the end of March. If the situation changes again, we will extend to the end of April," she said.

Mikiver said the most difficult thing is maintaining strong team spirit. "On the Education and Youth Board's side for example, they were created on August 1, creating organizational culture and feel was not simple in these conditions."

Annika Kitsing, head of HR at the new Transport Administration, noted that the institution's issues regarding home offices are similar. "Our greatest challenge is finding opportunities to grow the organization. Creating this feeling of 'us'. Those options are very limited and we can only depend on the virtual playing space the conditions allow us," she said.

Kitsing added that nearly 600 of their 800 employees are currently working from home. This is mostly made up of office workers, some of who have also taken their office chair home.

Staff cannot take state secrets home, however. Ministry of Defense strategic communication chief Susan Lilleväli explained that legislation obliges some work to be done at a certain location. "100 percent distance working is not possible due to the ministry's tasks. We do have an agreement in-house that people directly replacing each other will not be in the office at the same time. Close to half of our people are working from distance and half are in the office with the necessary shifts," Lilleväli said.

Eero Raun, director of government communications, said ministers work on location if direct contact is necessary. Sittings can be joined digitally for example. "It has been agreed that the prime minister and a minister, if they choose to, are in the cabinet hall during a sitting. In general, all other MPs can join by video," he said.

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Editor: Kristjan Kallaste

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