Asserting that central government employees may have to work with staggered attendance and variable working hours, the Personnel Ministry has come out with a draft framework for 'work from home' for the staff post-lockdown.
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, it said. There are 48.34 lakh central government employees. In a communique to all central government departments, the Personnel Ministry said the COVID-19 pandemic has 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 (NIC). 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 will continue to go for staggered attendance and variable working hours to maintain social distancing at workplace, the ministry said. "Therefore, a broad framework for work from home is important to standardize the operating procedure even post lock down 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 Standard Operating Procedures (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 lock down situations. Employees will 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. "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," the draft guidelines said. It proposed extra protocol for all VIP and Parliament matters that require utmost attention.
"Therefore, SMS alerts be sent for all such receipts and files to the next officer in the channel," it said. The draft guidelines said ministries/departments concerned, who are 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". Presently, about 75 ministries/departments are actively using e-office platform of which 57 have achieved more than 80 per cent of their work. E-office refers to digitization/computerization of office working. 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," it said. The NIC may evaluate the existing security protocol for remote access of classified file/ information in consultation with Home Ministry and propose suitable guidelines and standard operating procedures 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. The Personnel Ministry said the officers to whom official laptops are provided shall ensure that they do the official work in official device only.
"NIC shall ensure that their devices are well protected against malware and malicious websites. The officers who are working on their personal computers/ lap tops shall ensure installing regular updates, running antivirus scans, blocking malicious sites, etc with the help of NIC to ensure safety of their device against information theft," the guidelines said. Officers who are working from home shall be available on phone as per requirements and directions of their officers, it said.
To facilitate inter ministerial consultations, exchange of files between the ministries may be made seamlessly in e-office, the guidelines said. "NIC video conferencing facility shall be leveraged to organise important meetings while working from home. Officers and staff shall attend the meetings by activating VC link forwarded to them by NIC in formal meeting set up. VCs shall also be used as far as possible in office environment to maintain social distancing during COVID 19 pandemic," it said.
The NIC has been asked to strengthen the VC to make it more facilitative. "Officials working from home shall adhere to all norms of office environment while attending VC meetings," the guidelines said. "All central government departments have been asked to send their comments by May 21, failure of which would be presumed that the ministry/department is in agreement with the proposed draft," it stated.