Swiss government employees couldn’t work from home due to paper trail

Swiss government employees couldn’t work from home due to paper trail

A new report by the Control Committees (GPK) has revealed that employees within the Swiss government had to commute to the office in order to work, despite the COVID regulations at the time advising against it. The reason given was due to an outdated filing system that forced employees back to the office.

Third of workers at the housing department had to go into the office

Auditors from the GPK discovered that, in the spring of 2020, despite an official order to work from home, a third of employees at the Federal Housing Office (BWO) in Grenchen, Canton Solothurn, had to return to the office. The GPK found that the department had to deal with an outdated filing system that made home working impossible.

Some of the dossiers used by the office were “not very advanced”, according to the GPK, who said that many of the files were up to 30 years old and had not been digitised at all. The BWO is responsible for supporting the Swiss housing market, enforcing housing rights and promoting the construction of new apartments or houses to rent or buy.

Housing office unprepared for COVID

The BWO admitted that in the early days of the pandemic, it was not prepared for a crisis like COVID and had no crisis management system in place. The GPK said that they could not understand why the office didn’t set up a system of COVID protections as soon as possible.

Issues compounded themselves after it was announced that the housing office would move from its base in Solothurn back to the Swiss capital of Bern. This move reversed a decision made in 1995, when the office was moved there to provide jobs to regions affected by the Quartz Crisis in Swiss watchmaking.

Investigators blamed the upheaval of the move as the reason why digitisation could not be completed faster, with the 7.000 dossier collection only being digitised in September 2021. The move to Bern was completed in December 2021.

In response to the report, the director of the BWO, Martin Tschirren, said that the office had more than enough space for workers to comply with distance rules at the time, and that home office options are now possible. The GPK will be investigating the office again this year.

Jan de Boer


Jan de Boer

Jan studied in York and Sheffield in the UK, obtaining a master's in broadcast journalism and a bachelor's in history. He has worked as a radio DJ, TV presenter, and...

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