Positive sides of remote work from the perspective of the Joint Secretariat

The time when the restrictions and limitations related to the Coronavirus pandemic and the lockdown relax fosters reflection, summing up and drawing conclusions for the future. The way our lives changed during the lockdown has an impact on future planning, strategies, and methods of work. Companies and entrepreneurs analyse the last four months, create new work methodologies and assess risks to be prepared for similar situations in the future.
 
The Joint Secretariat (JS) of the South Baltic Programme very smoothly adapted to the new reality. When the first restrictions were set up, the JS employees were immediately ready to switch to remote work mode. Each employee of the JS has appropriate hardware at their disposal and access to a server with the necessary documents. From the very beginning, when the pandemic restrictions were announced, the JS worked very hard. The projects’ team responded to avalanches of questions from project partners, treating each case individually. A package of documents was created with solutions tailored to the needs of beneficiaries, which included tips on how to act in specific situations.
On the Programme’s website, information on subsequent decisions and changes concerning the procedure in specific cases was published on an ongoing basis. The questions most frequently asked by project partners concerned planned trips, meetings and conferences, as well as the possibility of extending the project’s duration.
Since each project has its specifics, each question and request was treated very individually. The project’s team tried to find the best solution, meeting the needs reported by beneficiaries. Documents’ flow has been improved by introducing electronic signatures. This solution turned out to be a great move – the current procedure for the proceeding documents, signing contracts and annexes to contracts sometimes took several months, while the electronic approach shortened the process several times. Thanks to the expansion of electronic correspondence, the transfer of documents abroad was quick and efficient. Thus, the efficiency of the work of each member of the project team increased. Working remotely, they could concentrate on a specific matter and finalise it smoothly.
 
At the same time, the area of the Programme's communication activities expanded, and we took a step beyond the standard operating framework. The communication channels of projects and other programmes were monitored, capturing examples of cooperation between project partners and local communities directly affected by the pandemic and the lockdown. Direct contact with beneficiaries and members of the local community brought concrete examples of how the results of the projects are serving the general public. The collected information was used to write several articles which were published, among others on the website of the European Commission DG Regio website (the Directorate-General for Regional and Urban Policy responsible for EU policy on regions and cities). Also, representatives of the South Baltic Programme actively participated in meetings with other programmes sharing good practices. Remote work brought many new challenges, forced to leave our comfort zone, but also allowed gaining new skills and testing yourself. Online meetings proved to be successful, both in contacts with beneficiaries and members of the JS team. Working in the new remote reality showed professionalism, maturity and responsible approach of the JS team towards all stakeholders.