The Royal Civil Service Commission’s recent announcement that in view of economic loss to the country due to the Covid-19 pandemic there would be no change in winter office timing has generated debate among civil servants and people out of the system.
Voices from inside the civil service indicate that the change will not make any difference. From outside, it is just the opposite. Put together, the views and opinions speak so much about something that is fast becoming a disease in the bureaucracy or officialdom.
Such discussions are good in that by identifying our strengths and flaws we can bring some vital changes to the system and the public perception of the system itself. The civil service is a machine that takes government plans and national vision closer to reality. The contributions of the civil servants are vitally important so. But this fact, unfortunately, does not speak for all the civil servants.
At the same time, the public at large is disappointed with the way civil servants work. Delays and unnecessary hang-ups are how a majority of people view the civil service and servants. The truth is that those who work, work honestly for the hours they are paid for. Some even give more. But this public opinion about the civil servants is also valid.
It is important, therefore, to understand the real problem, beyond arguing about whether the change in work hours is good or bad.
When civil servants say that an extra one hour of work will not make any difference to the productivity of civil servants, what comes off immediately is that civil servants will resist change and will work the way they have all along. When the people outside of civil service say that the extra one-hour work is good for civil servants, they are talking in terms of services that they are entitled to but don’t often get from the system.
What is more important is that we do not lose the right perspective in this debate.
Different age and generation demand different levels of service. At one point in time, long ago, Bhutan’s civil servants worked from 8am to 2pm. With greater call for service delivery, we now work from 9am to 5pm. However, people feel that the “Royal” civil servants could offer a lot more than just the presence of physical institutions.
What we really need today is real institution building, which in other words could be called “work culture change”. His Majesty The King’s national day address about the need for change in the civil service outlines the vision for the country’s development which the civil servants and the Commission must respond to.
Work-hour change alone will have little effect on productivity. For the real change, it will take immense courage to shake up the system but shake up we must. It is about time.