How many times in the last year have we heard and read about smart working. The work from home to which we were unfortunately forced. Translated from English it is “smart work”. Which already seems like a nice presumption, as if the other 'job wasn't. In the Italian legislation we speak of agile work, in everyday communication, however, the definition that we all know has prevailed. Too bad that in English this phrase does not exist in the meaning that we attribute to it. In the Anglo-Saxon world they say remote working or working from home, in acronym WFH. They are more accurate.
Apart from the definitions, is the meaning clear to everyone? Strictly speaking, agile work is the possibility of carrying out one's work from anywhere other than the company, without any time and equipment constraints. We already understand that this does not fully correspond to the reality that most of us know. In the vast majority of cases this past year, our companies have organized themselves, more or less well, to make their collaborators work essentially from home. Often providing them (although not always) the technological tools, giving indications on the times to be respected. Not exactly pure agile work. More correctly, it is work from home or, if we really want to give in to the fashion of using English at all costs, remote working.
Obviously this has its pros and cons. Among the former, that of facilitating a better balance of life and work times. And to lighten the negative impact onenvironment, moving less pollutes less. In truth there are also benefits onorganization of companies, which must focus more on management by assigned objectives and relative autonomy granted to workers, rather than on their classic “command and control”.
Flexibility operational, because I can better organize my working day more according to myself than to the organization. Greater empowerment on the results and not so much on the tasks, perhaps even greater productivity as in the end I dedicate more time to work, if only because I save travel time. It is not the case here to deepen, suffice it to say that, if well implemented, it is a very different organization of work from the more traditional one. Certainly more modern, to keep quiet about the other.
What about the negatives? It's easy to say digital, but there connection? Our country still has a long way to go: in Italy the bandwidth is still rather skimpy instead of wide. Let us not go into the issues of family organization necessary to manage work from home, anything but trivial and which often penalizes women severely.
But there is more. The human being, the Homo Sapiens, from prehistoric times if he has arrived where he has arrived, it is also thanks to the ability to enter and stay in report with his fellows better than any other animal. In the workplace it is essential to be able to pause in relationship dynamics with colleagues, with anyone. Seeing each other in the eyes, seeing emotions vibrate in others, sharing laughter and discouragement, are irreplaceable moments. And all of this also helps creativity. There is a lot of talk about innovation in every area of life: it very often arises, or at least is stimulated, by comparison, by exchanging glances, serious ideas and jokes.
It cannot be the same thing if all this is filtered from a PC, if we are alone with the video window open to the world but with no one beside you that touches your hand.
All this to say that the future will necessarily have to find the right balance between remote work from home and face-to-face work in the company. We sometimes hear of companies that have already made the drastic choice to keep all employees in remote working, even after the end of the pandemic. Or, on the contrary, to no longer allow any form of such work as soon as possible. But it's best to be careful, either way.
It is already easy to understand that certain types of companies have less chance of resorting to remote work, one thing is to provide financial services, another to manage sophisticated production lines. There are organizational, technological, cultural and corporate values factors to be taken into account. In any case, in making choices on the subject, the company carries out an in-depth analysis and consequently decides which roles can be performed efficiently even from home and which absolutely cannot. It may seem trivial and redundant to have to do an analysis, but pausing to think critically often brings up things that are underestimated or not considered. Not fashion but serious reflection, therefore.
Institutions and consulting firms have devoted a lot of research to what has happened in the last year about smart working, globally or by country. We have rich statistics of all kinds. Let us then recall some simple data on what has been so far. Then we see some projections for the near future.
In March 2020, following the explosion of the pandemic and the consequent confinement, according to the Observatory of the Politecnico di Milano, one of the most active bodies on the subject, in Italy there were about 6,6 million workers who worked from home (of which about 1,8 million in the public administration), about 1000% more than the previous year. By September they had dropped to about 5 million. During the pandemic in 2020 in Italy about 40% of workers worked almost exclusively from home, compared to the European average of 34%.
In short, let's call it what we want, but it is always a phenomenon that from being almost non-existent has become mass. Of course, there were no alternatives. What about the future? Here too there are a lot of studies. However, a kind of “red thread” emerges that unites them all.
What has happened so far cannot but leave traces. Everyone agrees that remote work will continue even after the pandemic is over. There are too many positive aspects, the benefits that have been experienced, both for those who work, for companies, and for the environment. But we will return to a greater balance, precisely because there are also negative factors, we have mentioned a few.
The time spent directly in the company will be more balanced with that spent working at home. The percentages of companies that will allow it and of companies that want to have all the collaborators on site will be more balanced.
A very recent survey carried out by Fondirigenti (Interprofessional Fund for Continuing Education of Confindustria and FederManager) among a very representative Italian sample of companies and workers indicates that 54% of companies want to continue working remotely permanently even after the pandemic.
During the first lockdown in 2020 it was worked on remote working for an average of 4,27 days a week, therefore almost full. They dropped to around 2020 at the end of 3,19. Considering these data, it is very interesting what all the workers in the Fondirigenti survey say about the ideal subdivision between work from home and presence in the office: the average is 2,6 average days per week in presence and 2,4 a distance. The balance mentioned at the beginning.
A change heavily imposed by events will consolidate over time. With cascading consequences: the services of bars and restaurants, transport, efficient digital connections, the reduced need for office premises. More. There will be a lot of work to do.