The new millennium and the explosion of Web 2.0 have brought with them new challenges for companies; among them, also that of making the work of employees and managers more flexible and “intelligent” by taking advantage of the opportunities offered by technology.
If, at one time, the keyword was homeworking, today we are talking of a larger and more complex concept, one that goes beyond working “remotely”: we are talking about smart working.
As already mentioned, smart working is a complex concept because, in addition to working remotely, in a broader sense, it may include co-working—i.e., the sharing of “open” workspaces with other professionals—mobile working (think about the diffusion of smartphones and tablets) and counselling 2.0, via the web.
Employees or consultants who work for a company in smart mode do not need to go to the office every day to do their jobs, but can safely interact with their employers or clients via an internet connection, a PC, a tablet and one of many video, messaging or online meeting applications (e.g. Skype).
Smart working, therefore, is a flexible way of working, free from the old business logics, from rigid schedules, from the obligatory office presence; it is, rather, a way to view work that focuses on results. Also, today’s job market itself demands flexibility: possessing soft skills and problem solving abilities can make a difference.
Already established abroad, smart working is also growing in Italy: according to the Milan Polytechnic’s Smart Working Observatory, as many as 48% of large Italian companies said that they have experimented with this new approach to work.
This past January, the Council of Ministers approved a law bill on self-employed and smart working (called “agile work” in the text).
The bill defines smart working as “a flexible mode of execution of the employment relationship aimed at increasing productivity and facilitating the reconciliation of the life/work balance”; Moreover, it sets out its precise limits, because, with the term “agile work”, it indicates those activities that can be carried out both in the office and outside of it, but complying with the working hours laid down in the relevant contract. Compensation must be equal to that of those employees who work within the company, as must be tax incentives. Further, the work agreement must be put in writing.
Obviously, the employer cannot neglect either the safety of the employee, who must be insured against accidents and be informed of the risks related to the work to be done, or his privacy. On the other hand, the employee is responsible for the working tools made available to him by the company.
Already in 2014 the Milan Polytechnic’s Smart Working Observatory had calculated that the “agile work” could increase the productivity of companies by an amount of 27 billion euros and reduce costs by 9 billion euros.
Beyond the economic data and statistics, smart working brings about a reduction of worker stress (as they do not have to face travel and traffic to get to the company), a reduction in absenteeism, and higher productivity and flexibility; for a company, it thus means being able to employ valid collaborators even at a distance. The web has removed any barriers; for example, a company based in northern Italy can find the professional it seeks in Sicily. Agile work broadens the outlook, cuts business costs and even reduces the environmental impact.
Many important companies have chosen to adopt smart working: among them, giants like Amazon, IBM and Dell. Even in Italy, this new concept of work is gradually growing; it is important that both SMEs and large companies understand the benefits of smart working and adopt it to cut costs and increase productivity.
By Rome Business School