Smart working and flexible working: the new frontiers

Smart Working

Smart working, often defined as working from home or remote working, is the new frontier of the workplace. In this article, we will delve into its fundamental characteristics and analyze the methods of implementation and operation.

The term smart working can literally be translated as “intelligent work” and refers to the series of work practices that aims to increase the efficiency of the work performed and, at the same time, bring greater balance to a worker’s private life.

The innovation implied by this new concept often scares companies somewhat, where this sort of flexible working can be difficult to accept, even if it has been proven that its use brings new vigor to productivity and improves the well-being of employees.

Types of smart working

smart working

Ultimately, smart working includes all those working methods that can be carried out from home or remotely, where hours are flexible. In such cases, work times and methods are agreed between employee and employer.

In a certain sense, it is very similar to the type of collaboration that is established between a freelancer with a VAT number and a company, but with constraints and contracts typical of subordinate work. There are multiple forms of smart working, each characterized by the different ways that employer and employee agree within the limits of current legislation, but all retain some important common characteristics: 

Remote work

The work does not take place within the company itself but, generally, at home. Some workers may use public hotspots with WiFi or shared offices with other workers. In the latter case, the use of networks that guarantee corporate IT security are essential and, for this purpose, limits and regulations need to be defined.

Flexible hours

In place of the classic eight hour day or forty hour work week, the parties can agree on time requirements that suit the needs of the worker and satisfy those of the company.

Use of IT tools

Flexible work often requires the use of technological tools that allow the employee to carry out his or her business. The personal computer, of course, is commonplace, where its use is now consolidated and, as a rule, provided by the company to ensure safety and limit navigation or the use of software not related to work. In fact, in order to limit the possibility of hacker attacks, the company ought to install protection software, access limits to web pages and place restrictions on the use of software, where this is only useful for carrying out work-related tasks. Other tools are the smartphone, to integrate the work done on the PC, and company software that will allow such things as video interaction with colleagues, customers and employers, and digital archives that contain useful data.

The advantages of smart working

In a company that shifts to smart working, there is inevitably a real upheaval in terms of culture and structure, but even in the medium or short term, there are indeed considerable advantages. Let’s examine some of these:

  • Greater efficiency in less time.

It has been shown that a working day of less than eight hours has positive feedback with regard to efficiency. Employees are more rested and less stressed and this allows them to focus more on the activity to be performed.

  • Healthier employees.

Less stress and the ability to manage work from home translate into better health. Smart working reduces the possibility of getting sick and, therefore, the request for sick leave.

  • Better balance between personal and work life.

Employees who work flexibly say that more time spent with family and on one’s personal life has a positive impact on their mood and opinion of the employer.

This data shows how smart working is really the new frontier of work: employee satisfaction and consequent greater concentration and efficiency are the results. These elements facilitate the union of operational forces and a balanced growth of the company.

Smart working and Covid-19

During the Covid-19 pandemic, a large number of companies switched to smart working mode in order to guarantee the safety of their employees. Thus, there was a sudden acceleration in the choice of technological solutions that favor working from home. Those who had never made a video call, if not through WhatsApp, found themselves using advanced video call or webinar tools. While the recession has had a global effect, those companies producing software for video communications are experiencing a period of great boom. 

One such company is Zoom, a business which saw the value of its shares double in the month of March 2020 alone. Yet, companies forced to apply this new operating method have witnessed how more freedom in the choice of time and working environment leads to increased employee satisfaction and greater productivity and efficiency.

The 4.0 revolution

Another significant feature of smart working is represented by the conscious use of cutting-edge technologies. This makes it a further accelerator of the 4.0 revolution, where its benefits can be summarized as follows:

  • increase in productivity and efficiency, through the balance between work and private life;
  • reduction of operating costs, by relocating work activities with a consequent reduction in energy consumption, leases and other utilities;
  • 24-hour operation ensured by new intelligent solutions, against a significant reduction in control activities delegated to humans, where such solutions allow for more flexible shifts and remote interventions.

As a case in point, an article by Biagio Simonetta that appeared in the Corriere della Sera on 04/11/2019 is worth revisiting.The article analysed how Microsoft, at its headquarters in Tokyo, by reducing the working time of its 2,300 employees to just four days at the office, instead of five, has achieved an increase in productivity of 33% and a reduction in fixed costs of 23.1%, linked to energy consumption.

It may be difficult for us to imagine the concrete advantages obtained, in terms of corporate profit, by an industry that is a symbol of the 4.0 revolution, with the effective application of simple smart working policies. Yet, such is the case.

It therefore appears clear that change management, where reorganization with the relocation of resources through a code of ethics and smart working, are complementary and necessary for the implementation of intelligent automation solutions that aim to combine efficiency and social responsibility. 

In this manner, implementing digital transformation projects can serve to remove many of the doubts about the possibility of a positive coexistence between man and machine.

 

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