Human Resources Innovation

Smart Working in Italy: the glass is half full!

In talking about Smart Working it’s interesting to compare Italian data with that of other Countries. In doing so it’s necessary to consider that by Smart Working we don’t simply mean greater flexibility in choosing time and place of work or, worse, just another way of defining tele-work, but a much broader and deeper change of the organization. We define it as a new management philosophy based on compensating people with flexibility and independence in choosing which spaces, time, and instruments to use in exchange for greater accountability on results. Making a comparison is, therefore, not easy. However, we can work on some considerations based on recently published studies conducted at European level.

According to “Working anytime, anywhere: The effects on the world of work” conducted by the International Labour Organization (ILO), with Eurofound regarding the flexibility of work methods, in Europe, Italy brings up the rear. The result is not surprising, but it is important to highlight that this statistic does not take into account a phenomenon that, at least in our country, runs at two different speed.

Size matters (for now). It is primarily large organizations that in Italy have already launched important Smart Working projects. From the latest survey of the Smart Working Observatory (October 2016) 51% of organizations with more than 250 employees either already launched more or less structured Smart Working projects or will do so shortly. Furthermore, in some cases these organizations are multinational companies in which testing and pilot projects were first developed in Italy and subsequently promoted the spread in other Countries, becoming a best practice.

The degree of adoption of these practices among Small and Medium Businesses that represent the most significant part of businesses in Italy, also in terms of employment, is much lower (equal to 5%), and hasn’t varied much since 2015. It is important, however, to highlight that there has been a reduction, at least in part, of the resistance to this approach compared to the previous year, an element that has fostered this improved disposition certainly indicating a clearer understanding of the phenomenon reached also through the numerous awareness-raising activities initiated by local Public Sector Authorities and by business entities and associations across the territory.
The analysis of the overall phenomenon though must be viewed in an evolutionary perspective, considering that Smart Working is a radical change for organizations and requires time.
The spread rate of the phenomenon should undoubtedly be read in positive terms: the Observatory measured that large companies that adopted a structured approach to the topic have gone from 8% to 17% and then 30% from 2014 to 2016. This increased interest and adoption rate is due to the growth of awareness of the positive effects of Smart Working not just related to people’s work-life balance, but also of their work performances. This brings the number of businesses interested in introducing these initiatives to increase considerably, often being able to directly reach the interest of top management.

A second element is lawmakers’ attention on this theme: The Agile Work regulatory bill, that is now subject to the approval of the parliament labour committee (Commissione Lavoro della Camera), having a motivational effect on Small and Medium Businesses and on the Public Sector, where Smart Working projects are still very few.
Looking forward, the “sites” on which to work to foster the growth and spread in Italy, in addition to Small and Medium Businesses and the Public Sector, are also manufacturing companies due to the increasingly pervasive presence of digital and automation technologies that will require to think hard about work organization methods, opening new opportunities for Smart Working.

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