During the pandemic, the urgency of physically isolating people provided an opportunity to experiment with new ways of living, working, and connecting. Smart working is often mistakenly perceived as an unconventional means made necessary by the health emergency. On the contrary, already in the 1970s Jack Nilles, an American physicist, referred to remote working as a transformative practice that enables self-regulated management and cooperation, changing the very concept of work.
According to Nilles, 60% of people perform a job that could be conducted remotely. The realisation of this would bring an organisational and cultural revolution with several benefits, such as the reconciliation of personal needs and work, the reduction of time, travel costs and, consequently, of pollution and office management costs.
Studies from the early 2000s show, in addition, a 15% increase in productivity and a 20% decrease in absenteeism.
Smart work does not tie people to their place of work, the individual has the freedom to decide the workplace. This makes it easier to pursue personal activities and facilitates staying close to family and friends.
All this leads to rethinking of business processes and improves the digital skills of employees.
This new way of working has seen exponential growth in recent years.
In Italy, for instance, in the second trimester of 2020, when continuous lockdowns had become normality, about 33.8% of the employed worked from home (particularly women, over 35 and graduates). This compared to the 4.8% recorded in the same period of 2019 and the 17% just before the emergency. In the so called ”Post Covid”, statistics show that 35.7% of Italian workers perform their duties through smart working.
Embracing this way of working involves also continuing to work on improving it.
Remaining in Italy, some smart workers have complained of an imbalance between life and work. Others complain of a lack of breaks and say they feel they are working harder. Practical issues also follow, such as a lack of technical tools or a fast and efficient internet connection.
A new challenge follows: rethinking the way we work and creating dedicated spaces that make these new modalities possible. Co-working spaces, co-livings and smart villages have been established for conjugating personal needs and demands of job, reduce the burden of working, and give different options for spending the not-working-time, when life begins.
Indeed, smart working, rather than being used to prolong social, emotional, intellectual, and physical isolation, can be directed in the opposite direction.