Smart working during the spread of COVID-19: a need or a solution?

 |  News

The Coronavirus epidemic has highlighted the potential of smart working for small, medium and large enterprises.


We never thought we’d live though a situation like the current COVID-19 epidemic, a strain of Coronavirus that adheres to no border and spreads rapidly producing unease and uncertainty about the present.

This disease has deemed itself serious enough that our freedoms must be limited, forcing us to rethink our social lives, reorganize work activities and temporarily change our daily habits.

And we would never have imagined that the spread of a virus would have given such a strong acceleration towards the adoption of Smart Working.


“Forced” Smart Working


We are seeing a forced transition to this model, or rather ‘remote work’ (especially from home) without any prior preparation, without a preliminary test or adaptation phase.

We first mentioned this topic when we wrote about ‘Coworking & Smart Working. The new trends in the world of work by EPC Editore.’ Also mentioning it throughout the numerous newsletters and insights we published during last year, showing true support for this kind of change, believing in progression not only for our professional interests regarding office design, but additionally as a means for promoting agile work.



The resistance to Smart Working before the emergency


To our surprise many entrepreneurs have continued to show a lack of interest towards this change in years past, both large and small companies alike choosing not to adapt to the changing times.

Today, with the current crisis the situation has had to change through necessity, those who previously didn’t adhere to this model have found themselves evaluating it as a concrete possibility to live though the current emergency.

This epidemic didn’t cause as much disarray in larger companies that have already adopted Smart Working, flexibly organizing their workflow and equipping themselves with the necessary devices to ensure their employees can work no matter their location in many instances.

The global economy requires a great deal of flexibility while communicating with companies headquartered in distant countries and varied time zones. In Italy’s case, its branches belong to international brands, the adoption of this model is seen as a simple adaptation to an already tested method.

Smart Working beyond the emergency


These days we’ve read many articles on the topic of “forced” smart working such as the one appearing on Il Sole 24 Ore, aka March 2nd titled: “Smart working beyond the emergency: a challenge for SMEs“.

It discusses how Smart Working is not only a proven formula to combating the current COVID-19 emergency but also “a way of carrying out the employment issue that it is increasingly widespread: in Italy, according to the Observatory of the Politecnico di Milano Management School, in 2019, 570 thousand workers benefited from agile work, an increase of 20% compared to the previous year.

The article then goes on to discuss other data collected from the Politecnico di Milano Observatory on Smart Working:The situation is highly polarized: there are 58 out of 100 large companies that already apply forms of agile work.  7% are activating informal initiatives and a 5% are planning to do so within the next 12 months. The picture is reversed, and we analyze the data relating to small and medium-sized enterprises: only 12% of them have ongoing projects. Finally, more than a half of the companies without smart working projects declare themselves totally disinterested in the implementation of agile work (51%).

However, there is a real challenge involved in the widespread adoption of agile work that concern’s small businesses and the Public Administration. “The structured smart working projects in the PA are in 16% of companies, but the rate of selfless people is very limited (7%)“.


Technology has become a primary necessity for companies


Let’s face it, the issue is centered around technology. Technology is the key that allows employees to work remotely, supplies us the largest collection of information at our fingertips, helps in the development of Smart-Cities and the integration of the ‘Internet of Things’ in a workplace environment.

Technology has brought us a long way in the current millennium, but we have still a ways to progress to achieve a goal self-autonomy. The gap between those having access to the internet and those who don’t, shows just how crucial an advantage it is to have access to such a developmental tool in our digital society, with socio-economic and cultural damages affecting those who lack such amenities during this unique time.

Perhaps, due to this crisis, we have realized that we’re not fully prepared and structured in a way to properly utilize smart working, but we understand its usefulness and the boundless possibilities it affords, among all, that of not being excluded and allowing ourselves to continue to be part of the community.


Agile work, discipline and decree




Agile work is governed by law 81/2017 which declares: “By signing a written agreement with the company, the worker can perform his services without time or place restrictions, using technological tools, in part within the company premises, partly outside, without a fixed position, with only the maximum duration of daily and weekly working hours established by law and by the collective agreement”.

Its application is linked to the decree that in these days obliges employees of the Public Administration to work in Smart Working, encouraging private companies to do so as well.

But questions may arise: how are these activities planned? What equipment do workers have access to; do they have home-stations, desks, ergonomic seats, IT equipment and digital devices at their disposal? Are they in compliance with the rules and regulations regarding wellbeing to which small, medium and large companies are constantly subjected to inside their headquarters?

We do not currently have the answer to these questions, but know that during these days we will be the ones writing the guidelines on how best to implement this method of working in the coming years, after we’ve taken a look at what worked and what didn’t, analyzing how to improve.


Our thoughts about today’s situation


Today’s news produces a lot of panic and can generate terrible anxiety, but it’s important that we keep a clear head and focus on our day to day actions making sure we understand the nature of the COVID-19 virus and the best way to prevent our exposure to it, we are an intelligent people, and its though our calm but decisive actions that we will prevail though this epidemic.

What lesson is to be learned? This sudden and unexpected setback caused by the virus has allowed us a moment to stop and reflect, establishing what the real priorities in life are: our desires and what allows us to express our potential.

Avoid isolation and exclusion by starting a profound and decisive change; learn to consider not our individuality but our part in society.