Smart Working in Italy

In this moment of crisis, while Italy and the rest of the world are trying to cope with the epidemic, there are those who are also looking at the economy and the possible transformations in the workplace.

One of the solutions proposed and implemented to allow many workers to continue their daily tasks is smart working or “lavoro agile”, to use the italian definition.

The task of smart working is not only to give the possibility to work even in situations of crisis and reduced mobility such as the one we are experiencing now. It is not even giving workers the opportunity to stay at home. Smart working is about a mental attitude that transforms the employee's role. Furthermore, agile work goes hand in hand with new technological innovations and the possibility of adapting more and more professions to remote working methods.

The Italian legislation

Law 81/2017 sanctioned the official birth of smart working in Italy, defining the conditions that apply to this form of classification of the employment relationship.

Law 81/2017 on smart working defines agile work as a method of execution of the subordinate employment relationship established by means of an agreement between the parties. Companies and workers can establish the organization of work by phases, cycles and objectives without precise constraints of time and place of work.

But first of all, let's call it by the right name: italian legislation provides and regulates two possibilities, smart working, also called "agile work", or telelavoro. In the first case the employee chooses the days he/she doesn't go to the office, he/she works from where he/she wants, and he/she has to produce a certain result in a given time. Telelavoro is more rigid, in the end it is used only in cases of disability or distance from the workplace.

The appearance of Covid19

The Coronavirus emergency that is affecting Italy as well as the rest of the world has brought out all the potential of smart working, prompting entrepreneurs and institutions to adopt this way of working in a very short time. Never before agile work has found such a wide application as in this moment, however, given the emergency situation, some regulatory gaps also emerged that needed further adaptation and updating.

The Decree Law of 17 March 2020, commonly known as "Cura Italia", introduced a whole series of innovations aimed at strengthening the national health system, but also at the introduction of extraordinary measures and incentives for Smart Working and the adoption of agile work wherever possible.

Already with the implemented decree of 23 February 2020, containing urgent measures regarding the management of the coronavirus emergency, the Government encouraged the adoption of agile work by offering the possibility of adopting this way of working even without the normal prior agreement with employees. National general contracts (Contratto Collettivo Nazionale di Lavoro) at the moment have not been reviewed in this direction and will need to include in the future some rules to manage this kind of situations.

What was the situation before Covid19?

Before the Coronavirus emergency (2019), 570,000 italian worked from home in Italy, 2% of employees. To contain the infections, another 554,754 workers started working immediately from home, according to the Ministry of Labor. And the numbers grew day by day, so much that the major telephone operators report that data traffic on fixed lines increased on average by 20% with peaks of 50%.

Was Italy ready for a massive Smart Working?

This massive test of work from home dealed primarily with the backwardness of technology and infrastructure: in many parts of Italy the connection does not hold or is not there. In Italy, ultrafast broadband reaches 24% of the population, against the EU average of 60%. In practice, more than 11 million residents in mountain areas, countryside, suburbs, but also individual neighborhoods of large cities remain uncovered. Even where there is a good connection, operations are often hampered by the technological backwardness of many companies and by a mentality that is not very open to innovation.

Smart working is based on concepts such as sharing of knowledge, trust, cooperation, transparency, flexibility, responsibility and autonomy.

For a smart working program to be successful, there are three necessary elements to consider: people, spaces and technology.

Without the trust element that binds employers and employees, it becomes very difficult to successfully carry out smart work initiatives. Secondly, it is essential that the spaces used for work are adequate and in line with the needs of professionals. Last but not least, technology. The presence of technological infrastructures and high-performance devices allows the user to be able to work without any limitations.

One of the problems faced by companies that never adopted remote working policies was the organization of work itself. In response to the emergency, many companies began to organize activities without a clear and precise vision of what is really needed to do to build a proper infrastructure that allows smart working.

To ensure that smart working can be carried out and carried out smoothly, it was necessary to organize the company on a structural level, that is, to equip employees with all the hardware, software and information resources to better manage remote work.

In Italy not all companies were ready for such a quick transformation. In fact many companies had to suspend temporarily their activities, substituting the normal pay slip by a small compensation (which came from the government and foreseen to be up to 1200 euros in case of full month suspension) to their employees. And this lasted for some months in many cases.

The major concern was the digital security: the company had to ensure an IT security procedure to avoid data loss. In addition to passwords and secure accounts, therefore, it was necessary to activate secure connections such as VPNs, available on all devices.

Another important concern was the file management: a cloud was needed for saving and sharing files.

And finally the task management: the use of applications such as Jira and Trello to keep the various projects and daily tasks under control.

Adopting all the mechanisms mentioned before and creating, in many cases, the full infrastructure, took some time and accentuated losses, especially in small companies, which are dominant in Italy.

What  do Italian employers and employees think about Smart Working?

Now that we can consider that generally speaking a proper Smart Working infrastructure has been established in Italy, employees have advantages that come from the freedom to organize: I can disconnect to pick up the children from school, I have free time to go to and from the office (from 30 minutes to 2 hours every day), etc.  Another advantage is finding a good balance with private life, especially for women who still bear the greatest family workload.

Regarding the pay slip, the remuneration in smart working is the same as in the case of traditional work. Not only that, agile workers also have the same rights in terms of occupational injuries and illnesses as all of their colleagues who work on site.

Many companies experimented an improvement of reputation and corporate image (in terms of modernization), a good productivity, an (unexpected?) team building phenomena and of course a cost reduction.

Conclusion

What italians are doing today is telelavoro in an emergency situation, and it is not an option but an obligation, and it serves to keep the country on its feet. When the emergency situation will end and normality will be restored, it will be necessary to negotiate again this modality of working at individual, company and collective agreements. National Work Contracts are foreseen to include this information in the very near future.

The current situation is a good test and experience and, as in many other european countries, it becomes an incentive and a push to take the necessary measures for a revolution in the world of work. 

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jordi.villar

Engineer in Italy