The pandemic has triggered a strict lockdown that has seen us all living in enforced isolation inside our homes, with contact with other people and travel reduced to the bare minimum. Some companies have had to completely shut their doors, while others have been able to keep going, albeit with employees operating from home as part of a model we like to call “smart working”.
Smart working is often wrongly confused with “working from home”, i.e. the standard approach that the majority of companies are adopting for their employees during the crisis in response to the government decrees.
Working from home can be convenient, but it has nothing to do with the concept of smart working – that’s right, something’s been lost in translation here.
And as the language purists and champions of smart working that we are, that’s a misconception that we couldn’t possibly accept.
As such, we want to try to explain what smart working is all about as a concept and in terms of how it actually works on an organizational level. After all, we see our company as a hub for innovation, where we’re always trying to push the boundaries of social innovation a little bit further each day.
Our aim is to show you just how positive an impact smart working can have. It’s a model that has the potential to revolutionize the concept of work, changing and updating the way we think about work today by adapting it to reflect the reality in which we live – pandemic or no pandemic.
Much like the French Revolution, this fourth industrial revolution can be summed up with its own succinct, three-word motto: “Flexibility, responsibility and technology.”
Smart working offers flexibility in terms of time and space, with no rigid timing or logistical constraints. Instead, companies can move around and organize their time and workspace based on the needs of people, on objectives, on the operational context and a series of other variables. With no time cards to punch or standard office hours to adhere to, smart workers can manage their own days, striking the right work/life balance based on their actual needs. According to this model, performance is measured not in the number of hours worked, but by the objectives achieved.
Responsibility refers to the way smart workers are responsible for organizing their own work, the way they pursue and achieve their objectives and the way they decide on the deadlines, working environments and methods that go into all of that. This responsibility depends on the trust a company has in its employees, something that generates a climate of transparency and individual and collective wellbeing, resulting in increased productivity.
Technology, meanwhile, is the force that makes smart working possible. Digital is the key to facilitating relationships and collaboration regardless of distance, breaking down the barriers of time and space and creating a new dimension that would have seemed unthinkable just a few short years ago.
That, in a nutshell, is smart working. And these are the principles upon which our company is founded. As you've seen, it’s a very different concept to simple working from home, which – despite offering the convenience of telecommuting – is still rooted in a rigid model of time and space and overlooks the crucial factors of trust, responsibility and freedom of choice. Working from home is still very much wedded to traditional, non-innovative working models, which are often weaker in terms of skills and resources.
It’s not easy, because – aside from the essential three principles mentioned above – there’s no universally accepted paradigm. Every company, every business and every organization is a reality unto itself and therefore must find its own custom solution – part of what makes smart working smart.
Achieving that requires a company to rethink what it does: change the company culture, rework organizational charts, embrace new solutions and innovate continuously (not just in terms of tech). In order to adopt smart working as an operational model, a company needs to place trust in its employees – as well as implementing the necessary means to make it all possible. That equates to opening communication channels for sharing ideas, creating new platforms and providing training to make sure that smart working isn’t seen as something imposed from the top down, but something that helps the company to acquire an informed, shared mentality backed by all stakeholders.
These are no insignificant tasks, but their benefits can be huge. From the obvious yet undeniable savings in terms of fixed company costs to the wellbeing and happiness of employees and the consequent increase in productivity that this brings, smart working offers a whole range of advantages to companies, which can become more attractive to the market and often benefit from a collaborative, digitalized, agile and dynamic working environment, leaving them ready to respond to any need with flexibility, speed and innovation.
From the employees’ perspective, the advantages are clear: the chance to manage their own time, take control of their lives, organize them based on their own personal needs and feel responsible for themselves and their objectives, motivated by an employer/employee relationship built on trust and transparency rather than rules and checks.
It’s a smart way of organizing a company and one that allows businesses to survive situations of crisis and overcome adversity and unforeseen events with impressive agility. And the key to it all is the ability to adapt to the wider context and innovate constantly – because after all, change and innovation are part and parcel of these companies’ DNA.
This is the business model we’ve developed and grown with at Way2Global. And it's the model that – right now, during the COVID-19 crisis and subsequent lockdown – has enabled us to quickly reconfigure our operations and continue working, ensuring continuity of service for our clients and collaborators alike.
We want to use our experience and share our testimony with society as a whole, in the hope that we can inspire all companies to translate the term on everybody’s lips – smart working – into the progressive reality of the future of work.