Smart Working: what is it? The new Corporate Culture 4.0

Smart Working

Finally, “Equal pay and contractual, right to disconnection.” Thus thundered the Scientific Head of the Smart Working Observatory of the Politecnico di Milano last May 2017, when Smart Working was officially approved and regulated by the Senate, as per the Jobs Act.

In the years prior to 2017, in fact, it can be said that the general trend of Italian companies and PAs in respect to the assumption was diametrically opposed. The topic appeared distant, hostile, unclear and, above all, summarily unknown.

What does “Smart Working” mean?

Smart Working refers to the successful adaptation of organizations, companies and institutions to the new Labor Market 4.0, and the contextual change of the new space-time system imposed by technologies and Digital Transformation. But what does it mean in detail?

A careful and in-depth analysis of today’s much-abused term “Smart,” associated with the equally in vogue term “Work,” is now necessary.

First, it is beyond reductive, as well as false, to associate Smart Working with “working from home.” It is much more accurate to speak of “working remotely,” where the non-place identified by the lemma “remote” is not unambiguously assimilated with the concept of “home.”

The “remote” location can also be a corporate location, identified and managed by the company/organization itself. However, whether from home or elsewhere, there is no denying that at the heart of Smart Working is precisely the ability to be able to avoid “going to a fixed, predetermined physical location.” In these terms, it better defines what is still only a small part of the corporate Smart Working process.

Well before all this, there is the need-already widely discussed and analyzed on the international level, as in this enlightening HBR blogpostto increase corporate productivity by eliminating those processes that may nowadays be redundant and not strictly directed to the achievement of corporate objectives (aka: summarily superfluous).

Under indictment, specifically, end up: plurisecular meetings, email crossing, physical interruptions (via phone, email, entry of various interlocutors in the office, etc.) not aimed at achieving results, and, last but not least, the much-discussed concept of work-life balance.

From the Italian Senate, Smart Working is defined as a “mode of performance of subordinate work,” later extended as “performance of work, based on flexibility of hours and location and characterized, mainly, by an increased use of computer and telematic tools, as well as the absence of a fixed location during periods of work carried out even outside company premises.” Still inaccurate, but let’s say that the extension centers, better than the first definition, the actual concept.

It’s good, in addition, to always relate the concept of Smart Worker to a corporate dimension, never to freelancers (whose dimension was clear before, and continues to be so even inserted in the radical changes imposed by the Digital Transformation).

It’s in the corporate culture that Smart Working is established as a concept, not in the dimension of those who have pivoted their careers by being professionals or already “companies of themselves.” They are not the ones, the stakeholders of Smart Working policies.

Tech-Oriented corporate culture before, Smart Working then

While Smart Working cannot yet be defined according to universally accepted standards, the objective cornerstones for its proper implementation in the company are gradually being outlined-and with increasing precision.

What needs to change – well before workers freely travel to this or that “remote” location – is the Corporate Culture.

Since, for example, Smart Work is completely focused on the use of the new technologies imposed by the Digital Transformation (platforms, digital tools, cloud, etc.), it is often almost ineffective to implement Smart Working policies in a company that has not mastered the aforementioned means to the fullest, or that has not already adopted (and chorally accepted) a corporate digital mindset.

Smart Working is at the very least a new way of conceiving the places and times of work, but it is even before that a new approach to corporate and institutional collaboration. It is, therefore, above all a mindset. For these reasons, it is not at all profitable to deploy it in the absence of a more than proven and universal implementation of the technologies required for change.

Smart Working essentially consists of:

  • Leadership Management: radically changes the relationship between managers and principals. From control, it moves to trust and empowerment.
  • Collaborative Technologies: replace in toto the rigidity of business models.
  • Substantial re-organization of the Work Space-Time system.

It’s by no means trivial to successfully employ these 3 concepts in a corporate culture accustomed to a completely different kind of collaboration and, essentially, life. However, it’s what must be done in order to properly enact change.

We often hear about how this era of profound change, of digital transformation, of the Experience Economy, places nothing but people at the center of change. Well, the work system has also headed overwhelmingly toward the person. The latest concept behind the new Agile Work is related precisely to the well-being of workers. That concept of work-life balance, equally discussed…

By granting smart workers the managerial freedom of space and time, it results in: empowerment, retention, engagement and, above all, result orientation.

In a sense, it is precisely by eliminating the alibi of presence or ‘fulfillment to this or that task of a merely physical nature, that the workers’ attention is going to be focused – quite naturally – on their business goal. There is nothing more that will speak for them than the results they will achieve. Conversely, stress and burnout cases will teeter, as no one will be there to verify when and how smart workers need breaks and rest, and when they need concentration. A responsibility in happinesses, somehow.

This happiness is not a utopia. It is, on the contrary, achievable through the skillful involvement-as well as effective synergy-of 4 main areas of interest:

  1. Workspaces
  2. Technologies
  3. HR Systems and Training
  4. Corporate Culture

Where to start, exactly? From the usual place: adequate Training for “young leavers”… Smart

Training and Development: the trump card of happiness

In order for all employees to effectively internalize the new Smart Corporate Culture and cope with change with the appropriate means, nothing but the same old trump card must be played: Training.

Employees will have to be wisely taken through change preparation processes well before they become smart workers. They are and will remain the cornerstones, the true wealth of a winning organizational reality. It’s vital that they are therefore properly accompanied by the hand. A miracle that only deep knowledge of the new parameters can concretely bring into being.

They will have to have learned well in the company the how and when of the new work system, so that they can go “remotely” productively and effectively.

Learning & Development is therefore called to a new challenge: to wisely prepare the learner and thus lay the foundations of a Corporate Culture, which, as mentioned, will have to be well established in the entire organization before implementing any Smart Working model.  

Not only that.

Digital Learning and Smart Working

Digital Learning will become the objective pivot of the Smart Working organization. Employees will attend events, work on documents and share processes…online.

As a consequence, all too easy to guess what immense value Continuing Education will acquire in their lives: practically essential. In support, there will be the objective time that learners will be able to devote to the study and preparation necessary to stay on top of things. They will have well learned how to manage time and manner, and will contextually always be able to reserve the necessary energy, as well as the right amount of time, for their personal growth.

It’s only through proper training that change can be coped with profitably. Hence, the endemic need to conceive of Corporate Training in a new guise – impermeated, therefore, with brand new and effective modes of delivery and fruition, ideal in a Smart Working context: Mobile Learning and MicroLearning.


In short: a scenario far removed from the concept of work in light mood that we often perceive in the definitions of Smart Working, around the various industry texts…

In support of what has been analyzed, we find (right in Italy!) the well-established and successful Pirelli strategy. Here, well over 1,000 resources are now remote. And they are winning.

In conclusion: if being “smart” can often make good match – in our minds – with the concept of “cool,” it is good to consider the hypothesis that for your company Smart Working may not be a mere matter of image or fashion, but the only way to survive. #think

#neverstoplearning and always #smartworking.

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