What if in the near future we’ll all work remotely? What if companies decide to cut office costs and invite employees to work in smart mode? What if you could avoid tiring travel, unnecessary meetings, outdated rituals like the tag?
The benefits, in this period of obligatory distance from the canonical workplaces, are underlined daily by columnists and experts: zero traffic, city less polluted, working at a slower pace, more time for ourselves. According to the latest research, most Italians like this solution. So much so that many people hope that the change triggered by Covid-19 persists even after the emergency. To quote a figure, among the many published in the main newspapers: from a research conducted by the company IZI with Comin&Partners on a sample of 1002 workers between 18 and 65 years, it emerges that 80 per cent is favourable to agile work and 37% would never go back. To avoid the office, would even be willing to give up part of the salary.
“With the coronavirus emergency, the world’s largest remote working experiment is underway. A test that, if it will bear fruit, could change the fate of our way of working in the future” (Bloomberg Agency)
But remote workers do not improvise. Digital skills, planning, flexibility, autonomy are required. Skills often in conflict with an all-italian tendency to work according to the urgencies, which at the highest levels (with an equally home-grown mentality) gives priority to control and has little confidence in the capacity of self-organization of employees.
However, remote working, for many organizations, seems to be the new frontier of so-called smart work, adopted in the past with intermittent modes and chosen as second best on a voluntary basis. Where for “smart” we meant — and here is the misunderstanding — to repeat at home, via PC, the same routine and the same schedules of work in the office: in other words, the old, mistreated “tele-working”.
Remote working was the theme of our fifth Food4thought, the mondora’s technological lunches born with the idea of encouraging the exchange of best practices with customers and prospects, which for the first time, on April 15, was held completely online.
Giuliana Lucchesi, italian-american from Chicago and People Operation Specialist from Gitlab, the largest full remote organization in the world, showed us the potential of remote work. Gitlab boasts 1200 people from 67 different countries who work asynchronously, without time or place constraints, yet manage to perceive themselves as closely interconnected because they share the same values, cultivate relationships and cancel the distances with virtual coffes and daily social calls which hold the same weight as a meeting with the boss.
Because if it is true that the remote worker must sharpen the self-motivation to the maximum and be able to work for goals, it is equally important to encourage socialization and feed the affinities, that is a mode of communication and spaces of closeness to foster that empathy that is expressed elsewhere with the presence.
These best practices are also shared in mondora, where 30 per cent of colleagues attend our offices and the rest connect remotely. To be together during the breaks or at the end of the work-day, we have places of affinity such as virtual coffee breaks, meditation and circle times, which are moments of discussion on free topics we choose.
In GitLab they consider the full remote to be more inclusive and democratic than the hybrid model: if there was a central office, the off-premises would risk feeling excluded or failing to seize career opportunities. With the remote, instead, prejudices and differences are eliminated.
In our country, however, we urgently need to rethink processes and activities within companies. According to Fiorella Crespi, head of the Observatory on smart working of Politecnico di Milano, despite the remote workers have grown by 20 per cent compared to 2019 (and the use of a platform like Teams, with the Covid emergency, has increased by 7 times), there is still a lot of cultural resistance to agile work, especially from companies that are based only in Italy. A research by the Doxa Institute, explains Doxapharma Vice President Paola Parenti, shows that 60 per cent of companies with exclusively italian locations are reluctant to work agile, while the propensity for innovation is much greater within multinational groups. “The transformation must be about management culture”, insists Paola Parenti.
“Also workers should be accompanied in this process”, stressed Carlo Giardinetti, dean of Executive Education at Franklin University in the canton of Ticino. “We need to encourage them to change their behaviors and beliefs. We need a culture to support people until they become confident”.
It is the very human need for recognition, without which self-motivation, the main skill required of the remote worker, may not be enough. To increase affinities and give or receive live feedback, GitLab provides its employees with a budget to spend to meet in person.
“The remote working misaligns us from the communities we are part of”, commented in closing Food4thought Franco Guidi, CEO and founder of Lombardini22, Architecture and Design studio based in Milan. “The danger is the loss of social capital”.
Rudolf Steiner argued that what sets resilience forces in motion in human beings is the relationship. “Illness is always the consequence of isolation”, wrote the Austrian theosophist. “Being healthy means being intact, that is, part of the whole”.
In times of coronavirus, it is more necessary than ever to preserve a sense of belonging with colleagues in order to remain intact. Stay close even from a distance.