Having dealt with the application, benefits and limitations of smart working, let us address other essential points: what is the first condition for starting an agile working relationship? What are the key technologies? Where do we draw the line between freedom and control?
As we have seen in the first part of this article, the employer’s statement is of fundamental importance in an agile working relationship. It should contain the minimum requirements for remote working, outlining: the objectives without precise time or place of work constraints; the use of technological tools for carrying out the work activity, such as PCs and accessories, public data networks or VPNs set up by the employer; the practical aspects of the activity, partly carried out at the company’s premises and partly outside without a fixed location, within the limits of maximum daily and weekly working time deriving from the law and from collective agreements.
Technologies and applications required
It is important to know how to use technology and applications to communicate efficiently and share goals with colleagues. In particular, video calls enable the continuation of a kind of physical, albeit virtual, contact, which is essential for cooperation and the management of projects. Working on shared files allows ideas and contributions to be shared without the need to exchange documents to be edited. The certainty of communication allows the exchange of constantly validated information, also thanks to institutional channels (such as apps, for example). The cloud can also have several advantages for smart working. The term ‘cloud’ refers to all data storage, transmission or processing services offered by a provider to a customer via the Internet. The main cloud solutions for smart working are cloud storage, video conferencing, virtual desktop, cloud switchboard and cloud backup. In cloud storage, data are transmitted and saved on remote storage systems as well as backed up and made available to users over the Internet. Many have expressed concerns about the security of these services, but providers have taken action on several occasions to improve security through measures such as data encryption and multi-factor authentication. Video conferencing allows a virtual meeting to be organised between people who do not use the same space, while also sharing files in real time. Whereas in the past a desktop computer was necessary to participate in a videoconference, today smartphones can be used without reducing the quality. The virtual desktop is a virtual computer which can be accessed remotely with a browser, at any time and from anywhere. The security and integrity of the data is guaranteed by their allocation in the service provider’s data centres. A cloud-based switchboard is a remotely installed telephone system operating over the Internet. More and more companies are using it because of the flexibility it offers to manage their team on the move. Its advantage is that it can often be integrated with the company’s CRM and has features such as call forwarding to a personal smartphone, for example. Finally, the cloud backup service enables data and applications to be protected and available via one or more backup copies stored in the cloud. Should accidental events cause data loss, the data can be restored via the cloud.
Health, safety and training
The employer, before the start of the smart working activity, must provide the worker with the above-mentioned information, and keep it updated every time there is a significant change in the tasks and operating conditions, or at least annually. The following points, at least, must be addressed: identifying the general and specific risks related to the service to be performed and the measures to be adopted; adequate periodic training on health and safety requirements, on the proper performance of agile work in indoor and outdoor environments and on the use of tools and equipment; if the IT/telematic tools/devices or other tools/equipment are provided by the company, it must ensure that they are compliant with technical standards from a legal standpoint, and provide for their maintenance to ensure that safety requirements are maintained over time. The workers shall carry out their work in compliance with the prevention and protection measures laid down by the employer to deal with the risks connected with the performance of their work in indoor and outdoor environments other than those of the company. When the workers are present in company premises, they must comply with the general provisions in use.
The training aspect is very important and will be based on three pillars: the technical-operational aspect aimed at using the equipment and respecting the procedures; the organisational aspect with emphasis on the team; the legal-contractual aspect which will examine all the legal provisions and company policies in force, including an illustration of the specific work risks (Legislative Decree 81/08).
Agile working can offer advantages to both workers and companies: the worker will have more flexible time management in line with family needs, as well as time and travel costs recovery. The company will save space by organising open access workstations instead of personal ones. Working on labour costs allows the company to be more competitive.
Work should be organised in such a way as to avoid isolation of workers, because it is necessary to maintain the team spirit which is an asset for the company. To this end, the simultaneous presence for one or two days a week of the homogeneous group of workers involved in the same project or function allows the team to relate better. Even when the pandemic will be over, we can therefore assume that smart working will become a new and widespread way of interpreting work.