Among the most debated concepts at the time of Coronavirus, "Smart Working" is certainly standing in the top positions. Suddenly, social distancing has forced many companies – even in Italy, where new tendencies for work organization usually struggle to stick – to give a legitimate chance to another way of getting things done. Either willingly or not.
At Vitesse, our Communication and PR Agency, we made our option for Smart Working back in January 2011, at a time when external circumstances (albeit not of global impact as in this case) pushed us towards discontinuity.
We felt the urge for a change, assuming we would be ready for it. Obviously, we weren't, as we would have discovered over time, but we persisted while making adjustments on the way.
In this article, we want to share a piece of our experience with those who are reshuffling their organizations based on the Smart Working approach, and especially to those who see it as an opportunity for the future.
Indeed, there’s at least a chance that you were not ready for this change as well, and possibly still are not. First and foremost, Smart Working is a matter of mindset, and changing approaches requires time and a lot of energy.
Here are six good reasons why Smart Working was a sound choice before the Coronavirus outbreak, and it will be after it as well.
[DISCLAIMER: What follows derives from our personal experience, applied to our business type and branch. Our company is not perfect, nor it is probably our system, but we hope you can find something useful in our reflections.
1 - Commuting no more
In our previous “life” there was a prestigious head office in the center of Rome. Nice to see St. Peter’s Cathedral out of the window. Having to navigate for two hours in traffic, or public transportation, to reach the finally reach the office, not so much. Even less when you have to repeat the exercise in reverse, in the evening, to return to family and children
Agile forms of work, like ours, easily adapt to either very static situations (such as the current one) and very dynamic ones, but above all they allow us to move and travel only when there is real value in doing so. We prefer to invest time and mental energies differently: to work, but also to dedicate ourselves to the family, passions and personal growth.
And the environment won't complain, too. In that sense, the current emergency might give us all an incredible and unexpected opportunity to reset our habits, and twist them for the better. That's a challenge we have to take.
2 - Push towards improvement
The transition to Smart Working has "forced" us to adopt increasingly efficient procedures over time, including some that we maybe could, or should, have already adopted in the previous phase.
If you need a definitive push to rationalize your company’s cloud, adopt efficient communication platforms, integrate automation processes, cut on unnecessary meetings, Smart Working can be a great ally.
3 - Enhanced Teamwork
Working on nearby desks is NOT the same as working together, least of all working as a team.
When we realized that our collaborators were sending e-mails from one desk to another, even in the same room, we asked ourselves if the apparent "unity" of the group in a physical place was reflected on the operational level.
With Smart Working, you need to face a fact: a working group that will NOT be able to operate as such without taking extreme care of internal communication, even before tackling the external one.
Such an approach needs to be trained and supported by creating gathering occasions, team building, periodical in-person updates to build and strengthen bonds. But it’s an investment that pays off.
4 - Optimized Time Management
Being smart workers requires a higher level of self-discipline than the classic work relationship in the office. Indeed, the care of certain aspects of the work - environmental, technological, organizational - passes from the management to the worker.
Arguably the most standout of these aspects is time management. Once assigned a project or a goal, the worker manages commitments and work duties in an agile and autonomous way, albeit within the frame of the necessary coordination.
This is particularly important in works that often extend to the weekend, as it is frequent for those dealing with sports and events like we do. We prefer 5 hours of operational and thoughtful effort, at any time of the day, over 8 hours sat in front of the screen in the office.
5 - More recruiting opportunities
Especially in fields like ours, either very specific or require a high degree of flexibility, selecting workers only from a certain area, capable of attending the company site, eventually makes recruiting a much steeper and often frustrating task.
On the contrary, thanks to Smart Working we cherish the opportunity to rely on collaborators from different areas and backgrounds, raising the team’s potential and skills in a much more efficient way than before.
6 - Saving to reinvest
This is often overlooked when Smart Working is discussed, but right now it seems more relevant than ever. While we do have some operational hubs, giving up on headquarters has led to saving thousands of euros, which we invest in better human resources, better technologies, formation. Our employees also save money, as they don't need to buy tickets or fuel to come to the office every day.
One day, still in our Rome office, we happened to realize how rarely we met our customers at our office. They expected us to go to them, and in fact, most of the time, it was the most efficient choice for us too.
Many years later, someone is still surprised when we tell that we are no longer based in Rome. Evidently our effectiveness has not been affected: we are where our customer expects to find us.
In conclusion, Smart Working is not a perfect formula, certainly not for every branch nor for every company. On the other hand, we believe that the current juncture will help some companies to dismantle some bias in that regard.
Smart Working is not an easy change to do: it takes commitment and rationality in reviewing processes, experimenting where it is needed, but sticking with the overall idea.
Again, the mindset is key to this all.
For the worker, it’s mostly about self-discipline, which is the ability to organize days and workspaces within the autonomy granted by this form of work. Self-discipline is needed both at the moment in which you have to deliver and – possibly even more – in that in which you need to unplug: there’s no schedule, clock or boss telling when to do that.
On the management side, Smart Working means replacing the – typically top-down - concept of control with that of vision, inspired by management but extended and shared by the workgroup, whose greater autonomy can lead to a more significant contribution in shaping the corporate culture.
Even during an emergency, this choice has allowed us to easily to the current needs and restrictions. And we are sure that it will help us to enter the new era of the World of Communication and PR after the Coronavirus issue.
What do you think are the decisive arguments to choose Smart Working? And will Smart Working remain a thing in your company after the virus is finally a memory?