Smart working: what is it and 6 rules to make it work

Hybrid smart working or in other forms is becoming increasingly prevalent as a working arrangement in both large and small companies. But what is meant by smart working?

It refers to a method of performing work remotely, with particular flexibility and autonomy. It began to spread following the health emergency when many companies initiated the implementation of smart working systems. This was done to meet the new needs arising from restrictions on travel and interpersonal contacts.

As a result, the number of agile workers has grown exponentially in recent years, involving both private businesses and the public sector. It is essential to understand how to do smart working and how to use it correctly.

During the height of the health emergency, all major companies and over half of small and medium-sized businesses used this new work mode. Even after that phase, the percentage of “agile” companies remained rather high.

One thing is certain: the working world has changed, and possessing digital skills is no longer optional. Thanks to the Digital Marketing Specialist Certification, you can finally be ready to face a continuously transforming working environment. It’s an increasingly competitive reality where you need new skills and abilities to be a protagonist of the digital revolution.

In this guide, I will explain:

  • what smart working is;
  • what the pillars of smart working are and the benefits;
  • the relationship between digital skills and agile work.

Additionally, I will provide some guidelines on how to successfully do smart working:

  • by implementing a result-based work approach;
  • by keeping professional and personal life separate;
  • by encouraging interactions and teamwork.

What does Smart Working

The definition of smart working refers to the execution of the subordinate employment relationship, characterized by the absence of time or space constraints and organization by phases, cycles and objectives, established by agreement between employee and employer.

On the other hand, we speak of simplified smart working when, in order to facilitate its implementation, the agreement between the parties is not made mandatory.

But how does smart working work in practice? The concept of smart working implies the ability to work flexibly and autonomously to achieve agreed professional goals. Since there is no rigidity of place and time, this results in a better work-life balance, which also has positive effects on the smart worker’s own productivity.

smart working what is

The ability to manage workloads independently shifts the focus more to quality than quantity of time spent working. This is not to say that there is a lack of regulation of activities. In fact, company and worker agree on availability, tasks, breaks, tools, and pay.

Nowadays, however, the English expression smart working is often used to mean also agile work or teleworking. But this is not the case: there are differences and it is important not to get confused.

Smart working and agile working

What is the difference between smart working and agile working? The two terms have so many aspects in common that they seem to correspond. In fact, there is a substantial difference that concerns, in the case of agile work, the absence of a hierarchy of roles. In the latter case, in fact, there is a differentiation of skills but there is no hierarchical relationship: everyone is at the same level.

Hierarchy, in an increasingly rapidly evolving work environment, tends to reduce autonomy and lengthen execution time. In this sense, therefore, approaching an agile work model means providing greater freedom, trust and flexibility.

In this article, however, following the trend of common language, consider the term smart working and agile working equivalently and reflect on the very many common aspects while glossing over the differentiating element.

Difference between smart working and teleworking

Now that you are clear about what agile working and smart working mean, I will tell you about smart working vs. teleworking. These two terms are also often considered equivalent.

In fact, both are remote working models of organization made possible by the development of information and communication technologies, but they are not the same thing.

Indeed smart working:

  • it’s a type of work activity that originally originated for offline, meant to be physically conducted within an office, in a company, but is later partially or completely moved online.
  • It entails significant autonomy for the worker, who manages the timing and spaces of their work activity and is regulated by an agreement between the employee and the company.

All this implies a profound rethinking of the relationship between business and workers with benefits for all parties involved and for society in general.

Teleworking, on the other hand, means digital-native activities that arise to offer digitizable products and services to be done and delivered online. Thus, they take place completely via the Web, from home or office.

In teleworking, the worker occupies a fixed location and follows the usual work schedule while remaining bound by time, space, and instrumental constraints.

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Smart working and changes in the world of work

How has smart working revolutionized the world of work? Remote working has brought irreversible changes to the traditional way of working, and to better understand these transformations, I recommend reading this paragraph.

Here are the 7 changes resulting from the state of emergency that will influence the way we work for at least two decades, namely:

  1. Increase in self-employment. The recent health emergency has put many businesses in crisis, causing some to close. Alongside a decrease in traditional employment, there is a trend towards an increase in freelance work, especially in areas that create new job opportunities, such as digital work. Freelance work and digital jobs are particularly suited to remote working for freelancers or project-based workers.
  2. Greater emphasis on results. In remote work, it’s not about the time spent working but the results achieved. The focus shifts to goals and, therefore, the effectiveness of activities rather than the amount of time spent.
  3. Increased competitiveness. With the removal of spatial and temporal limitations for work, there is an increase in potential candidates for job positions, leading to greater competition.
  4. Demand for higher skills. Increased competition requires attaining a high level of skills to become and, more importantly, remain professionally attractive over time.
  5. Increased productivity. Flexibility and greater autonomy in task management allow for a better balance between personal and professional life. Consequently, productivity increases, and personal well-being and motivation improve, reducing the risk of burnout.
  6. More focus on facts and fewer relationships. In remote working, where results matter most, facts hold greater value, but at the same time, opportunities for relationships diminish.
  7. Revitalization of small communities. Considering the opportunities of smart working, the adoption of this work mode is increasingly widespread. In fact, to work for a large company or, simply, to secure better job opportunities, it will no longer be necessary to leave small towns. On the contrary, those who wish can even consider moving from the big city to a smaller community where the cost of living is much lower.

What Jobs Can Be Done in Smart Working

For obvious reasons, in smart working employment models, digital professions are the most commonly performed remotely, as they are activities that, by their nature, are primarily conducted online. In particular, digital marketing professions, including, for example:

Among the most common smart working jobs are professions related to the IT sector, activities perfectly compatible with remote work. Similarly, activities related to general consultancy, e-commerce, and customer service. In all cases, the essential element is the use of technology, both in terms of tools and processes.

Here, technological innovation plays a fundamental role, guiding the digital transformation that, more than ever, shapes the future of both public and private companies.

In any case, what is needed for smart working? Regardless of the industry, digital skills are essential and applicable to all activities performed remotely.

Keep in mind that the strong growth of smart working in recent times has contributed to making the working world more competitive. Considering the boom in agile job offers, it follows that the physical location of the worker no longer matters.

Indeed, employment opportunities have taken on a global dimension rather than a local one. As a result, there is increased competition, which, in turn, necessitates a boost in competitiveness. This is the essence of smart working in the digital age.

New digital technologies enable and facilitate remote working. Hence, there is a growing need to develop digital skills, which have become an essential requirement for many tasks, not only for digital professions.

Digital skills have become crucial for many professions, regardless of the industry. Their significance is such that their development is an essential prerequisite to ensure “employability” in the medium to long term.

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Smart Working: 6 Rules to Make It Work

The experience of smart working has been an opportunity for many public and private companies to experiment with a new approach, representing a departure from the traditional model. An evolution towards more innovative methods.

After the health emergency, the majority of companies have incorporated remote working into their regular operations, making it ordinary rather than extraordinary.

They have recognized its benefits and identified opportunities for growth and improvement. The goal for many remains to make the most of what is now considered a valuable resource.

However, there are also some negative aspects for workers. What are the most common risks for those who work from home or remotely? Managing and separating professional and personal life is essential to avoid burnout, a physical and mental exhaustion that, in severe cases, can lead to depression.

Below are 6 fundamental rules to follow to understand how to make smart working effective.

1) Set Specific Times

Establishing start and end times for your work will help you organize your daily schedule effectively and manage your workload. It’s also useful for keeping your professional and personal life separate and maintaining the right balance between the two. As an entrepreneur or manager, having a precise reference point will allow you to organize meetings, appointments, and resources for smart working efficiently.

2) Work with Objectives

A result-based approach to work is even more critical in the smart working mode. Unlike the traditional approach based on physical presence, the focus is on achieving results rather than the time dedicated to each task. Therefore, establish short, medium, and long-term objectives to monitor the progress of activities through specific KPIs (key performance indicators) and address any issues promptly.

3) Stay Active

Physical exercise directly impacts personal well-being. Working from home regularly carries the risk of limited physical activity. Prolonged inactivity affects your physical and mental balance, increases stress, and hampers productivity. Try to limit sedentary behavior by taking active breaks to clear your mind and recharge in a healthy way.

4) Dress the Part

Even when working from home, develop the habit of dressing as if you were going to the office. Having appropriate attire for your professional role helps you maintain a consistent mindset and fully engage in your work, separating it from your personal life. This approach can boost motivation and productivity, leading to improved results and personal satisfaction.

5) Delegate Family Commitments

To make smart working function effectively, you need to keep your professional and personal life separate. When working from home, delegate the management of children and pets to others to avoid interference with your work and maintain proper concentration.

6) Motivate the Team

Remote work lacks the non-verbal aspects of communication: posture, smiles, facial expressions. These are factors that support communication and relationships during in-person interactions and have a motivational value.

So, how can you motivate teams in smart working? Simply increase the opportunities for interaction to maintain a strong sense of belonging to the group and participation in the company’s mission. Schedule more frequent but shorter meetings.

Establish various types of meetings, including one-on-one sessions with direct collaborators and team meetings. At least once a year, hold a company-wide meeting with all personnel.

The Benefits of Smart Working

The adoption of smart working in Europe and the world, has proven useful in managing a moment of crisis and profound change, not only in the working world but in the overall lifestyle.

In recent years, turning to agile work has been an opportunity for many companies to continue their activities, despite the general lockdown imposed by the health emergency.

Often, people associate agile work with the state of emergency that has affected the entire world. However, as already mentioned, this method of managing the timing and spaces of work activities predates this period.

Consequently, recent years have seen a surge in digital transformation, a process of profound change with numerous advantages for everyone: workers and companies.

For Workers

The main benefits of agile work for workers are undoubtedly:

  • flexibility in working hours;
  • greater autonomy in task management;
  • savings in time and costs associated with commuting to the office or workplace.

The result of all these positive aspects is the opportunity to improve work-life balance, the balance between personal and professional life. In fact, especially for those with a family, children, or other family members to manage, greater autonomy is an undeniable advantage.

Working remotely is also a particularly important opportunity for those who do not live in major urban centers such as New York or Milan, where most large companies are concentrated.

For these individuals, until recently, the ambition to work for a major company meant the burden of relocating their residence, distancing themselves from loved ones and places of origin, and sometimes even significant financial sacrifices.

In extreme cases where relocation was not possible, individuals were even forced to give up, leaving their ambitions unfulfilled. Today, thanks to agile work, this sacrifice is no longer necessary, and you have the opportunity to work wherever and whenever you want.

For Companies

Implementing agile work systems has been a significant challenge for companies, which had to quickly adapt to the new requirements imposed by the emergency situation.

The primary benefit for businesses has undoubtedly been the increase in productivity. The opportunity for agile workers to manage tasks in more suitable times and spaces for each individual’s needs enhances engagement and motivation.

Flexibility and autonomy have also led to greater individual accountability in the workplace, which presupposes increased trust from employers.

This new approach has shifted the focus of corporate management to results, in favor of greater efficiency of activities, meaning the ability to achieve desired objectives. It has also promoted increased efficiency, which is the ratio of achieved results to resources utilized.

However, to maintain these positive effects of agile work, it is advisable to implement a form of smart working coaching, concrete support for the interested employees to:

  • organize dedicated work times and spaces;
  • define and monitor objectives;
  • sustain team spirit;
  • maintain focus on tasks;
  • train and develop new skills;
  • manage stress and stay motivated.

All the factors listed are receiving significant support from innovative startups, which are playing a fundamental role in the development and dissemination of agile work.

Their support encompasses both the new organizational model of companies and the tools, management methods, and new resources that characterize the increasingly widespread process of business innovation.

Conclusion and Career Coaching

The direction appears clear. After the experimental phase and testing the benefits of remote working, many companies are gradually reorganizing internally to embrace smart working as a stable mode of work. In some cases, this is full-time, while in others, it’s a hybrid approach.

Here, Digital Transformation plays a crucial role. The new cultural and organizational approach to smarter work implies the integration of digital technologies within organizations to facilitate this new way of working.

Digital tools and platforms help connect personnel, ensure the smooth flow of information, and maintain a focus on objectives, even enhancing productivity.

For workers, the challenge is equally significant. It involves developing the digital skills required for smart working and integrating them with their specific profession, in a process of continuous growth and training.

In an increasingly competitive environment where most companies are undergoing digital transformation, acquiring skills tailored to the new job market’s demands is crucial.

A free career consultation can help you understand your strengths and the skills you can develop to successfully navigate your career path.

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