Sundar Pichai, CEO of Google, has recently announced that the company intends to permanently integrate smart working into its working practices, albeit with a hybrid approach, e.g. three days in the office and two days remotely.
These statements highlight the growing interest in smart working, a system that many companies were forced to try out for the first time during the lockdown and which has now become a real revolution. In many cases, it has become a structural choice due to its undoubted advantages, from a better work-life balance to reducing the stress of travelling to work.
A NEW NORMALITY
At present, according to INAPP (National Institute for Public Policy Analysis) data, 54% of employees in large companies work wholly or partly on a remote basis; furthermore, according to an analysis conducted by the Milan Polytechnic Observatory and Randstad Research, smart working may involve 3 to 5 million workers in the coming months. The path should be the one traced by the CEO of Google: according to a recent study by Fondirigenti, people will prefer to split the week in two or to alternate days in the office and remote work, so as not to sacrifice social relations and physical interaction with their colleagues. According to Vittorio De Luca, managing partner of the De Luca & Partners law firm, specialised in labour law and GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation), “in the near future, smart working policies will become more and more a rule and no longer just an exception”. Smart working policies have also been promoted by the law: the Riaperture Decree has extended until 31 July the possibility for employers to use this instrument with a unilateral act, i.e. without having to sign an individual agreement. This deadline should be extended until 31 December also for the private sector, thus aligning it with what is already in place for the public administration. “However,” De Luca points out, “at the end of the emergency period it will be appropriate and necessary to regulate the relationship between the parties involved, i.e. employers on the one hand and workers (smart workers) on the other hand.”
THE PROBLEMS TO BE SOLVED
Smart working was first introduced in the Italian system by Law 81/2017. Smart working, says De Luca, is defined in the law “as a new and flexible way of organising employment, with no exact definition of the place and time of work, providing that the activity can take place partly inside the company’s premises and partly outside, without a fixed location, though in compliance with the limits on maximum daily and weekly working time established by law and by the applicable national collective agreement. In order for this to happen”, he adds, “an agreement, strictly in writing (for the purposes of proof and administrative regularity), must be entered into by the company and the worker”. And it is precisely the release from spatial and temporal limits, notes the expert, “which, if not regulated in advance, might have negative consequences for both the employee and the employer, from both a professional/work and a social/personal point of view”.
“Indeed, smart working has made the time profile of the service not essential, placing the objectives and performances of the resources concerned at the centre”, explains De Luca. So that “it is of primary importance for employers to be able to check and assess the results of smart workers”, whilst also determining “the forms of exercise of the employer’s power, paying attention to the manner, purpose and content of the same”. There follows the need, he concludes, to “introduce agreements, accompanied by internal procedures and regulations, which govern these aspects, also instructing the worker on the use of work equipment and on company security and personal data protection”.