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09 April 2020

Is Our Work Really Agile?

Due to the health emergency, we are experiencing the greatest ever experimentation of agile work, and the epidemic is an accelerator of the phenomenon.

But is what we are experiencing really agile work? I
In part, yes, although the the context of being forced into it makes it psychologically more complex.
Work from home? Yes, but not only. Before the health emergency, smartworking was - at least in Italy - a scenario for the few, with a small number of companies applying it (and for few employees).

Simona Cuomo and Zenia Simonello, from SDA Bocconi, supported by top manager testimonials, open an interesting debate on the topic in this webinar.
However, even if smartworking is now being experienced as "forced" because of events, in the future it can really become a new way of organizing work, especially in Italian companies still reluctant to adopt it.
Now, thanks to the emergency decree, it has become an indispensable condition, and companies almost have to adopt it, so much so that from 570,000 workers it has gone to more than 1,300,000, with estimates of up to 1,800,000 people currently using this mode.

A cultural factor.
But why has agile work met so much resistance so far?
First of all, there is a cultural factor: having the workers “in sight” gives the idea that they are more productive, and this is also an indication of the social context of reference, in which presence and control are dominant. There are, in fact, still many constraints on companies and managers along the supply chain, which however tend to control through rules. These include not being able to work on Mondays and Fridays or the obligation to be available from 9am to 6pm which, in fact, is in contrast to the concept of smartworking.
On the other hand, when space-time flexibility is used well, the benefits for businesses, individuals, the environment and development could be the keystone for mutual company-worker satisfaction.

From a research study of a thousand articles published from 2014 onwards, it emerges that agile work began to take hold only in 2017, the year in which Law No. 81 was promulgated.
The press, which has always been a strong supporter, began to talk about it in different terms. In fact, 30% of the articles analyzed combine the smartworking label with words such as miracle, revolution, change, while articles critical of remote work are really very few.

Trust is the key point.
Agile work is based on mutual worker-management trust, but also on the autonomy and enhancement of the employees, who thus becomes  entrepreneurs in and ofthemselves, managing their time to bring home the result.

The risks.
But the other side of the coin is that becoming workaholic is easier than you think, and this emergency situation confirms it: in smartworking you work a lot more, almost as if there were an absence of boundaries. The right to disconnect is jeopardized, and the loss of contacts and the human dimension, as well as that of being depersonalized and replaced by the results per se, all rise.
But is being visible really equivalent to better performing workers? The webinar also analyzes the point of part-time workers, mistakenly considered less performing and worthy of less esteem.

Strategies for the future
The great general test that we are experiencing will provide companies with precious material to implement agile work. However, if for some companies this emergency was a shock wave to be managed quickly, the "after" can be managed much better: by mapping the structures, tools and control.
It will be a must, however, to accompany the cultural environment and help it overcome the old legacies and adopt a radical change of views.


Here is the full video of the MINE webinar (in Italian)