Before the pandemic, 2,458,210 employees (equal to 11%) worked remotely. In 2021, agile workers rose to 7,262,999 (and the share of the total number of employees jumped to 32.5%). 46% of workers would like to continue doing their business in an agile way at least one day and almost 1 in 4 three or more days a week. This is what emerges from the policy brief “Remote work: implementation methods, tools and the workers’ point of view”, created by the National Institute for Public Policy Analysis (INAPP) through the Plus survey with a sample of over 45 thousand interviews (from 18 to 74 years old) in the period March-July 2021.
Looking at the distribution of days worked remotely in 2021, it is observed that almost 50% were engaged in agile mode from 3 to 5 days a week and only 11.6% for a single day. Much of the remote work was carried out on a trust basis: only 16.5% was the result of a collective agreement and 14.3% of an individual agreement; for almost 37% of remote workers, however, there was no formalization.
“Smart working”, that is, that profound restructuring of production processes fueled by new information and digital technologies, includes shares of work carried out outside the physical spaces of the company – said prof. Sebastiano Fadda, President of Inapp – We do not know what the attitude of workers towards all the many aspects that make up the “smart working” mode is, but we know from this survey what the attitude of workers towards “remote” work is just as it took shape under the lash of the pandemic. Overall, the evaluation of workers is positive, even if some criticalities arise in relation to some aspects, such as the problem of disconnection and the costs of domestic users. From this it can be deduced that there is a basis for moving from simple emergency remote work to new models of work organization associated with innovative reengineering of production processes, but that efforts must be made to solve the critical issues “
Many organizational methods have been introduced to facilitate and support remote work. Both in the public (71.5%) and in the private sector (64.4%) above all digital platforms have been activated for holding remote meetings; 62.1% of private companies and 41.9% of the PA provided workers with IT devices. The activation of cyber security protocols affected over 56% of employers. Furthermore, various actions have been implemented in the private sector aimed not only at allowing agile work to be carried out immediately, but also at harmonizing current conditions with future prospects, investing in training (46.8%), providing ergonomic equipment (25.7%) and paying a contribution (22.2%) to employees.
With regard to the issue of the risk of continuous connection, the private sector appears to be more virtuous, with 65% of workers in the sector declaring that they can independently choose when to disconnect compared to 50.1% of those in the public. As regards the any-time connection, on the other hand, compared to an overall figure of 32.8%, in the public sector the share drops to 26.9%, while in the private sector it rises to 34.5%. Regarding the possibility of taking short breaks, a particularly high share (78.2%) does not show any critical issues, but over 49% say they can disconnect only for the lunch break.
Agile work, even if carried out in unprepared organizational contexts and with often inadequate technological infrastructures, was a positive experience. 55% of workers express a positive opinion on the overall experience of remote work, but on some specific issues the evaluations seem to highlight critical issues: almost 64% believe that remote work generates isolation and about 60% that it does not help in relationships with colleagues; in addition, for more than 60% the increase in the costs of domestic users is problematic. On the contrary, the evaluation of the freedom to organize work and manage family commitments is definitely positive. Today half of the qualified professions can provide more than 50% of the service remotely compared to a tenth of the unskilled professions. This segmentation is the result of the nature of performance and an organizational culture that must be updated in the light of the agile work experience.
“It is clear – continued Fadda – that remote working possibilities and methods vary according to the configuration that“ smart working ”can assume in companies of different sizes, sectors and different“ technological intensity ”; consequently there cannot be modalities or percentages fixed a priori. We need a framework of basic rules and then flexibility to define through bargaining the methods that best guarantee the productivity of companies and the well-being of workers “.
Finally, should agile work become fully operational, new perspectives on the future of cities and territories would open up. The study shows, in fact, that over 1/3 of the employed would move to a small town; 4 out of 10 people, on the other hand, would move to an isolated place in contact with nature. Furthermore, in order to work remotely, 1 out of 5 workers would accept a possible penalty in remuneration, a sign that a hypothetical improvement in the quality of life has a value beyond the economic one.