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Smart Working in Italy - How a new law is introducing flexibility

Valeria Viale 25 May 2018 Smart Working in Italy - How a new law is introducing flexibility blog image

When people think about Italy, they usually first picture outdoor cafés where people are enjoying the ‘Dolce Vita’ and great coffee, as well as wonderful food, beautiful nature and a great sense for fashion and beauty. Could this overall image be complemented, and Italy associated with a very progressive legislation on work-life balance? In this Blog post, our Guest Blogger, labour market and employment expert Valeria Viale breaks down this new development for us.

The major demographic and economic trends that are affecting other parts of Europe are perhaps even more present in Italy. With an ageing population more and more Italians are faced with caring responsibilities and therefore seek more flexibility in their working hours and place of work. On the other hand, some cities are struggling with traffic and employers are also keen on reducing CO2 emissions, commuting time and also under-utilised office space. Italy has now introduced a new legislation to nudge the traditional Italian working style into the 21st century.

Smart-working pioneers

For a number of years, some large companies have been launching smart working experiments that have become an integral part of their work organisation. Forerunners like Siemens, Ferrovie dello Stato, Enel, TIM, Vodafone, Ferrero, Barilla have welcomed the arrival of the new law as a mere confirmation and reinforcement of their existing working practices. In small and medium sized enterprises smart working is an only an emerging phenomenon, only a few companies have introduced smart working in a structural way, in most cases the approach is still informal. In the public administration, the introduction of smart working is even more limited.

The aims of the new law are to introduce new ways of working based on the use of work flexibility, management by objectives and the identification of the needs of employees, also in the light of the need to reconcile work and life.

New legislation

Law n. 81/17: "Measures for the protection of autonomous non entrepreneurial work and measures to favour the flexible articulation in time and places of subordinate work" at Chapter II “Agile work” promotes agile work, with the aim of increasing competitiveness and facilitating the reconciliation of living and working time.

The Directive of the President of the Council of Ministers No. 3 of 1 June 2017 on agile work in the Public Administration refers to the European Parliament Resolution of 13 September 2016 on the creation of favourable labour market conditions for work-life balance. The Directive makes clear that this involves the promotion of a new idea of work organisation aimed at stimulating workers' autonomy and responsibility and at achieving a better work and life reconciliation. The Directive recommends a number of fundamental pillars to achieve the expected results, among which the following:

  • strengthen the work organisation according to result-oriented models;
  • include in the Performance Plan and in the Performance Measurement and Evaluation System how teleworking and agile work are going to be applied;
  • evaluate the innovative organisational ability of managers;
  • enhancing the skills of individuals and groups;
  • empowering workers and fostering relationships based on trust;
  • guarantee and verify the fulfilment of the work performance.

In this regard, the policies of each Company or Administration will contribute to the following:

  • enhancement of human resources and rationalization of instrumental resources available with a view to greater productivity and efficiency;
  • empowerment of management and non management personnel; redesign of the workspace;
  • promotion and wider dissemination of the use of digital technologies;
  • strengthening of systems for measuring and evaluating performance;
  • facilitation of the reconciliation of work and life.

Flexible-working agreements must be in writing and must define: (1) the duties to be performed outside the company's premises and any applicable conditions; (2) the terms regulating the use of computers and mobile devices; and (3) the technological and organizational measures put in place in order to ensure compliance with laws on with rest hours—including a “right to disconnect” during which periods the employer may not contact the employee.

How is Smart-working perceived?

According to a recent survey by the Polytechnic of Milan, for the time being only about 7% of the workforce has availed of their possibility to apply flexible working principles based on the law, mainly women in the North of Italy. There is a lot of room to grow and extend these new ways of working across the country and employers.

Smart working gives workers the opportunity to organise their working hours in conjunction with their private life, family and caring responsibilities. Turning the working culture of an entire country around is not a small feat. In this case, it will take some time, and also a lot of awareness raising for employers in small and medium sized companies (which form the majority of Italian workplaces) to fully integrate the Smart working concepts and adapt the culture of the organisation, to one based more on trust and flexibility, rather than control and presenteeism.

Valeria Viale is a researcher since 1997. Currently working at ANPAL - the National Agency for Labor Active Policies in Italy, she is responsible for analysis at national and international level in the "Benchmarking Analysis Structure" focusing on work life balance policies. From 1997 to 2016 she was an ISFOL researcher, seconded (2007 - 2010) to the Presidency of the Council of Ministers - Department for Family Policies in implementation of the Program Agreement between public administrations for the identification of forms of collaboration and technical support on the reconciliation of working and care time pursuant to art. 9 of Law 53/2000. She also deals with studies and analysis about organizational models to support work flexibility (smart working). You can follow Valeria on Twitter or connect with her on LinkedIn.