Welfare and smart working: what are they?

Welfare and smart working: what are they?

One of the most debated issues in recent years when talking about the labour market is work-life balance. Family commitments, caring for children or the elderly or simply the desire to cultivate one’s passions often go against the full-time routine of most jobs. In recent years, however, smart working has been making progress in taking its rightful place in welfare packages companies provide employees. Here’s what it is and what its benefits are.

What is smart working

Smart working, which is also called ‘smart work’ or ‘agile work’, is a type of work that offers employees the opportunity of flexibility in working hours and location. For example, an administrative employee in the context of smart working can agree to work three days in the company and two from home, saving time and stress when moving from home to office. The goal of smart working is to give the worker a better way of reconciling working and personal time, without having to cut back on the skills offered to the company and thus guaranteeing a full salary at the end of the month. A phenomenon already well known in the United States, this has also been a much-debated topic as well in Italy, where, in 2017 following the introduction of Law 81, attempts have been made to systematize and organize what were formerly only sporadic initiatives by larger – and in particular international – companies. Smart working can be potentially applied to any professional field, especially to white-collar work, where the worker is given objectives to be achieved and the company uses different kinds of control mechanisms to ensure the employee performs to a certain level.

What is meant by corporate welfare

Corporate welfare means the package of benefits companies offer employees to improve their personal life and to make themselves more attractive to the best candidates. The world of work, today, has now changed utterly. People no longer work mainly or only for a salary but instead for a job that provides a satisfying environment and gives meaning to us as individuals. The market has also become more agile; competition between companies is ruthless and workers are often tempted to move from one to another, chasing not so much a higher salary as better conditions. The corporate welfare package thus becomes a very powerful means of leverage both to persuade current employees to stay loyal and those with strong profiles in other companies to switch jobs. Corporate welfare includes a large number of unilateral initiatives that the company makes available to employees, such as meal tickets, company canteen, free medical examinations, vouchers to pay for a baby sitter or school books, kindergarten, gym, someone to pay employees’ utility bills and pick up clothes from the laundry, and so on. From this perspective also the ability to take advantage of smart working becomes a benefit that falls squarely under the heading of corporate welfare.

Why smart working is part of corporate welfare

Smart working is based on the axiom that happy employees make a happy company. This, however, must not mislead one into thinking that the happiness of the company comes so much from seeing its employees satisfied as from the fact that a peaceful, happily managed personal life makes employees more productive at work and capable of achieving the company’s goals better and faster. Recent research has shown that Millenials, i.e. children born close to 2000 and who will be workers in the near future and are also digital natives, far prefer lower pay, even up to 30%, so that they can have greater flexibility at work and a better work-life balance. Seen from this angle, smart working becomes the key benefit of any corporate welfare package that is really tailored to the needs of the worker. In order to succeed in this endeavour, however, major change is needed in Italian SMEs, and above all companies’ need to start setting clear, achievable, measurable professional performance targets. This is a step forward that will however be amply rewarded by the results which, in the minority of companies in Italy that today offer smart working as one of their corporate welfare packages, speak loud and clear.

What are the benefits of smart working for companies and workers?

The phenomenon of smart working included in corporate welfare has been closely studied and analyzed precisely because of its potential benefit to company turnover has been understood. The results for the moment are very encouraging. A recent research named Flexible Work: Friend or Foe? interviewed a sample of workers who joined smart working. In 80% of the cases, workers showed an increase in their productivity just two months after the start of the project. According to another study of the School of Management of Politecnico di Milano on a sample of about 300,000 smart workers in Italy, there would be a productivity increase of 15% if this new form of working were to be adopted. In addition, smart working reduces the level of sickness absenteeism, which also reduces the economic impact on Italian public purse. If these are the advantages for the company, there are also, obviously, those for the worker, which are practical but also psychological. The ability to organize how and when one works enables workers to achieve a greater level of responsibility and feel more appreciated and therefore productive. What’s more, working hours also increase because delays due to traffic, unforeseen incidents and the problem solving of everyday life are reduced.

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