The delicate phase that the global economy is going through endangers some of the most important job innovations. Among these, the adoption of smart working could be reduced or even canceled, one of the emergency solutions adopted during the peak of the pandemic that was thought to transform the world of work forever.
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Why smart working – which guarantees workers greater flexibility and a better work-life balance – should be penalized at this stage, despite the now numerous evidence of its ability to improve worker productivity and the possibility of applying it even in mixed mode, leaving employees some days of work in the office or allowing them to choose whether or not to go to the office?
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On the one hand there may be the desire to return to consolidated habits, interrupting what is still an experiment. However, what emerges from a research carried out by YouGov on behalf of LinkedIn (interviewing over 3,000 top executives worldwide) is that smart working is also jeopardized by the divergent and conflicting interests which, in this phase of uncertainty, are emerging at the corporate level.
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For example, 71% of executives surveyed say they are convinced that the gains achieved during the pandemic will be maintained. At the same time, however, 60% of them think these same breakthroughs are at risk of being curtailed, which more than a third of companies actually already plan to do. “This dissonance is likely to stem from a misalignment between the views of employers and feedback from the talent they want to retain,” the research notes.
In a nutshell, employees want to maintain the freedom to work from home, but companies react to this desire in a non-linear way: poised between the desire to offer attractive conditions and that of returning to the more familiar and reassuring method.
When we talk about smart working, conflicting needs are also created. As we have seen, remote working is considered at risk by most executives, who however – in 40% of cases and obviously also due to the energy crisis – consider a priority “reducing corporate energy consumption to save costs”: reduction that could also be achieved by applying smart working today at risk.
The economic aspects are, inevitably, the priority ones also for the workers: over a third of managers have in fact declared that their employees have asked for financial support, while for almost half of top managers, one of the current priorities is to be financially get ready for the hard times ahead. And it is also for this reason that 34% of Italian companies (and 29% in Europe) have already reduced their recruitment plans and 25% have completely blocked them, while simultaneously reducing the funds allocated for training. In short, what is being created is a phase of instability which is inevitably reflected – according to research by LinkedIn, which offers free training courses on these issues until November 30th – on strategies that are sometimes inconsistent with each other.
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However, there is the awareness of not being able to emerge from the difficulties only through the reduction of expenses and the interruption of some experiments. For 29% of managers (percentage not very high anyway), the priority is to focus on improving the skills and reskills of their employees, in line with the awareness, underlined in the report, that for workers “it will be even more important to possess a college to find job opportunities. A particularly delicate aspect in Italy, where the percentage of graduates is much lower (20%) than in the rest of the European Union (32.8%).
As we prepare to face a difficult phase full of uncertainties (and which also risks halting some important innovations), the priorities for workers and businesses still seem to be clear: skills, economic support and financial stability.
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