Smart-working in universities, when an emergency becomes an opportunity

2 April 2020

Among the emergency measures provided for by the Coronavirus Decree, the smart-working has become applicable to cope with the economic repercussions that this stalemate is causing.

The advantages of the so-called agile work are undeniable: a cut on overheads, a greater productivity of the worker proportional to his motivation, more efficient management of free time and, last but not least, a reduction in automobile pollution. Yet many detect the structural limits of the model in our country, among the last in Europe to apply it, and wonder if Italy is ready for this change of perspective, which has also been adopted in an exceptional condition of prevention and not the result of a gradual reconsideration of the organization of work.

We took stock of the situation with Enrico Deidda Gagliardo, Scientific Director of the Master in Public Management and Innovation of BBS and Pro-Rector of the University of Ferrara, who confirms how government measures have imposed an acceleration on the application of agile work by the Public administrations. “As if to say: the organizational emergency has succeeded where the ordinary regulatory provisions and practices of the Italian PA had not arrived”, he comments in the study entitled “Smart-working in universities”, conducted in collaboration with Federica Danesi, President of the Single Committee of Guarantee Unife.

“Smart-working is a modality of execution of the subordinate employment relationship characterized by the absence of hourly or spatial constraints and by an organization by phases, cycles and objectives, established by agreement between employees and employers – explains Deidda Gagliardo – It is a procedure that helps those who work to reconcile life and work times and, at the same time, promotes the growth of their productivity. On the one hand, the well-being of the employee is improved and, on the other, his productive performance, according to the concept of health of human resources”.

And it is among the Public Administrations, also supported by the Agile Work Directive signed by Minister Madia in 2015, that the most significant growth in smart-working has been recorded, which in the last year has doubled its numbers, going from 8% of remote structured projects at 16%. A successful case history is that of the University of Ferrara, which has already started a series of activities since 2012 with the aim of “strengthening skills and spreading a culture of change among the people involved in the new organizational model, based on empowerment and autonomy”.

“The University of Ferrara was one of the first signatories of the VeLA Project Agreement (VEloce, Leggero, Agile: Smart Working for the PA) and sits at the co-planning table of the Emilia-Romagna Region, a pioneer region and leader in the field of smart working, sharing good practices”, comments Deidda Gagliardo, who adds that in the days of the emergency, government measures to support the organization of Public Administrations have followed. “The themes of work-life balance, organizational savings and environmental impact are unequivocally intertwined with each other – he adds – but they do not necessarily adapt to all organizational environments: for this reason, the body that promotes agile work must analyze your structure and think about whether and how to exploit the opportunities in terms of reorganization of processes, spaces and working times”.

What are the next steps? “At the basis of agile work is the continuous interaction between manager, team and the individual worker. The more involved the manager, the more confidence is given to agile workers, the greater the perception of working well-being. It is a choice conscious and at the same time courageous: the administration of the future must be able to delegate, offer opportunities based on merit and be able to bring out people’s talents. Only in this direction, through a conscious and resistant to prejudice governance, will we witness the consolidation of forms of agile work also in the public sphere”, concludes the Pro-Rector.


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