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By now we have understood it, smart working is here to stay. From being an emergency tool it is becoming a central element of work organization. It is therefore worth studying its merits, more free time and fewer hours dedicated to commuting from home to work, but also the limits. Among these there is the brake on innovation that arises from the confrontation side by side with colleagues, there is the increased care work especially for women, there is the more complicated training for new hires.
Smart working could then have a further alienating effect that should not be underestimated: it could have a significant impact on people’s career chances and on the criteria that determine role advancements in a company. One wonders if, for the same job, a smart worker is more or less facilitated in the race for promotion than a colleague in presence? A topic to be addressed especially today, which is moving in the direction of a hybrid solution between smart working and office.
In times you do not suspect the same question was posed by Nicholas Bloom, a British economist at Stanford University. His study, even cited by the Financial Times, was conducted among the employees of a Chinese travel agency in 2011 and can give some clues to the risks of indefinite and poorly managed smart working. In fact, Bloom’s survey showed that the promotion rate of people remotely was about half that of those who went to the office regularly. Proof that being there can make a difference. As reported by the economist, smart workers were to some extent forgotten by the organization and management while office workers were not only noticed more but also developed more managerial and soft skills thanks to the comparison with colleagues. Even if it was for an exchange of ideas during a coffee break or between a cigarette and another.
It will be objected that the study, prior to the pandemic, does not take into account the evolution (or rather the sprint) of the working culture in recent months. True, but it is also true that for decades it was the workaholics who were rewarded, those figures always present in the company on which CEOs and presidents could rely. Zealous employees in the open. Now the new organization of work in its home-office mix calls into question new dynamics, will top management be able to trust those who cannot control and see? And at the same time reduce the effect of “ghost employees”, locked within the walls of the house?