Smart working: how to work from home without stress

Smart working: how to work from home without stress

Smart working is one of the many expressions that until a handful of years ago were unknown or almost unknown, but it has now entered our daily lives and it is part of our everyday language. It is not uncommon, however, that it is also used inappropriately.

To begin with, we have to leave behind a potential misunderstanding: contrary to what many people think, smart working is not only an English expression that replaces the more canonical term "telework”. There is a difference between teleworking and smart working.

Teleworking is a form of contract that requires that the employee does not have a fixed location at the company headquarters but works remotely, keeping in touch with colleagues and superiors by phone or via the Internet. Smart working, on the other hand, is a radically new approach, based on four pillars: revision of the organisational culture because the relationship between manager and employee is no longer based on control, but on trust; flexibility of working hours and places of work; adequate technological equipment (consisting of internet connection, cloud, portable devices and so on), which becomes indispensable for carrying out activities; evolution of physical spaces, which must meet the different needs of people when they go to the office.

Before the Covid-19, in England there were about 600 thousand workers in smart working, now the data speak of 9 million. And apparently, many are satisfied because they have managed to organize themselves well, despite some technological and family difficulties. More women than men complain about working too much, since they are split between the PC and household chores at the same time. But one thing men and women have in common and it is about a desire for the future: when we get back to normal (both spouses at work and their children at school), they would like to work a few days a week remotely.

Smart working has shown a number of benefits: It saves time (90 minutes a day on average) and money when travelling and, as a result, reduces the stress levels of workers, who do not have to spend hours in traffic; it involves less spending at home (up to 25 euros a day for babysitting, laundry, ready meals, etc.); it offers the possibility to organize work independently and more freedom for personal moments; it allows a better reconciliation between private and professional life.

Working remotely has given us autonomy and made us more aware of our skills. Suddenly, we put ourselves to the test and sought appropriate solutions to deal with the emergency. Many fears, then, for example, the loss of trust on the part of the manager, the ability not to know how to work at home, the sense of isolation, the lower quality of relationships, the feeling of being excluded from company decisions or documents, have been reduced. All in favour of our growth, as a whole. Also because, with smart working, it is our work that speaks for us. As if to say: this time, discretionary criteria and personal tastes, which benefit (or diminish) our true professional value, have not got in the way.

In short, we are experiencing a new (and unexpected) opportunity that has broken down automatism and prejudice.

This is how we can make smart working more efficient:

1) Plan the activity in a realistic way

In concrete terms, make a list of things to do and associate for each one the time required to bring it to a conclusion trying to be as realistic as possible. An advice is to try to divide the urgent tasks from the routine ones and, therefore, find a balance between them. This is to ensure that the urgencies do not saturate all the hours of work available, otherwise you will always find yourself having to do all the tasks you have not done during the day.

2) Run the "test" before you start

Every day, before you start, check that the work tools are efficient (for example, that the connection works) and that the documents you need to work on are reachable. A preliminary check avoids unnecessary and frustrating waste of time, which makes you nervous and makes your smart working day go sideways.

3) Communicate your activity clearly

Fortunately, technology allows us to let the manager and colleagues know what we intend to do and what we are doing: the order of priority of our activities, the deadlines of each, the day of delivery, the time we want to deal with the rest of the team. So, fill in the online calendar and make it visible to others, put the document you're working on in a shared cloud space, make your considerations explicit via email, tell over WhatsApp the time you want to disconnect. From home, clarity is paramount: it lowers your fear of not living up to expectations and thus frees you from the fear of failing or missing your goal.

4) Play ahead of time

In smart working, do not assume that it is the others, the boss or colleagues, who always set the working machine in motion. The winning behaviour is to take responsibility and be able to anticipate the needs and problems of the team. So, you call, you propose, you ask, or you give feedback. Phrases like: "How do you want me to do this or that?"; "When?"; "Was the job going well?"; "Is it okay if I deliver at that time?"; "What level of quality do you expect?" are never inappropriate. On the contrary, they help to give a fast, focused and efficient direction to your work, which at a distance must be more integrated than ever with that of the rest of the staff, otherwise misunderstandings are created and the relationship of mutual trust is undermined.

Smart working is something much broader and more complex because it is another way of working. It would be impossible and simplistic to define it a priori "better" or "worse" than the traditional one, because each company has different dynamics and needs. But without a doubt it is different. And it deserves to be analysed seriously in all its facets: the environmental impact, the work-life balance of employees, the productivity of the company.

No one is yet able to predict when the convulsive climate of these months will subside, nor if these experiments will be shelved in a hurry, however, it will undoubtedly be a shame for our entrepreneurial system and for our overall well-being.

Are you and your language exchange friends in favour of smart working? If you have a job, do you prefer working from home or going to the office? Write your answers in the comments!

Written by: Martina Sassi, Staff Writer Language Exchange