Increase your employees’ productivity through flexible and smart working!


Agile working is one of the benefit most appreciated by employees. The biggest advantage is the opportunity for employees to establish a better work-life balance. But even in the most flexible schedule, that allows employees to come and go at will, or telework, employers must believe that the employee is putting in their time and accomplishing their goals. In a flexible environment, trust is a significant factor. Measurable goals and clear expectations are also significant so the employer is comfortable with the employee’s ongoing contribution.

What is teleworking?

According to Cambridge Dictionary, teleworking is “the activity of working at home, while communicating with your office by phone or email, or using the internet”. Teleworking means “working remotely” and reports different advantages for the employer:

  • It reduces office running costs and overheads such as office space, electricity, heating and other utilities;
  • It reduces travel-related problems as staff are not affected by bus or train strikes, or bad weather;
  • It gives the possibility of a wider choice of candidates for recruitment: in fact, the employer can choose candidates from anywhere in the country and across the world.

Teleworking presents advantages also for employees:

  • They can get up later and work in a comfortable environment;
  • They do not travel outside to and from work, reducing work-related travel costs;
  • It is easier to work around their family’s needs;

Risk for the employer: in order to be effective, the employer needs to make sure that the worker is fully capable of working at home with the same efficiency as at the office. The risk is that unsupervised employers working from home could be less productive if they do not have direct control on them. The teleworker must be trusted.

What is smart working?

Smart working refer to the new ways of working deriving from new technology and from economic, environmental and social pressures. It is a natural evolution of the concept of teleworking, as both terms mean working outside the office but smart working moves the work to almost any other place, from a coffee shop to the waiting room of an airport.

New technologies are a key factor in the development of this policy, and are designed to facilitate flexibility at work and mobility.

The Smart Working Handbook, published by Andy Lake in 2015 lists 10 key characteristics of a Smart Working culture. Here an example:

  1. Higher levels of collaboration between individuals, between teams, with external partners and with the wider public
  2. A commitment to flexibility – being constantly open to new ways of working and delivering services
  3. An emphasis on management by results rather than management by presence
  4. An emphasis on promoting higher levels of staff empowerment and autonomy, to maximize the benefits of smart working styles
  5. An emphasis on using new ways of working to assist employees achieve a better work-life balance
  6. A commitment to use new technologies and new ways of working to recruit, retain and develop workforce

How to implement teleworking and smart working effectively?

To ensure that these factors exist for employers who allow flex schedules, a firm set of guidelines should be implemented and employees trained before the adoption of a flex schedule. This will limit any confusion or uneven or unfair implementation across your organization.

According to Mark Dacanay, digital marketing professional, there are 6 steps to follow to implement these practices:

Identify the positions and jobs that can done remotely, as teleworking may not be applicable to those potions that are vital on-premise. A possible solution could be to opt for partial remote work instead of full remote work.

Identify the people who will benefit and work well remotely: some workers prefer the office to avoid distractions or social interaction at home. Others might not work properly without supervision because they do not have the ability to self-manage.

Set expectations and accountability as clearly as possible: managers have to highlight the expectations for the employee and their supervisors, being clear about tasks, reports, outputs, deliverable, time of execution, duration etc. The level of accountability of supervisors should also be clearly emphasized to check the performance of the remote employees under them.

Set clear rules for remote working employees, including attendance, availability and overtime, compensation and benefits (especially if there are difference between working on premise and remotely), company information privacy, dress code, time schedule of remote work, etc.

Be mindful of employee’s career path: managers and the supervisors have to find ways to foster skill growth in their people despite the distance. Collaborative projects not only foster interaction between team members even if they are on different locations, but also help employees grow and help supervisors and managers identifying employees’ potentiality to their career path.

Turn to the cloud for help: cloud services are perfect for remote working employees as it can be accessed by anyone, anywhere as long as they have Internet connection. Examples are apps like Google Drive and Dropbox that offer cloud-based file storage and management system. For meetings and collaboration, Skype or GoToMeetings could be useful solutions.

Flexible working as first approach…

If your organization is approaching for the first time to this practice, a good starting point could be implement flexible working schedule. It means working in a different work pattern compared to the way an employee usually works. This can be done through different types of arrangements:

Job Sharing, when two people are employed for the same role on a part-time basis.

Compressed Hours, when an employee works full-time hours but in a shorter number of days, resulting in longer shifts.

Flexi-Time, allows employees to choose when starting and ending the work day as long as 8 hours per day are achieved.

Annualized Hours, stipulates the number of hours employees must work within a year period, giving them a lot of flexibility.

Phased Retirement, allows employees to push back their retirement age, reducing their hours and work part-time, in order to transition into retirement easier.

Necessary human resources

Managers give employees the possibility to opt for flexible working and remote working only if their positions and functions within the company can be developed outside the office, without a direct supervision.

Skills that managers & employees need to develop in order to implement the WPI

Organizing, facilitating and making in practice flexible and/or remote working involves a variety of qualities and skills, such as communication, flexibility, trust, organizational skills, time management

Expected impact

Beyond the positive effect on the company’s innovation processes and outcomes, remote and flexible working can also support better outcomes, such as:

Example(s) of prior application

Company name: Theoria srl

Number of employees: 15
Location: Milan, Italy

How the WPI was implemented?

Theoria srl is an Italian SME which deals with public relations and marketing activities, with an annual turnover around one million euros. Thanks to the strong vocation to innovate, since 2015 it has been introduced the smart working as a new way of executing work performance: after the first year of experimentation, it was decided to continue adopting the WPI within the company, giving the employees the possibility to opt for agile work 4 days per month. The management decided to implement the WPI as an incentive to maintain talent in the company; since most of the staff were women, with the intent to satisfy work-life balance, two objectives were pursued simultaneously.

Both workers and management applied the agile work by signing a company agreement, which included different points such as: a)the definition of agile as variation of the place where developing company’s operations; b) specification of days for smart working allowed per month c) how to communicate the necessity for smart working; etc.

Results obtained

The results obtained were totally positive. Given the type of services provided by Theoria srl, there was a natural propensity to implement smart working: this has allowed the full exploitation of its potential from the beginning, achieving excellent results, which led management to think of increasing the number of days to spend on agile work each month. Furthermore, carrying out an activity for which the results are immediately detectable, it was not necessary to take particular precautions in the management of performance and its monitoring.–
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