More than a year has passed since the start of the Covid-19 emergency.

In this long period many companies approached remote working and smart working for the first time ever (check out the difference between these two words in the following article).

These ways of working have existed for decades, but before 2020 they weren’t really popular, except in certain sectors.

A few examples: in 2019 only 5% of employees in the UK worked mainly from home (source: Office for National Statistics, 2020); in the United States, only 25% used smart working (source: Mas and Pallais, 2020); in Italy there were about 570,000 smart workers in total (source: Osservatori, 2019). Statistics completely change in 2021: according to surveys, 29% of Americans will work exclusively from home; in the UK, 19% of employees won’t return to the office and 40% will work in a hybrid workplace; in Italy, according to some people (source: Aidp), 70% of companies will allow smart working, while others think that the percentage of agile workers will only be 16% (source: “The World after Lockdown” Observatory).

Regardless of the figures, 2020 has been an unusual and unexpected year that has highlighted some fundamental features that revolve around team, time and interpersonal relationship management.

So: what has 2020 taught us?

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1. Remote working is possible

The main “blocking” factor in the implementation of smart working has always been mistrust. “My employees don’t work if I don’t control them”or “This job can only be done if we’re all together in the same room”. How many times have these phrases been said?

2020 has (almost) proven these statements wrong in several work areas. The technological impact we had to face during the last year has been important, and we still have to understand its consequences, but we’ve finally found out that, with proper and efficient management of tools and teams, it’s possible to work effectively from home. From online education to smart working, the profound change in the work approach may just be the tip of the iceberg of what will happen in the future.

2. Human resources are indispensable

Human beings by nature need to relate to others, both in the personal and professional sphere. It’s not only about sharing ideas with colleagues during a meeting or working together on a project: relationships between people are also represented by a simple “hello” in the morning, a quick chat in front of the coffee machine and a a drink after leaving the office in the evening. It’s the small gestures that create stronger relationships between colleagues, making it easier to help each other and to shape corporate culture day by day.

3. An efficient team is one where there is trust

Without trust there can be no real collaboration and without collaboration there can be no real efficiency. To sum it up: Mutual trust makes a team more productive.

Whether the team is working on-site or remotely, it’s up to the manager to lay the foundations for a cohesive team. We’ve explored this topic in more detail in this article.

4. Remote working isn’t the same for everyone

2020 highlighted some of the problems of remote working, mainly related to workers’ home life.

The first problem was connectivity, which in some places, especially far from cities, didn’t and still doesn’t always meet work needs. We had to deal with ‘normal home disturbances’ too: how many times, even on the news, did we see children running past the interviewee’s background, or hear a colleague complain about noisy neighbours? Every home has its own peculiarities, which must always be taken into account when talking about remote working.

5. The working day is made up of moments

Over the past six months we’ve heard idioms such as freelancer burnout, zoom fatigue and the right to disconnect on a daily basis. Work-life balance and the psychological implications of always being connected, active and accessible have been thoroughly discussed too.

The line between work and private life has become so blurred that for many people it no longer exists. Unlike in the office, time is less segmented when we work from home: work commutes are eliminated, breaks often take place in the same room where we work and schedules disappear.

In these cases, the solution lies within the individual and a precise planning of the day, always bearing in mind people’s necessities.

6. Written communication is essential

During the last year, many companies have started to include smart working and remote working in their long-term plans and intend to upgrade their internal communication systems, including video calling technology.

Written communications have become more important too. Most information flows through email, messaging services and online project management tools, so any content must be understandable and leave no room for interpretation.

So what does 2020 leave us with? It leaves us with a further confirmation of the importance of the office environment and a strong focus on everyone’s needs, combined with an awareness that smart working, perhaps in its most recent hybrid workplace version, can be a winning solution.

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