Smart working: the new frontier that is changing our life
21 September 2020 | Written by Benedetta Bozzoli
Impacts and consequences of smartworking
According to the Ministry of Labor, smart working workers are now 1.6 million, compared to the 220,000 who worked from home before the health emergency. The coronavirus has changed our lives during the emergency, but it also leaves us a legacy that could have effects in the medium and long term. Smart working was the only possible alternative that allowed millions of people around the world to work from home during the lockdown period, but by now it is clear that it is by no means a solution applicable only in emergency conditions, quite the contrary. The consequences are manifold and do not only affect the working sphere.
Imagine for a moment working for a company that allows you to do your work entirely from home: meetings, presentations, seminars, refresher courses without leaving the home, resulting in greater flexibility of schedules and more time to dedicate to your affections and interests.
At the same time you do not need to live near your office, you should not wake up early in the morning, you can comfortably have breakfast at home and finally get ready in a short time and then connect via the laptop with your colleagues. No apartment for off-site workers, no bus or metro, no croissant and cappuccino at the bar, no lunch break with colleagues.
Impact on the real estate market and businesses. If you don’t need to live close to your office, you could move to areas where the cost of living is lower. They know this well in the area of San Francisco and Silicon Valley, one of the most expensive areas of America in terms of rental costs, where there has been an increasing demand for housing for years, with a consequent increase in prices, But since many Silicon Valley companies have adopted smart working with the coronavirus, there has been a decline in rental prices. The same is happening in other American cities, New York in the first place, and could soon also occur in Italy where the effects of the so-called South Working are also expected.
South working: in our country many workers and students from Southern Italy have had the opportunity to return, a phenomenon known as south working. In the large northern Italian cities, the demand for housing falls and prices fall. Between 2002 and 2017, as many as two million people left Southern Italy, 132 thousand in 2017 alone. The advantages are many, the economist Enrico Moretti cites the example of an employee of a Milanese company who would be able to move to Sicily of a lower cost of living but with the same salary as when he worked in Milan, and of course he could hug his loved ones again.
This could be an opportunity to make up for an enormous loss of human capital, that relating to young people who leave their homeland in search of opportunities: however, as Luca Bianchi, director of the association for the development of industry, argues in the South, projects in the fields of education, health, connectivity, transport.
The effects on public services, small businesses and the environment: Another very important point is that of the activities that base their business on the coming and going of workers. Confesercenti estimates that the decrease in customers of public establishments and restaurants leads to a loss of about 250 million euros per month to which must be added a 35% less earnings due to the lack of tourists. The same goes for public transport, which would suffer a decline in turnout as more and more people choose to work from home, resulting in a possible drop in investments to strengthen city networks. If during the lockdown smartworking did good for the environment, with a net decline in daily emissions in urban and industrial contexts around the world, it is equally true that Covid could lead, in the long term, to an ever greater use of vehicles. private.
The discussion on wages: Having now the opportunity to work from home, many workers move to cheaper areas, and some foreign workers return to their country of origin. Here another question opens up: that of salaries. Being a metropolis with such a high cost of living, salaries are also generally high. Some companies are therefore putting forward the hypothesis of a salary cut in the face of an increasing number of workers who choose to move to less expensive areas. Some employees who have chosen to live in these cheaper areas with a higher standard of living have agreed to earn less. From a survey conducted by IZI in collaboration with Comin & Partners, it emerges that 37% of Italian workers interviewed would accept to receive a lower salary by continuing to work from home.
How to deal with this change? The questions are many and, as we have seen, they affect different areas and sectors. Indeed, some companies have already given their employees the opportunity to continue working from home forever. What will the effects be on small businesses? What will the effects be on the environment? What are the consequences on the quality of life of individuals?