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Introduction of Smart Working in the Enterprises of Russia and Italy: Case Study

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The article focuses on the issues of transformation of labour relations between employers and employees of Russian and Italian enterprises due to the processes of digitization which determine the possibility of introducing new technologies in the organization of labour. One of the objectives of the research presented in the article is to analyse the advantages and shortcomings of the new management philosophy, to assess the impact of its introduction into the organization of work on the employee well-being and the level of social pollution in the sphere of labour relations. The case study method was used in the framework of an integrated approach, and was supplemented with an analysis of the narratives of Italian and Russian employees of enterprises operating in the information services industry. A comparative analysis of the empirical data obtained by the authors revealed the similarities and differences in the conditions and processes related to the introduction of the smart working technology into the organization of labour. The authors identified the attitude of the smart personnel in both countries to the new managerial philosophy, as well as the factors adversely affecting the quality of their working life. The scientific contribution of the research is the study and evaluation of one of the emerging phenomena of the new labour economy, which is developing in 4.0 industry and leads to the emergence of new forms of labour relations.
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IOP Conf. Series: Materials Science and Engineering 753 (2020) 042007
IOP Publishing
doi:10.1088/1757-899X/753/4/042007
1
Introduction of Smart Working in the Enterprises of Russia
and Italy: Case Study
A Fedorova1, O Koropets2, M Menshikova3
1Ural Federal University, ul. Mira, 19, Yekaterinburg, 620102, Russian Federation
2Ural Federal University, ul. Mira, 19, Yekaterinburg, 620102, Russian Federation
3Sapienza University of Rome, Piazzale Aldo Moro, 5, 00185 Roma RM, Italy
E-mail: a.e.fedorova@urfu.ru
Abstract. The article focuses on the issues of transformation of labour relations between
employers and employees of Russian and Italian enterprises due to the processes of digitization
which determine the possibility of introducing new technologies in the organization of labour.
One of the objectives of the research presented in the article is to analyse the advantages and
shortcomings of the new management philosophy, to assess the impact of its introduction into
the organization of work on the employee well-being and the level of social pollution in the
sphere of labour relations. The case study method was used in the framework of an integrated
approach, and was supplemented with an analysis of the narratives of Italian and Russian
employees of enterprises operating in the information services industry. A comparative
analysis of the empirical data obtained by the authors revealed the similarities and differences
in the conditions and processes related to the introduction of the smart working technology into
the organization of labour. The authors identified the attitude of the smart personnel in both
countries to the new managerial philosophy, as well as the factors adversely affecting the
quality of their working life. The scientific contribution of the research is the study and
evaluation of one of the emerging phenomena of the new labour economy, which is developing
in 4.0 industry and leads to the emergence of new forms of labour relations.
1. Introduction
The relevance of the research presented in the article is due to the fact that the sphere of labour
relations and human resource management needs a new management philosophy based on more
efficient use of labour resources in the conditions of business process digitalization. New approaches
to the organization of labour should be associated, among other things, with a change in attitude to
workplace and time. Despite the active spread of non-conventional and distance employment, there is
still a large number of working people who are dissatisfied with various aspects of their working time
and space organisation. Moreover, non-conventional employment often implies precarious labour
relations between employers and employees, which allows researchers to speak about the phenomenon
of social pollution as a process of damaging employee physical and psychosocial well-being as a result
of the internal and external economic activities of organizations [1-3].
Smart working is a new concept, closely related to the concept of telework. Some researchers
consider smart working to be an evolutionary form of teleworking with added mobility and versatility,
such as schedule flexibility and a comfortable workplace at home or in any other convenient place to
work. Teleworking at home or in satellite offices, working part-time or full-time, means not only
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working at a distance. The current stage of telework development involves new approaches to the
structuring of working time and work space, as well as the emergence of ―flexible‖ or ―smart‖
employees in the organization [4].
Smart working is defined as a new management philosophy based on providing employees with
freedom and flexibility in choosing the place, time and tools used in their work, in conditions of
greater responsibility and accountability for results [5]. According to one of the latest studies by the
Polytechnic University of Milan, the number of smart workers is currently about 300 thousand people,
or 8% of Italian employees. More than 50% of large Italian enterprises use smart working, which leads
to a 15% increase in labour productivity [6]. The spread of smart working or agile work in Italy is
promoted by its legislation (along with telework and home-based work): Law No. 81 of May 22, 2017,
covering both the public and private sectors. It is believed that smart work allows using the workforce
more efficiently, giving employees more flexibility and autonomy. Smart working is defined in the
law as a mode of employment, determined by the parties in a written agreement. Work can be
organized on the basis of phases, cycles and goals without a predetermined working time and place,
while allowing the use of technological devices. Work may be carried out partly inside the enterprise
(on site), partly away from the enterprise, that is, outside the office [7].
Smart working has indisputable advantages over traditional forms of labour, with the following
most often identified in the research literature [8-14]:
- increasing employee freedom and autonomy due to better organization of work and personal time;
- saving money due to lower transportation costs for employees and consumables (electricity, etc.)
for companies;
- better work-life balance, which means improving the employee‘s life quality and satisfaction
which will contribute to increased commitment to the company;
- smart working compared to distance employment does not cause a sense of isolation among
employees, since the employee communicates with their colleagues and managers for most of their
working time, both offline and online.
However, the widespread use of smart working is associated with some concerns: new technologies
have great potential which can be used not only for the benefit of employees, but also to their
detriment. When used unwisely, it results in exploitation, burnout and the employers‘ obsessive
intervention in employees‘ privacy. That is why for the most effective implementation of smart
working, it is essential to thoroughly study the experience of employees involved in these working
conditions, in order to maximize its positive aspects and reduce the risks of worsening the physical
and psychosocial well-being of employees.
2. Methodology
The purpose of the research presented in the article is to study the potential of smart working to
improve labour organization, encourage workers to change and improve their well-being in the
workplace based on the experience of Italian and Russian enterprises.
Large enterprises operating in the field of information services, which introduced the management
philosophy of smart working in a number of their structural subdivisions, were chosen as research
objects. In order to identify the attitude of ―smart‖ employees to work, their perception of professional
activity (with a greater focus on goals rather than on individual tasks; on results, rather than on
following the established rules and procedures), to evaluate their work behaviour related to the way
they interact with colleagues, customers and other stakeholders (net-working, net-collaboration), the
authors analysed the experience of employees working in the conditions of smart working.
The method of case study or case analysis developed by the Chicago School of Sociology was used
for this research [15]. A case study is a type of monographic research, the object of which is one or
several cases, and the research objectives are giving a detailed description of cases, their study and
subsequent interpretation [16]. A case study allows analysing and understanding any processes taking
place in a society, both historical and economic, based on the understanding of social life and any
International science and technology conference "FarEastCon-2019"
IOP Conf. Series: Materials Science and Engineering 753 (2020) 042007
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doi:10.1088/1757-899X/753/4/042007
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phenomena, through the agents‘ perceptions, while the focus of the research is on the context of the
events [17]. A case study is a non-quantitative study using qualitative methods for collecting and
analysing information [18]. Case study provides researchers with great opportunities to study the
history of everyday life, gender and age characteristics of reality perception, as well as opportunities
for qualitative research in the field of labour economics and behavioural economics. There are various
approaches to the implementation of the case study method as part of an empirical study [19]. The
most common are three approaches: nomothetic, idiographic, and integrated. The authors used an
integrated approach based on the analysis of a single case to identify the correlations between the
phenomenon (the experience of the Russian and Italian enterprises of using smart working) and the
essence (the ideal model represented by the philosophy of smart working). Thus, the analysis takes
into account both the unique and the general, which allows getting closer to understanding the
universal mechanisms of smart working and identifying the main patterns of its implementation in the
Russian Federation and Italy. The model of scientific knowledge is represented by the classical
scheme: from the unique, through the individual to the universal (―unique — individual universal‖).
The implementation specifics of the case study method allow focusing on both an individual and a
group of individuals or a community using a variety of data collection and analysis technologies, such
as life stories, documents, narratives, interviews and participant observation [20]. In this research, case
study was used in conjunction with the narrative analysis of accounts based on actual employees‘
experience. The narrative approach helped ensure the collection of a significant amount of data needed
to achieve the study objectives, which would be difficult to obtain through quantitative research.
40 people took part in the narrative interview: 24 men and 16 women aged from 24 to 41. The
narrative interviews were carried out in stages: 1) determining (together with the HR department) the
number of narratives and the various profiles (segments) of employees to be involved in the study; 2)
conducting he interview and encouraging the construction of a narrative that meets the objectives of
the study; 3) recording the interview (audio); 4) transcribing the record; 5) categorizing and archiving
the narratives (number, basic emotions, characters, keywords).
3. Results
When analysing the employee's accounts in terms of plot structure, the following items can be
identified (table 1).
The analysis of the narratives by the respondents’ from Italian and Russian enterprises showed the
similarities in such plot elements as “Setting” and “Action”. Thus, the staff of both organizations
positively describe their experience of using the smart working technology, highlighting some
negative aspects, which do not affect the overall assessment of the technology, but rather are a “zone
of proximal development”. It should be noted that the smart personnel of both Italian and Russian
enterprises take a passive position, not feeling their responsibility for the successful implementation of
smart working, either because of their own external locus of control, or because there is no real
possibility to influence anything. Nevertheless, employees of the Italian company are discussing
possible improvements in the application of smart working technology with management, whereas the
employees of the Russian company limit their discussions to colleagues. This may indirectly indicate a
lack of properly organized feedback at the Russian enterprise, as well as a low level of trust in
management and even the presence of fear, or belief that “initiative is punishable.” The greatest
differences in the plot were revealed in the “Problem” and “Resolution” elements.
The comparative analysis clearly demonstrates that the smart working technology in the Italian
company is implemented more fully and correctly, and is closer to the ideal model. The problems
identified at the Russian enterprise indicate that the smart working technology is not fully
implemented and to a greater extent concerns the organization of working time and the “conditional”
advantage to perform a number of functional duties outside the office. All the Russian employees
interviewed positively perceived the smart working philosophy, while noting that the employer did not
provide them with the means for mobile communication and did not compensate their phone or
Internet expenses they had to bear when working outside the office. In addition, labour relations at the
International science and technology conference "FarEastCon-2019"
IOP Conf. Series: Materials Science and Engineering 753 (2020) 042007
IOP Publishing
doi:10.1088/1757-899X/753/4/042007
4
Russian enterprise are built on the basis of an informal agreement, in the absence of any legislative
framework describing the specifics of work organization in the smart working mode. None of the
narratives received from the employees of the Russian enterprise described any activities aimed at
shaping the values and culture (personal and organizational) necessary for the development of the
management philosophy under study. Some difficulties in the relationships between employees
working in the traditional way and those using smart working are probably due to this.
Table 1. Analysing the plot structure of the narratives.
Plot structure
element
Analysis of Italian respondents’
narratives
Characters
narrator, colleagues, narrators' work
group VS work teams from other
company’s departments, direct managers,
responsible for smart working experiment
(HR function), other companies (e.g. HP)
and employees of other companies,
narrators' company
Setting
generally positive experience but with
some critical points: a large number of
constraints and difficulties in
management and planning
Problem
- limitation of time (number of days
available, mandatory day distribution
(home / satellite office));
- no changes in the general office layout;
- problems with satellite offices (limited
availability of desks, geographic
coverage (not all offices are satellites));
- insufficient IT management support
(desk reservation);
- reduction of welfare services (no meal
vouchers when you work from home);
- other difficulties and constraints
(difficult to plan, stressful due to rules to
be respected)
Action
narrators took no special actions except
those that can be defined as discussion of
the initiative with colleagues and direct
managers
Resolution
- improve the smart working reservation
system;
- increase time and places available;
- make all the work stations smart (no
longer fixed / assigned location)
4. Conclusion
The following conclusion should be made: in order to achieve higher effectiveness of smart working
in accordance with the strategic objectives set, it is necessary to:
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doi:10.1088/1757-899X/753/4/042007
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- develop a set of actions aimed at changing / improving the functioning of each smart working lever
(time, place, tools and technologies, organization of internal space, and culture);
- analyse the work processes and their segmentation into those that are more suitable and effective
when implemented in a traditional workplace (meetings, negotiations, group work) and those that can
be effectively performed in a remote mode (activities requiring concentration and attention, individual
work);
- implement a targeted communication policy on the part of the enterprise to promote understanding
and raise awareness of the philosophy of smart working by employees and their managers through
training sessions, seminars, and interaction between different stakeholders. Therefore, the need arises
to encourage proactive behaviour in employees and raise their awareness that they can be the agents in
the transformation of the enterprise.
The absence of legislation in Russia regulating labour relations in a smart working environment
makes for the fact that the organization of smart personnel’s labour is based solely on oral agreements
between the employer and employees. It should also be noted that not all employee categories can use
smart working to the same extent (qualitatively and quantitatively), which can create certain
difficulties in business and informal communication between employees, contributing to the loss of
connection within the team, and reduce the smart workers’ ability to meet their basic social needs.
Thus, the introduction of smart working in the Russian context is fraught with the risk of increased
social pollution that has an adverse effect on well-being.
5. References
[1] Pfeffer J 2010 Building Sustainable Organizations: The Human Factor Academy of management
perspectives vol 24(1) pp 3445
[2] Standing G 2014 Understanding the Precariat through Labour and Work Development and
change vol 45(5) pp 963980
[3] Fyodorova A, Katashinskikh V and Dvorakova Z 2016 Precarious employment relations as a
factor of social pollution R-Economy vol. 2(3) pp 335343
[4] Stratigea A and Giaoutzi M 2000 Teleworking and virtual organization in the urban and
regional context Geography vol 14 pp 331357
[5] Osservatorio Smart Working 2019 SMART WORKING Cos'è, perché è importante e come
praticarlo (Politecnico di Milano) https://blog.osservatori.net/it_it/smart-working-cos-e-come-
funziona-in-italia
[6] Osservatorio Smart Wokring 2018 Smart Working: una rivoluzione da non fermare (Politecnico
di Milano) p 165
[7] L 22 maggio 2017 n 81 Misure per la tutela del lavoro autonomo non imprenditoriale e misure
volte a favorire l'articolazione flessibile nei tempi e nei luoghi del lavoro subordinato (Gazz.
Uff. 13 giugno 2017 n 135)
[8] Chiaro G, Prati G and Zocca M 2015 Smart working: dal lavoro flessibile al lavoro
agile Sociologia del lavoro p 6987
[9] Botteri T and Cremonesi G 2016 Smart working & smart workers Guida per gestire e
valorizzare i nuovi nomadi. FrancoAngeli pp 1120
[10] McEwan AM 2016 Smart working: Creating the next wave (Routledge) p 1288
[11] Wheatley D 2017 Employee satisfaction and use of flexible working arrangements Work,
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[12] Menshikova M 2018 Changes in work organisation in the framework of digital transformation
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[13] Torre T and Sarti D 2018 Into Smart Work Practices: Which Challenges for the HR
Department? Working in Digital and Smart Organizations (Palgrave Macmillan, Cham) pp
249275
[14] Piciocchi P, Bassano C, Pietronudo MC and Spohrer JC 2019 Digital Workers in Service
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Systems: Challenges and Opportunities. Handbook of Service Science vol II (Springer, Cham)
pp 409432
[15] Park RE and Burgess EW 1924 Introduction to the Science of Sociology vol 574 (Chicago:
University of Chicago Press) p 507
[16] Vorobyova OV, Repina LP, Lubsky AV, Mazur LN, Rumyantseva MF and Chubaryan AO
2016 Theory and methodology of historical science (Terminology dictionary) p 543
[17] Kozina I 1995 Features of the case-study strategy in the research of industrial relations at
industrial enterprises Sociology: methodology, methods, mathematical models vol 5 p 6
[18] Baxter P and Jack S 2008 Qualitative case study methodology: Study design and
implementation for novice researchers The qualitative report vol 13(4) pp 544559
[19] Kiblitskaya MV and Masalkov IK 2003 Methodology and design of case study research
(International University of Business and Management) p 287
[20] Yin RK 2017 Case study research and applications: Design and methods (Sage publications) p
352
Acknowledgments
This work was supported by Act 211 Government of the Russian Federation, contract
02.A03.21.0006; Russian Foundation for Basic Research (RFBR) under Grant № 19-010-00705
‗Development of tools for assessing the impact of social pollution of labour relations on the
employees' well-being in a digital economy‘.
... The 4.0 office has no walls or addresses: all you need is a smartphone, an internet connection, and an efficient system of corporate collaborative software to work from anywhere, without interrupting the flow of information [13]. Smart Working, in fact, needs technologies to make its practices and models concrete, but at the same time it represents a great lever for a radical digitization of the company [14]. We cannot speak of smart working if the company has not first understood the importance of digitalization not only of processes, but also and above all in the mentality of employees. ...
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