An interesting chat with the Tuscan architect Daniele Canuti, interior designer with a modern and creative approach and a long term experience on a wide range of Smart Office projects.
With him we have clarified some key concepts on Smart Working, outlining some future scenarios for this ever-evolving world ...
-In the last years we have heard more and more often the notion of "Smart Working" in the common language, but with different meanings: flexible work, work from home, work in mobility. From your point of view, what is the most correct definition of this concept?
Certainly, the definition of "Flexible workk" can provide an overall picture of what is the phenomenon of Smart Working, which is not only "working from home" but a much wider and more articulated concept. The word "flexible" gives to this concept the dynamism that characterizes it. It means the possibility to arrange the work place and time, as well as to balance the private and professional life (Work-Life Balance).
-The "nomadic" workers are able to carry out their tasks even in mobility. What is the company premises function inside this scenario?
Inside a company there could be three different types of workers: who can work outside the office, who mainly work outside the office (for exemple the sellers) and who can’t work outside the office. So the company premises, is not going the lose neither its value nor its importance, on the contrary, through an attentive requalification of the environments, it could even improve its appeal. Innovative layouts, out of the schemes, combined with new types of furnishings, so far unused in the office, give the flexible employees the ability to find their ideal workstation in the workplace and the company to have a new and dynamic "look" that will bring considerable benefits in terms of visibility and interest. The company headquarters changes radically its appearance. It moves from a multitude of rooms, offices and desks to something more comfortable, colorful and not standardized. The "underused" desks leave space for shared work desks, high-back sofas and armchairs or multifunctional relax areas in large open spaces that stimulate the sharing practises and the teamwork. In my opinion, Smart Working doesn’t mean the "desertification" of the workplace, but a concrete opportunity for the company to change its way of being, to conceive the spaces and the way to work, using the offices as a vehicle to express its radical change.
-In the panorama of the Italian companies, currently, what is the situation about the adoption of furnishings solutions suitable for Smart Working?
Italy, compared to other European countries, such as Denmark, Great Britain and Germany, is lagging behind. 2016 was the turning year for Italy. Our Country has begun to perceive the potential benefits, that Smart Working could bring to the companies and to the employees, also thanks to the recent decree of law, moving from an "utopia" to a real growth. The big Italian companies are riding the wave of this new concept since many years, recording a rise of 30% of structured Smart Working project, while SMEs are delaying a bit but they begin to see the first positive steps. The mentality change is strong: If on one hand, in Italy, we often find a "family-style" management - which is handed down from father to son and is linked to a policy of absolute control of the employees - on the other we find workers with deep-rooted habits such as the personalization of their own desk or predisposition for the use of new technologies, essential to the pursuit of their work. According to most recent datas of Politecnico di Milano there are about 250,000 "Smart" workers in Italy but, in my opinion, this number is expected to grow quickly with the arrival of the new employees generations, that grew up dipped in a technological environment, used to move and being citizens of the world.
-You have closely followed many important projects inside companies that are interested in modifying their own workplace layouts, approaching to Smart Office world: from your point of view, what are the first steps that a company needs to undertake to set up a Smart environment Working?
The first and most important step to take for a company is to change the mindset. On one hand, the management must be enterprising and trusts the employee, favoring the teamwork and without implementing a policy of control but empowering them through precise goals. On the other hand, the employee will have to be ready to break away from all the old habits, with various job positions and ready to adapt to the new trends. The second fundamental step for an enterprise is to talk to their employees and ask them, perhaps through a simple anonymous questionnaire, what are their impressions, needs, habits or demands. This "awareness" will then lead to a radical change in what is the working environment…
Concretely the break areas will move from the under-stair to become an important meeting point, where people can work, discuss or have a meeting , as well as having a coffee. The desks will be standardize in colour and size, and placed in open spaces with meeting areas with integrated video conference and remote booking systems.
-In addition to space saving and real estate reduction, what are the advantages of switching to Smart Office?
Certainly Real Estate Savings is one of the key points of Smart Working, but I don’t see it as a decisive reason in the Italian scenario. Often when we meet our customers, that are also the owner of the building, they are not interested in saving space. As already mentioned, the trend is to organize the offices in open spaces. This solution is convenient in terms of light, air-conditioning and electricity saving.
Another key point in Smart working is the increase in employee productivity and satisfaction. A happy worker is certainly more productive. Increasing revenue and lowering costs make it more useful in company cash registers, that is math.