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Working from home isn't smart enough

For two years now, the term Smart Working has become commonly used in practically every context (especially in Italy, where we use the term erroneously). But are we sure it's the correct term for what we're doing?

I've always been curious about language. In Italy, in particular since the pandemic broke out, the term Smart Working has been constantly used, to actually indicate what in English speaking countries is more correctly defined Working from Home (or the less frequently used teleworking), since the term Smart would imply a whole series of factors that do not necessarily fall within the case of simple remote work.

Ok, let's see those factors

During the pandemic I read dozens and dozens of articles on the subject and, more generally, on productivity. The promise of everyone working happily from home and spending less time commuting is obviously tempting, at least for the vast majority of white-collar jobs, a privileged niche, one might think. But there's a catch...

The problem that many have failed to understand, especially at the beginning (and again, especially in Italy), is that this change would be a major upheaval. According to a simple Google search it can be learned that the average size of Italians' residence is about 81sqm, one of the smallest size among developed countries. Even with this data alone, it's clear how complex it can be to impose to work from home. But we can go deeper considering the number of members of the average Italian family. Well, it's 2.3 people. Hence, it means that each person has 35 square meters available. Enough to set up a home studio. But very few if we consider that living spaces must also be placed on that surface.

The average size of Italians' residence is about 81sqm, one of the smallest size among developed countries

The other problem with so-called smart work is how to measure performance. The classical definition of productivity is given by the notion of quantity. In other words, increasing the quantity of goods produced using less and less time means increasing productivity. Anyway this definition was fine in the context of industrial production, much less for the tertiary sector and even less for a tertiary niche that is related to creativity. In these cases it is not so much the quantity that defines the product, but its quality. In the engineering and architectural services sector, there is still too much attachment to the mistaken belief that a good employee is all the more productive the more hours he spends at his desk. Thus, in the Great Shift caused by working from home due to the pandemic, too often the same factor has been claimed to be measured.

Pearl Jam, Do the Evolution, 1998

Instead, it's desirable that we learn to think more in terms of Project Management.

Many observers argue that at least some elements of this new approach to work will remain even when the pandemic will no longer be a problem.

In the faculties of architecture there are two topics that are absolutely not dealt with and that are in some way related. One is the economic aspect, the other the managerial aspect. Obviously you can decide to tackle specific post-graduate masters to improve this knowledge, but I think that the time has come to introduce these subjects in the standard degree course. The pandemic, after all, is an accelerator of change. And it has become evident, as in the case of remote job management, that scheduling and job assignment skills are even more fundamental.

Two tools that I have studied and adored in the last year and which I still use today are Trello and Notion.

I started using Trello earlier and it actually remains more efficient as a pure Kanban tool. Especially since the mobile version is remarkably identical to the desktop one, very fast and very reliable, and with a very steep learning curve, which is always appreciated when you have to convince other people to use a new tool.

But then I tried to experiment, like many others, with the Notion startup. An "all in one" workspace, actually very convenient for bringing together both the project management part and the part relating to the rules and procedures that are usually used. Sooner or later I'll have to make a video of how I'm using it, but it's still too much in the WIP phase. In the meantime, just take a peek at the main dashboard.

The markdown approach is really powerful, and since I'm an architect, I couldn't help but notice the cleanliness of the interface. In my case, graphic beauty can be absolutely decisive for choosing a product ... hello, Steve Jobs!

Hope you enjoyed and... let's have a healthy workplace! Both physical and digital.


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