Remote Working or Plato’s Cave? The importance of an effective HR strategy

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by Federico Manfredi – Forbes, October 23 2020

Remote working has been at the centre of media attention for months, becoming a matter of discussion across almost all industrial and professional areas of the country. Everyone has had the opportunity to experience and personally judge these new, more or less smart ways of working. These days, however, the need for a new and more detached approach is imposing itself on the market. In fact, what was created as an emergency measure, with the pandemic “second wave” and consequent provisions of the Dpcm of 18 October 2020, what is actually taking shape is a revolution destined to stabilise. The difference on an organisational-business level with respect to the “first wave” is evident. Since in the current context it is no longer necessary to temporarily enforce a national lockdown, it’s possible to permanently implement a real new way of carrying out the job.

The repercussions on company functions therefore have a completely different and more stable scope. The stakes are precisely the new normal, that employees – once they leave their offices – will find themselves inside of their homes. This is a new normality which – if not regulated and supervised – risks generating a long-term spiral of negative value, due to the fact that the activities of individuals, if not correctly placed in a wider social framework, risk becoming inefficient sub- optimisations. Thus, behavioural science has long shown that the performance of individual employees, albeit brilliant, if deprived of the context and work coordination previously ensured by presence in the office, can take on a highly uneconomical significance for the company at an aggregate level. This, not only in view of the economic result, but above all in the enhancement of the skills and know-how of the staff. In fact, for an efficient learning of these it is essential that the staff carry out their duties in the presence of other employees, according to the dynamics of the now well-known learning by doing, thus allowing the sharing and development among workers of the intellectual assets and knowledge of the company. There is a lot of scientific evidence in this regard, including the concept of the zone of proximal development where individual skills increase more in the presence of colleagues. Therefore, regardless of the communication methods, it is essential for the survival of the company that the new ways of rendering remote work performance do not focus exclusively on the determination and control of individual tasks and objectives, but have aggregation as the primary purpose of the same in the broadest terms of sociality and sustainability. Otherwise, the risk is that workers finding themselves isolated without suitable inter-communicative processes, leave the office to find an economically and humanly unsatisfactory Plato’s cave in their own homes.

The challenge for companies and professionals is, therefore, knowing how to “ferry” sociality and the most beneficial dynamics of physical intersubjective interactions on this new digital level. Management and HR have, on one hand, the responsibility of building a new behavioural architecture for smart workers that, by replacing the office with a new sociality, rides the thrust of digital work to obtain maximum benefit. The role of the labour lawyer, on the other hand, makes it possible to provide fundamental support for management decisions. In transferring relationships from the physical to the digital level, the lawyer can in fact offer his assistance in the design and implementation phase of new HR strategies, being able to effectively overcome the obstacles and legal challenges that these innovations inevitably bring with them.

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