Inside smart working: Welcome to the third millennium


An implicit factor in the concept of smart working is the ability to be flexible, both on the part of the worker and on the company. This implies in turn understanding the extent of the change and taking responsibility for it. To allow the third millennium to make its way, it is necessary to think beyond the challenges of the moment, acquiring skills, leaving one's comfort zone and approaching the future with an open mind. The first of the best practices of this new world? Optimizing time and space, reconciling professional and personal life. How to be smart?

Best practices for remote working: optimizing time, space and life needs

Welcome to the third millennium, an era to which the early 1920s officially throwed open the doors, supported by the relentless pace of technology and some unforeseen (first of all, the pandemic crisis). The pace of technological development and the new lifestyles consolidated since March 2020 has forced companies and workers to change gear. Traffic, offices and group meetings gave way to silence, dedicated spaces and individual work. Two separate worlds, each with pros and cons which, precisely for this reason, can draw a lot from each other. We deepen the topic with Giovanna Pensalfine, Head of HR, Societe Generale Securities Services (SGSS) in Italy.

We talked about it a lot, we practiced it a lot: what lies behind smart working?

With the outbreak of the pandemic, we discovered several possibilities. We experienced the extent of remote working, a disruptive factor, which gave us the opportunity to understand that work is not just a physical place, but also bonds, personal and professional enrichment.

As Societe Generale group in Italy, we tested smart working even before the pandemic. Starting from 2018, we began to notice the well-being of the workers testing the alternation between smart and physical presence: flexibility puts people at ease.

The evolution towards a remote future has certainly not been easy: we are talking about 'agreement' and employee 'engagement'. How to motivate a smart worker and which are the main needs to be met?

Smart ways of working offered the opportunity to find a new 'agreement' with collaborators, capable of balancing work and private life, without creating inefficiencies. In concrete terms, smart working removes the physical control of the employer, whilst increasing the responsibility of the individual. It is all about 'engagement', direct involvement and listening.

Here, however, things get complicated. The real challenge will be to be able to reconcile the ability to work between teams partly with physical presence and partly remotely. When we talk about 'New Ways of Working' we mean everything that comes with being smart: how information circulates, what protection systems are adopted or how work groups are organized. The reason for this last point is simple: relationships create new ideas.

We are talking about a 'new mindset', which, however, has also to be seen in the physical context. From a practical point of view, how do you handle the management of workspaces?

Adopting a 'new mindset' in the world of work implies reorganising spaces. As a company, we revised the layout of our offices, arranging large spaces in the rooms where you can meet even just to share a coffee, and smaller meeting rooms, some even single-use ones. Workers going to the office must have the opportunity to find each other, collaborate and interact, but must also be able to choose to carve out their own space by themselves, as it happens remotely. I believe that the keywords of the third millennium are flexibility, responsibility and inclusion, three values on which we always built our organizational model.

What is the role of company training programmes and how do you balance the need for hard and soft skills?

We like to define the training we offer as 'Mindful', or the idea of an awareness offering a good balance between hard and soft skills. Even in this case, the pandemic crisis left its mark: from face-to-face training we moved on to a 100% digital training, changing the method of using the services, but not their quality. Based on the experience, we came to a hybrid training model, combining physical and remote activities through the bank's training platform. It should be noted that before the pandemic, foreign languages were among the most requested topics, now at the top we find the use of applications.

Digitalisation therefore remains a central topic...

Exactly. Digitalisation means having the technological ability to support new organisational models, a feature on which SGSS has been standing out for years. Although starting from a good level of corporate digitalisation, we had an acceleration and an expansion of the necessary investments. It will be the same in the future because the goal is to continue growing along this path.

How do you integrate inclusion and diversity issues into your business model?

We thought about the issue of corporate inclusion by taking a further step, or by applying diversity to the different phases/needs of workers. Let's start with a practical case. A critical period for female workers is maternity: during maternity, the woman has to deal with the issue of the absence from work for several months, and to find herself on her return in an environment that may not be what she left. Similarly, a new management may find it difficult to manage a newly returned resource they know little about. We have therefore analysed cases and people introducing a process of ongoing dialogue and support. This is just an example, but an explanatory one of our way of working. On the subject of Diversity, at the centre of public opinion these days we find the "salary gap" which we consider a starting point and not an arrival point: in fact, we are committed to offering fair salaries but also commensurate with the needs of each worker.

And again, inclusion does not mean facilitating someone at the others expense but enriching the common process of growth through different points of view, making people feel engaged and involved for their value. If people grow, the company grows.


Be flexible – It is not just the place: it is the bonds, the union of the personal and professional sphere
Be engaged – Actively engaging means giving and having more, today and in the long term
Be mindful – It is the idea of full mental awareness, which combines hard and soft skills
Be trained – A continuous and adaptive training allows you to progress beyond difficulties
Be diverse – Diversity is enriching without taking away, benefiting from the different points of view
Be inclusive – Feeling and making people feel at ease makes the individual and the company grow

Article published in We Wealth on July 19th, 2021.