Smart Working: the experimentation in Banco Popolare

Case history

Smart Working, well known as Agile Working or Flexible Working, is continuing its overwhelming run in the future of work, despite it is not well defined from a regulative perspective. This fast coverage happens, in most cases, due to the approval, both from managers and employees. In fact, Smart Working permits to reach a wide range of positive results, such as: welfare improvement, an increase in work-life balance and productivity.


The process to shape and implement this organizational change should not be taken for granted. Thus, it is strongly recommended to analyze the status quo, the competences and the specific instruments needed to achieve the desired success. 

To make tangible what was argued above we would like to introduce the experience of a company, Banco Popolare, who with Variazioni has had the pleasure to support the Smart Working journey.

Company profile 

Banco Popolare is one of the leading banking groups in Italy, with over 17,000 employees and 1,800 branches in the area. In January 2015, as part of the Human Resources Department, it was created the Office for Equal Opportunities and Work Life Balance. Responsible for the latter is Dr. Barbara Marin who has personally followed the Smart Working project.


Where the Smart Working interest has started? 

The social and economic transformations - such as the upside down of the demographic pyramid, the job security, the greater instability of families and the continued reduction of public expenditure in terms of welfare - have led to the crisis of social protection models. The employees' reward practices are reinventing themselves: besides to the monetary wage is catching on the "social wage". The latter includes intangible factors, which lead to a clear well-being improvement. Companies can thus help to address the new and old social needs by rewarding employees with a wide range of personal services and support services for their families to improve and sustain the conciliation between work and private life. The awareness of all these reasons has led Banco Popolare to make a strategic and innovative choice to strengthen welfare solutions, by realizing activities for their employees' well-being, according to a concept of welfare development: Welfare 2.0. For this purpose an important initiative was put in practice: the realization of a Smart Working solution. This initiative has implied a new organizational model: work becomes untied from physical presence in the office. 


Moreover, work becomes based on concepts of autonomy, trust, accountability and this approach creates clear benefits for people, for the company and for the environment. To realize this project Banco Popolare has also chosen to join the Smart Companies, a network made by 6 companies based in Bergamo. For the first time in Italy was launched a shared Smart Working experimentation, carrying multiple benefits. In particular, the first element of interest while introducing Smart Working is the inclination of the top management to innovative practices. Moreover, it should be stressed the foresight capability of the group with respect to two main topic. First of all, Smart Working had not (and still has not) a relevant legislation. 


Secondly, in a sector such as banking is not easy to realize this practice. In fact, there is a relevant level of criticality linked to cyber security, with respect client's data. In regard to this, Barbara Marin has stated: "Smart Working allows concrete to improve the quality of the employees' life in several vantage point: more time for themselves and their families, for their hobbies, a reduction in mobility costs, substantial decrease in stress and fatigue, cost savings, more comfortable working environment, higher concentration, a possibility for nutrition care. People make a company's success and the people who are at ease in the company are also more motivated and often more productive. When people perceive that the attention towards them is always alive, it is the best way to enhance their potential and to increase the employees' engagement. Last but not least, it reduces the environmental impact caused by commuting. "


The Smart Working implementation process

As mentioned above, the Smart Working strategy implementation cannot be improvised, because the risks of getting adverse effects, with respect to the expected ones, should not be underestimated. This may happens because the Smart Working introduction in the company means adopting new ways of organizing the working times and spaces. Suffice it to say, a manager, or a working-group team leader, used to communicate directly, face-to-face with his staff every day in the company. On the other hand it may be presented an employee, which live the office as a single workplace in his modus operandi. It is clear how is necessary to guide with your hand this process, in a structured path, both for managers and for future smart worker so that they can fully understand the opportunities and risks of the Smart Working and thus, getting the full potential from this experience.


In particular, in Banco Popolare, which was aware of this requirement, two tools have been created ad hoc by Variazioni S.r.l:

  • Smart Working Training 
  • Smart Working Impact 


Smart Working Training is a useful tool to interact with the Smart Working by promoting the awareness in the managers and the future smart workers. Variazioni defines it as an enabler of soft skills consistent with the Smart Working introduction in the company and thus the organizational changes. The various training programs are designed differently in relation to the organizational needs, as well as the roles or business sectors. In fact, different paths were implemented for different targets of smart workers - the people directly involved in the testing of this new way of working - as well as for managers of smart workers. In particular, the latter are called to put in place new leadership styles that can activate motivational stimuli among colleagues, the skills needed to deal with distance cooperation, goal setting and working by objectives, the ability to induce a correct adoption of available technologies as well as to master the performance evaluation tools.


In Banco Popolare, Smart Working Training has been a key element for the success of the project, and it was considered as a fundamental step for the actors' participation in the experimentation. To go more into details, there were realised days of classroom training for smart worker and their manager that allowed to introduce the new smart business logic, to deepen remote usage instruments and to learn all the fundamental aspects regarding organizational safety. Managers' training has consisted in the reorganization of the key assets and activities by objectives and the important topics of shared trust and delegation. On the other hand, smart workers have instead been trained about autonomy and the sense of responsibility to achieve results.


"The culture - corporate values, communication, information, training and development especially - sets the foundation for the organizational change in the long run, especially when it is redesigned a new way of working which breaks the traditional paradigms of hierarchy and control given by the constant and physical presence in the office. " said Barbara Marin.


After the experimentation has started, in order to assess the impacts given by Smart Working introduction, it was used the Smart Working Impact survey, which provides to the company clear feedbacks and quantifiable KPIs, such as:


Time saved in travel

How time saved was reinvested 

Generated savings 

Personal and professional satisfaction level (relationships on the workplace) 

Objectives achievements 

Productivity level increase 


Smart Working Impact is claimed by a wide range of different companies, because it allows to realise a clear cost-benefit analysis. Here below some of the most interesting findings from the Smart Working Impact taken in Banco Popolare over a year of experimentation are presented. Please note that data are expressed as an average for a smart worker: 

  • 30% of the working days were taken in Smart Working 
  • 5280 km to get to the office were not covered (equal to A / R Milan-Tel Aviv)
  • Savings in fuel 564 € (average 15km / l, fuel cost 1.60 euro)
  • Avoided CO2 emissions equivalent to 66 new-planted trees
  • 18 working days were gained in terms of time saved. 



Barbara Marin commented on the Smart Impact Survey results: "The experimentation has amply demonstrated the goodness of the Smart Working model in Banco Popolare, it has allowed us to acquire the necessary know-how and to map the activities consistent with remote working. Our future goal is to make the Smart Working a management tool available to all our employees".

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Smart Working Projects by Variazioni Srl

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