The emergency created by the spread of Covid-19 marked a turning point because of all the implications and consequences it had: people’s lives came to a standstill, as did all the activities that each of us is used to participating in every day. The economies of all affected countries were also seriously impacted: from small businesses to large companies, everyone had to deal with the effects of an event that had unpredictable effects.
If the lockdown was an essential measure to contain the pandemic and keep people safe by keeping them at home, businesses also had to respond quickly to governmental directives, searching for solutions in order not to paralyse the country and guarantee the continuity of services, particularly of essential ones such as the supply of electrical energy.
In this context, Enel intervened in a timely manner – on the one hand with measures that would guarantee the safety of employees who work every day to ensure there is a normal flow of electricity into people’s homes, and on the other hand enabling employees to smart work, from their own homes – this applied to over 37.000 people in 30 countries where the Enel group has a presence.
This operation, in real time and on a global scale, was made possible by the fact that Enel had already launched a smart working programme in 2016 in Italy, which had gradually been extended to the global level, and which in 2019 already saw 17.000 employees globally smart working one day a week; it was also made possible by the effects of the imposing technological transformation that the group launched in 2014, integrating the digitalisation of processes into the company’s internal strategy. It was a real technological revolution, the result of foresight and investments that put Enel in the position of being the first public utility service company that worked completely through cloud computing, focused on its own employees’ technological inclusion and on preventing external cyber security attacks.
However, for Enel, activating such widespread smart working did not only mean making available to employees the essential tools they needed to work from home and to organise their work this way. It also meant supporting employees during this very delicate phase with multiple initiatives that were dedicated to creating a new work culture that would enable them to manage their time better and support the wellbeing of employees and their families.
All the initiatives that were launched fit within the framework of #iolavorodacasa (#iworkfromhome), which was created ad hoc and made available to all employees through an internal training platform called eDucation. The programme has three sections: ‘Working together’, with prompts and instructions for how to best manage working remotely and make the most of all the digital tools at employees’ disposal; ‘Staying informed’, which helped users get to know and understand the global context and access advice on how to manage the stress tied to the Covid-19 situation; and ‘Regenerate’, which proposed activities to maintain employees’ and their families’ wellbeing at home, as well.
#iolavorodacasa (#iworkfromhome) was launched during the first few days of the lockdown and was progressively enriched over time with a large amount of content such as, for example, training courses on using the main communication platforms and refining digital technology skills; coaching sessions on how to manage priorities and communication with managers, yoga courses; online meetings with directors to share ideas and feelings in this complicated context; fitness classes that were held online or through apps, advice on reorganising family spaces with children in order to accommodate new daily routines; activities and readings for children, videos with reading recommendations, etc.
And while there is no doubt regarding the central importance of technology in people’s lives right now, without which it would not have been possible to work or maintain social relationships, at Enel there is an equally heightened awareness of the importance of technology in protecting wellbeing and work-life balance. With this particular focus, we developed the #iolavoroBenedacasa (#iworkWellfromhome) manifesto, which was shared with some of the other countries that the group has a presence in to share some simple ways to manage and organise employees’ time in ways that allow them to be efficient at work while at the same time safeguarding their own wellbeing and work-life balance.
Support for employees manifested through other supportive initiatives to protect employees’ health. Enel also entered into a trade union agreement to protect salary continuity for those employees whose work could not be done remotely, and who were asked to stay available at home. The agreement defined a solidarity system through which all employees could choose to donate one or more days of their annual leave to colleagues who were affected by the interruption of activities. It was the first initiative of its kind and paved the way for similar experiences for other companies in different sectors. By the end of May, the number of people who had chosen to participate had far exceeded expectations, which demonstrates that this emergency increased the spirit of closeness between people. To further protect employees’ health,, the group took out an insurance policy that covered over 68.000 employees all over the world; an ad hoc solution to meet the needs of the Enel group and a completely unique development: it was in fact the first company insurance in the world to cover cases of Covid-19 contagion.
To summarise, it was possible to manage this emergency thanks to the organisation’s resilience and the spirit of solidarity and sense of belonging of the people involved, which has seen technology become a decisive element for guaranteeing inclusion and maintaining a good rapport between all of the company’s employees. The pandemic forced us all to stop, to review our habits and to reinvent our everyday lives. This experience, however, has also given us an opportunity to discover how working remotely can not only be a valid alternative to traditional ways of working but also an innovative way of re-thinking our current work processes and moving towards an organisational model that is increasingly based on the values of responsibility and trust.
To be able to walk this path, made of innovation and change, it will be essential to devise resilient and inclusive systems for digitalisation that are capable of offering solutions and tools that put people in the best possible position to work, but also to enable a profound evolution in our organisational culture that aims to overcome the aspect of control and instead makes space for trust and accountability.
PUBLISHED ARTICLE IN DIVERCITY VIII, SEPTEMBER 2020