Ten questions for Giovanna Bellezza, Industrial Relations Manager for Gruppo TIM

How many employees does TIM have and how are they distributed in Italy and abroad?

We are quite a large organisation: today there are circa 43.000 employees in Italy and around 9.600 employees in Brazil, our largest branch abroad.

When and how did TIM begin smart working? How many employees initially tried it and to how many was it then extended?

TIM is a company that offers digital services, so smart working was not new to us: we have been offering our clients – businesses and the public sector – the products and application services that make it possible for some time, and it seemed only right to us to offer smart working to our own employees first.

It began in 2016 with a long experimentation phase that initially involved 19.000 employees, which provided excellent results in terms of productivity and employee satisfaction. For this reason, since 2019, working remotely has been regulated by a trade union agreement and has become a structural, integral part of our way of working. Before the pandemic, 21.000 employees could choose to work from home or from another branch of the company – equipped with designated rooms for smart working – once a week, with very flexible working hours and the opportunity to organise their daily activities autonomously.

How did your working practices change during the Covid-19 emergency?

Even though working remotely was already part of our DNA, there had never been quite so many of us working from home, particularly at the same time and for so long. We reacted very quickly during the emergency, enabling smart working for activities that until that moment had not been considered for remote working, such as Customer Care. Today, around 36.000 employees of Gruppo TIM in Italy and 7.500 employees in Brazil are working from their own homes every day. This emergency eliminated the last technological and cultural barriers that limited access to remote working for many professions and which is pushing us to search for new and broader ways of being flexible about performing at work.

So from the technological point of view, the company was already ready to implement smart working. What about from a cultural point of view?

Overall, yes, though in a large company there are always many different perspectives. Before the pandemic we had begun surveying all managers on their views on this way of working and the responses were positive, a sign that the cultural distance was slowly decreasing. The healthcare emergency then accelerated this phenomenon and created greater awareness of the efficacy – and limits – of working like this.

The Covid-19 emergency, along with all the suffering it caused, brought with it greater awareness regarding smart working: it’s possible.

What suggestions/recommendations do you have for those (companies and workers alike) who remain resistant to using/implementing this way of working, which is so inclusive?

What we experienced over the last few months, precisely because it was so unexpected and extreme, has in my opinion convinced many sceptics: if before working remotely was considered a concession that the company made to individuals in order to allow them to create a better balance between their professional and private lives, today it has become a way of guaranteeing operational continuity, a contribution to environmentally sustainable practices, and in relation specifically to the last few months, a way of protecting the health and economy of this entire country.

Now is the time to stop thinking in terms of the emergency and start finding new organisational models that value flexibility. The key word, in this phase, is balance: there is no one-size-fits-all solution here, every organisation will have to find its own formula for balancing working in person and remotely in order to find an equilibrium between autonomy and personal empowerment and the necessary (and pleasant) moments of socialising and sharing.

There are many different types of remote working at TIM for different ‘categories’ of employees (such as pregnant employees, new parents, employees returning after lengthy sick leave, etc.). Could you tell us a bit about that?

Our agreement on smart working already included the possibility of working remotely several days a week for employees with particular needs. Equal opportunities also means giving employees the opportunity to adopt alternative measures to shorten the distance between people, where necessary. For this reason, we provide greater flexibility to those who have greater difficulty or different needs.

Obviously during the pandemic smart working was and continues to be a fundamental tool for protecting all employees’ health, especially that of those who are immunocompromised and are inevitably more vulnerable to the virus, as well as to accommodate families.

TIM works in the telecommunications sector and during the Covid-19 emergency, being able to communicate and interact with others was of fundamental importance, at the same level as the services offered by hospitals and health facilities. This is why it’s a company that many looked to, and which has considerable critical mass. This brings great responsibility with it.

How is TIM committed to being an inclusive company, for both its employees and its clients?

Our commitment is based on the idea that being an inclusive company – capable of taking care of its own people as well as creating solutions that put everyone in the position to give their best – is the basis of economic and social sustainability and the organisational wellbeing of all and therefore of performance. Our programmes for inclusion and valuing diversity, which have been ongoing since 2009 and have always been based on listening to people, foresee specific policies for disability management, communicating with deaf colleagues, for supporting maternity and paternity leave, for developing female leadership and for providing access to all types of families, be they traditional or not, in benefits and services. We are proud to be able to say that over the course of the last ten years we have achieved many positive results. The principal achievement has been that in 2018 and 2019, TIM reached sixth place globally in the Thomson Reuters Diversity & Inclusion Index – it was both the highest-ranked Italian company and telecommunications company.

During this new ‘phase’ (it’s unclear whether it’s a new start or a period of stasis) for everyone, how is TIM juggling the needs of its employees with the obvious needs of Gruppo TIM to keep your business strong?

First, by communicating and sharing: working remotely implies the risk of individuals feeling isolated. It is necessary, now more than ever, to frequently and mindfully use all the communication tools that are available to the company, from our intranet to the platforms that enable us to meet and share documents, so that nobody feels excluded.

Furthermore, there is a plan for every employee to have health insurance in case they are infected and hospitalised for treatment of Covid-19, and to support their families during such a difficult situation, they would be paid several months’ worth of an advance on their salary.

We have decided to take this and other actions to show our solidarity with our employees and to be as close to them as possible, even at a distance.

PUBLISHED ARTICLE IN DIVERCITY VIII SEPTEMBER 2020