Smart working: ENEA releases first Italian survey on public administration


It's called “Smart Working Times. The PA among work-life balance, work enhancement and the environment " the first national survey on telework and smart working in the PA, conducted by ENEA. The investigation has regarded 29 public administrations which, even before the Coronavirus emergency, had activated and made accessible these new forms of remote work.

The data analyzed involved over 5500 people and a survey on a voluntary basis [1] was also conducted, which yielded a 60% response rate of total interviewees, of which  76% were women and 24% men.

Available on the ENEA website, the survey summarizes in just under 100 pages the results of a work which lasted over a year, highlighting the transformative  scope and the  potential of this new way of working,  which allows to improve the quality of work, reconcile family and professional life, valorise people and promote urban environmental sustainability.

In particular, the study emphasizes that the conditions exist for stable, large-scale behavioral changes capable of affecting traffic congestion and pollution levels and successfully set up integrated urban policies, granting greater freedom in the choice of places and times of work.

"The study shows an estimate of the potential to mitigate consumption and polluting emissions  through remote work and organizational innovation, and relates them to the effects generated: from urban development to the efficiency of the Public Administration, to welfare to gender issues ", Marina Penna and Bruna Felici,  the two ENEA researchers who supervised the survey, explained.

The method of analysis adopted related the profiles of the  interviewees (gender, age, education, work experience, family characteristics, etc.) with mobility habits and their motivations, the accounts on how remote work has changed the way people work, the relationships with managers and colleagues, those with family members, their view on personal life and, finally, the degree of satisfaction / dissatisfaction which has accompanied this change.

At the same time, it analyzed the experience acquired by each administration, the reasons behind the use of remote work, results, critical issues and advantages ".

From an environmental viewpoint, the study shows that smart working has reduced the daily mobility of the sample examined by about an hour and a half per person on average, for a total of 46 million km saved, equal to  4 million euro of fuel saved, also improving quality of life and work.

This is an important fact, considering that, according to the INRIX 2018 Global Traffic Scorecard a city with a high number of PA workers like Rome, with 400 thousand employees  in ministries and central and local administrations, ranks second in the world for hours spent in the car, twice as much as New York, 12% more than London, 70% more than Berlin, 95% more than Madrid.

Hence the double benefit of extra personal time freed up and urban traffic avoided, with a cut in emissions and pollutants that ENEA estimates in 8 thousand tons of CO2, 1.75 t of PM10 and 17.9 t of nitrogen oxides.

"These findings take on particular significance given the current situation, in which about 75% of civil servants work from remote, and confirm that those administrations that had already embraced remote working have proved to be more reactive and competitive than the others in dealing with the emergency ”, Marina Penna said.

Mobility is the key element of a complex system which revolves around the organization of work and is one of the main causes of energy consumption and stress to the environment, for which  measures must be taken urgently.

After all, the conclusions of the latest IPCC report are quite clear when it claims that we will be able to keep global warming well below 2 ° C, compared to pre-industrial levels, only if we implement unprecedented changes in our habits in all areas of society, such as energy, the territory and ecosystems, cities and infrastructures, as well as industry ".

"This emergency – Penna continued – has forced us to make these extraordinary changes and today we can see their effects. The ENEA quarterly analysis, just being released, shows a reduction of consumption and emissions during the pandemic.


Since the declines are not due to structural changes but are the result of emergency conditions, emissions could quickly rebound, with negative effects  on the beginning of a phase of growth, which would put Italy at a striking distance from the Paris agreement targets, and a sudden rise in the price of fuel,  leading to a financial speculation which would heavily penalize  our economy.

In order to emerge from this health crisis better than before, the implementation, adoption and growth of telework will have to be encouraged and promoted, especially in big cities where, in lack of  measures, the use of private vehicles would be perceived as a safe means of protection from contagion.

Appropriately managed at a territorial level, the use of smart working would in fact allow to reduce and modulate demand for home-work travel in a coordinated way with local public transport planning, particularly useful in phase 2 of the Covid-19 emergency, in which we will have to find ways to coexist with the coronavirus ".

A focus on personal life has shown that the time savings due to the elimination of commuting has increased both the quantity and quality of private time,  resulting in a better management of the demands of work and private life.

“The results of our investigation and the methodology developed have raised the interest of Forum PA, SMART-BO  -the territorial Table for remote work in Bologna- and the Bank of Italy, with which we are considering a collaboration aimed at applying the methodology developed to the evaluation of the environmental results, jointly with the multiple measures adopted by the Bank in the field of remote work", Bruna Felici pointed out.

"There is no doubt that telework can improve the quality of urban environments, freeing them from traffic and revitalizing the suburbs left empty by workers commuting daily to office districts,  as it happens in Rome, for instance " Felici concluded.


For more information please contact:

Marina Penna, ENEA - Studies, Analyses  and Evaluations Unit,

Bruna Felici, ENEA - Studies, Analyses  and Evaluations Unit , bruna.felici@enea.i



[1] Interviewees responded to an anonymous online questionnaire and telephone interviews were conducted with Personnel Departments and some Presidents of the Single Guarantee Committees (CUG) of the administrations involved

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