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Trend 3 August Aug 2020 1508 3 August 2020

South Working: working for companies in the North from Italy’s ‘Mezzogiorno’

In the wake of the health crisis, many people decided to work remotely from Italy’s southern regions – switching between a laptop and a dip in the sea. Some intend to return to the city as summer ends, others plan to stay

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“It’s a totally different kind of life”. Lorenza’s words sum up the meaning of south working: many southerners who work in the north are smart working from Italy’s southern regions during the summer months. Forced into working remotely during the coronavirus pandemic, this temporary measure could now become permanent.

In the light of a possible second wave of Covid-19, many companies have still not decided whether to extend the experience of remote working or to return to the office. A potential emergency has become an opportunity for many young people, and for a part of the country that for decades has been powerless to stop the flow of people leaving, as shown by the latest data from SVIMEZ (association for the development of industry in Italy’s south). Over the last five years, 2 million young graduates and workers have moved from the south to the north and this is part of an increasing trend: in 2001, 10.7% of young graduates migrated, in 2017 this figure was 33%.

Lorenza’s story can be told by many other young people who are looking for a different lifestyle in the south to escape from the sometimes-frenetic pace of life in large cities. “It’s much simpler to work here, it’s less effort and you can be much more productive,” Antonio Fanelli tells us. He is employed as a consultant for a software developer in Milan and is now working remotely from Martina Franca in the Apulian province of Taranto. “I came home at the beginning of July after having spent the lockdown period in Lombardy. It’s been hard, but now I can finally enjoy being with my family.”

Lorenza Tullio tells a similar story - she too works in Milan at the Bocconi University. “I stayed in Milan until the beginning of June in quarantine,” she tells us. “Then I decided to return to my hometown of Vasto.” Life in the Abruzzo region is very different to life in Milan, but there can be surprising benefits. “At home I work the same office hours as usual from 9 till 5.30. But there is an added advantage: if I wake up early, I can go for an early-morning swim before I start work. Then I work much better.”

At home I work the same office hours as usual from 9 till 5.30. But there is an added advantage: if I wake up early, I can go for an early-morning swim before I start work. Then I work much better

The question many are now asking themselves is how long this can last - in September many will have to go back to the office. Antonio does not hide the fact that there is still a lot of uncertainty in his company but he is sure that “a few meetings with clients will be face to face, so we will have to go back to the city.” The same is true for Lorenza who explains that “as students go back to university, then we too will have to go back to the office. I’m under no illusion about that.”

Maurizio Dall’Oro’s life is a little different. Maurizio is from Genova and decided to spend his summer working in Polignano a Mare in Apulia. “I’m a second-generation Apulian, my parents are from Polignano. I’ve often worked remotely from here in the past, so in mid-June I jumped at the opportunity.” Maurizio is a project manager in a Ligurian company operating in the energy sector and for him the future is short term. “For the time being I will stay here because my company will continue with remote working until September 30. This is a big advantages for me because when I finish work, I can switch off and go to the beach. It’s a completely different lifestyle.”

So, many have a tough decision ahead of them. “I don’t know if I could live far away from Milan. I miss office life and village life has its limits. That’s why I love Milan: it offers opportunities that are unimaginable elsewhere,” Lorenza reveals. “It would be great to live in the south, but what you find in Milan you can’t find anywhere else.” Maurizio has more to add: “The future is still uncertain, but seeing as I’ve already done it in the past, if possible, I would like to continue working remotely from Polignano. I really hope so.”

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