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Lately I've been hearing and reading the term "smart working" a lot, every day, especially in the news, and now it seems everybody is using this word, including professionals and politicians. It's everywhere, like a new buzzword. English is not the first language in the country where this is happening. Now I'm wondering how this trend started, where that word comes from, if it was imported from some specific area or field, or if it was totally made up by a non-native speaker. Usually foreign words are borrowed from the English language and they kind of make sense, because they do exist. But in this case I'm not sure, I'm puzzled.

Example of how it's used: "Our business will be able to continue operating as usual during the coronavirus pandemic. Thanks to smart working, our employees will be able to work from home". Basically, "smart working" is used to refer to any practices that let people work from a remote location.

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  • I've seen the term. Not enough to know its nuances, though.
    – Hot Licks
    Commented Mar 27, 2020 at 19:16
  • It's a play on 'smart thinking'. Commented Mar 27, 2020 at 19:31
  • I suppose that "smart working" means any alternative and "better" way of working, whether or not from home. For some time now, some of those who can, have been "smart working" from a beach in paradise, using technology. There used to be a fairly clear division between work and play... Commented Mar 27, 2020 at 19:33
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    Smart working is known as a new model of work that uses the new technologies and the development of existing technologies to improve both the performance and the satisfaction that is obtained from the job. ehorus.com/smart-working
    – user 66974
    Commented Mar 27, 2020 at 19:35
  • @user067531, interesting. But that article begins with "This is a new linguistic expression - about 40% of Spaniards have never heard of it", and that website belongs to a Spanish company. So it looks like that definition of "smart working" is taken from a context where English is not the first language anyway.
    – reed
    Commented Mar 28, 2020 at 13:33

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I presume you heard it in Italy.

I can’t find any references to it in the English-speaking world other than this September 2020 article regarding the phrase.

The phrase certainly gained popularity in Italy thanks to the repeated invites to work from home by the Italian prime minister and made its way into everyday Italian as an exact replacement for “remote work.”

I’d treat the phrase as “Italian English” rather than proper English since most everyone outside the context would not relate it to remote work.


I would go on a limb to suggest that someone near the then Italian prime minister suggested the term in March 2020 and they rolled with it, disregarding the pre-existing English and Italian equivalents, in the usual tendency to misuse English terms in Italy without any clear purpose other than sounding… smarter.

It’d be interesting to see if the term was used in the Italian business world before 2020, but I wouldn’t hold my breath.

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