Guest Blog from Micol Mieli
Although it is self-evident that working smart is a good idea, it can be hard for businesses to really know how to do it in practice. Within HR, the usual concerns are how to make flexible working function, how to stay productive with employees scattered all over the place, and how to manage salaries without office hours to count. However, ‘Smart Working’ is not just another term for flexible working, but a whole management philosophy. In fact, Smart Working cannot work unless it is implemented systematically as an integrated strategy across all departments of an organisation. There are five main aspects of work-life that can be revolutionised according to the principles of Smart Working: leadership, office space, technology, estate, and culture and people.
To have a truly smart working strategy, the leadership style must answer to Smart Working principles. A manager is not supposed to be someone who handles people, but someone who leads them towards specific and clear goals. A management by outcome strategy is most suited to a Smart Working environment because it is based on clear objectives, strategies, and deadlines. The number of hours spent in the office should not be the main factor determining productivity nor remuneration.
Flexibility is key in this process, in the sense that people should be able to work when and where it suits them best. In order to do this, workers need a strong leader, who is able to coordinate and guide their work as well as to trust them to do their job adequately on their own. Effective leaders do not need to always be present to control their employees, but they do need to be available to provide guidance. Considering the fact that not all people will be in the same place at the same time, leaders need to have excellent coordination abilities.
A fundamental tool of any Smart Working strategy is remote work: thanks to the ability to be always connected, people can share information and work together regardless of their location. Because employees will not always be in the office, the use of space within the workplace can be made smarter and more flexible as well. For example, desk-sharing and clear desk policies, as well as the use of bookable meeting rooms are good examples of a smart use of workspace. The most important principle to keep in mind is that space should be allocated to activities, not to individuals. Therefore, it is a good practice to have project areas where people can work together as well as quiet work areas for those who need to be alone and focus on their own work.
For most businesses, using technology is not that much of a revolution. However, being smart is not just about using technology for everyday tasks, but it means aiming at becoming ‘digital by default.’ Smart devices are not all there is about technology. For example, big data can be used effectively by a business to improve their product as well as their outreach to the right targets; on-demand services use technology to connect supply and demand in order to eliminate inefficiencies. Moreover, it is not just important to be smart but also to stay smart. Staying updated on the latest tech developments, continuous training of employees, consistency in the use of apps, extensions and programs are some of the ideas that a Smart Working business should always keep in mind.
Optimisation and rationalisation of office buildings is also very important for Smart Working. It might be harder for established businesses because it requires a more or less large investment for restructuring and remodelling, but Smart Working relies on the principle that productivity is not proportional to the size and number of offices a company has. Instead, productivity can be fostered by creating hubs, where people can find the tools for their job according to their needs. A further example of a smart use of space, which is a proven productivity boost, is the inclusion of green, outdoor working areas.
People and Culture
As much as technology can help make a business smarter, it is still people who represent the essence of a work environment. Developing a trusting and respectful office culture is extremely important, especially when employees need to communicate amongst each other, with management, and across teams because they are not all present at the same time or in the same place. Once again, good leadership is fundamental for people to be able to work seamlessly together, to have effective meetings, and work in teams. Moreover, thanks to remote working and flexible work hours, a work-life balance for individual employees is an achievable goal, which will in turn improve the productivity and atmosphere of the workplace.