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Smart working: a new way to work

There was once a level of anxiety surrounding smart working and its impending implementation in the workplace. Once thought of as merely a fruitless buzzword, smart working has caused a lot of confusion due to its previously indefinite or unclear meaning. Surely we should all be working smart? And how exactly can you define ‘smart’?

In January this year, the Business Standards Institution (BSI) and the Cabinet Office announced a Code of Practice that supports organisations in implementing smart working principles. In the Code of Practice, it states that smart working principles acknowledge that technology and flexible working patterns are changing the way we work for the better.

What is smart working?

According to a study by the CIPD, smart working defines an approach to working that focuses on output rather than input. In other words, the focus is less on how you get the results, more on the results themselves.

So how is this really different to what we’re doing now? In all organisations, results are what matter, so surely we’re all applying smart working?

However, organisations are already claiming that they have implemented ‘smart working’ policies and that they have made a positive impact on employee engagement, productivity and their bottom line.

So, smart working initiatives include:

  • Flexible working – both in terms of working hours and location
  • A greater degree of autonomy
  • Virtual teams
  • Increased mobile communications technology
  • Aligning personal objectives to business objectives
  • Creating the cultural conditions for smart-working to work

Can anyone do it?

The short answer is yes, any business can introduce smart working to some degree, but no – not anyone can introduce smart working without considering their own business conditions and whether initiatives such as flexible working or home working will be of any benefit to the workforce. HR, therefore, is highly implicated, underlining the function’s strategic importance to business performance.

Any business can introduce flexibility and autonomy to some degree, however. Smart working initiatives don’t just accept the changing role of technology in our working lives, they allow HR teams to take control of them in order to maximise business efficiency and performance.

Mike Emmott, associate adviser for CIPD, warned that smart working is more than just flexible working, hot-desking or new IT systems:

Smart working is about a fundamental change to the assumptions that shape the working relationship.

In other words, if you are going to introduce more flexible working practices, then your business – from top management down – has got to adopt a more flexible approach and even a more trusting culture, giving autonomy and in effect giving up a degree of control over employees in return for better performance.

The changing world of work

The UK workplace has changed immensely over the last few years, and smart working is a smart response to those changes. With the emergence of “Generation Z”, the rise in requests for part-time and flexible working to fit around personal lives and the boom in mobile technology, businesses who fail to adapt will eventually fail to keep up.

And that’s not smart.