When you want to describe ways of working beyond a dedicated personal desk or workplace, the list of expressions seems to be endless. Many names or phrases (such as home working or flexitime) are self-explanatory but others, like smart working or agile working, may need explanation, if only to clarify what the writer/speaker means and to set a context for the discussion. To confuse matters further, references to “new ways of working” continue to appear, even though some of the ideas and practices to which they refer are up to 20 years old! I favour the expression Smart Working (with capital initials) because it encompasses much more than just the physical location of the activity it describes.
Smart Working recognises that methods of working will continue to evolve and it provides a framework for integrated research, discussion and implementation of all the factors involved, including location, time, equipment, telecomms, workload management, work-life balance, sustainability, psycho-social factors, legal considerations and many others. It is important to recognise that the arguments in favour of Smart Working are overwhelmingly strong but there are many negative factors to be considered and accommodated in the process, not least the simple facts that many individuals find it hard to cope with working alone and managers need to realise that a “bridge to engine room” style simply will not work and an output-focused method is essential.
Smart Working is, therefore, an enormous – and fascinating – topic. My own experience started with the simple process of supplying laptop kits and workstation accessories for mobile workers. As I have become more involved and more curious, it has become clear that successful implementation requires careful planning. Such programmes may begin with an exercise to reduce property overheads or a decision to issue laptops instead of desktop computers but it is essential to involve many disciplines and consider all factors. I plan to explore more of these topics in due course but would welcome any comments, thoughts or experiences.
If you are new to the concept, you will find The Smart Working Handbook an invaluable information source. And if you are “an old hand”, you will probably already be considering the recent BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) trend which will have significant impact on organisational communications, IT and management thinking.