Last week Online Geniuses, the largest Slack community for marketers with events across the globe, organized a panel in Barcelona to discuss about the new work management model: Smart Working. With the participation of Ahlem Mahroua (beeHYPE / Digital Nomads Media), Felipe Angulo (Director of Psicotec, HR Firm) and Oonagh McNerney (CEO of Sapenta).
The future for businesses is to adopt smart and agile working since this kind of implementations demonstrate that organizations can operate more effectively and reduce costs by operating beyond the office space.
For employees smart working opens an empowerement opportunity to choose the best times and places to work and lead more balanced and healthier lives.
However, as the panel led by Tim Cakir laid on the table there are benefits of course, but also challenges that need to be solve before it can be adopted as a norm and we really change the way we work.
What smart working really means?
“According to the Flexibility program in the UK and the Law on Agile Work in Italy, Smart working is recognized as a new method of flexible management of the working week. The objective of Smart Working is to improve efficiency at work by leveraging professional flexibility.
Employees can choose, voluntarily and in agreement with their employer, the best way to do some work also outside of the standard workplace, focusing on improving their time management and the effectiveness of their work”, defines Sapenta on their website.
For Ahlem Mahroua, as she stand out “the future of work is smart working, and connectivity and sharing are essential”.
But smart working is not as simply as designing offices and introducing new technologies to work, it is essentially about people and culture change.
For her, in this scenario “trust is the center” and “right management and right leadership” are key for its implementation.
In this sense, Felipe Angulo recognized the importance of “training leaders to manage remote teams” and highlights that “the concept of leaving the work behind at the end of the day is already past: We are permanently connected, work and life are much more blended now”.
Which are the benefits of smart working?
In fact, adopting smart working at the workplace gives people more choices about when, where and how they work. It provides the opportunity to lead more balanced and healthier lives.
As Tim Cakir said “Smart working is a must to cope with the increasing demands of work, while having people balanced, happy and productive which is key to prevent employees being drained and suffering anxiety”.
As a result of the greater flexibility and agility, businesses are able to improve the wellbeing of their employees, increasing the team engagement and retaining talent.
At the same time, smart working patterns help to boost diversity and equality into teams.
By embracing new forms of smart or agile working and using technologies that support mobility, businesses can reduce property costs and travel expenses. The cost and environmental impacts of work will be reduce since the space is shared and used more intensively, while allowing people to work from home.
Through implementing new technologies at work, businesses can improve and simplify collaboration. When employees can connect virtually everywhere, sharing information and working with others regardless of locations is much easier and productive.
But, is your organization ready to implement forms of smart or agile working?
A key obstacle to include these new workplace trends, however, are the traditional mindsets around the need to work in an office, at a desk and with traditional schedules from 8:00 to 19:00, to take the example of Spain.
Smart working extends the possibilities for working at different locations and at different times, but there are of course rules that are quite company-specific.
A key strategy is to see that work times and locations need to be evaluated on the basis of the tasks involved, rather than whole jobs.
As Oonagh observed, the situation is changing. “Millennials are pushing companies to change, work from home is becoming more popular” and “diverse timetables are being adapted to personal productivity peaks”.
In this scenario, managers play a key role in ensuring that smart working is implemented effectively.
They need to start monitoring goals and measuring results rather than presence. Any limitations on flexibility need to be based on clear operational needs.
At the same time, as Ahlem commented, the digital workplace needs “the right tools for communication, collaboration and having what is needed to complete the tasks required”.
For teams, it is important to develop communication and reporting protocols to work effectively and maintain team cohesion.
But “technology could slow you down too” and it is key to “beware of excessive integration of third-party tools which induces distractions and leaves most of the work in someone else’s hands out of your control”.
For Felipe Angulo the most effective solution is “a digital environment, a single place, having all interconnected”.
In contrast, they also noted about the need to disconnect to stay focused and be more productive.
Oonagh McNerney highlights the importance of “using different channels to avoid contaminating the personal channels”, particularly relevant in the case of messaging tools like WhatsApp, where work matters can easily invade the private sphere of employees communications.
Some options to improve focus on the modern highly interconnected lives are, as Ahlem Mahroua commented, “forced physical disconnection when needed” and “be where you are and stay focused”.
She also recommended leaders “not to send WhatsApp or email after hours to prevent people feeling pressured to answer on private time and immediately”, and in general, “beware with interruption driven working, such as email, chat or notifications setting your activity paths.
Here, Mindful communication is a key element to support ethical leaders evolving into emotional smarter individuals.
Remote workers have specific needs that must be addressed to help them feel connected and engaged with their colleagues, specifically related to the risk of isolation.
Ignoring these needs will result in low retention, disruption and higher hiring costs, eliminating the productivity benefits these remote workers bring.
In fact, organizations that are looking to move forward from traditional working practices need to develop a real strategy for smart working that means, enabling flexible working and introducing technologies for mobility.
But Smart working doesn’t necessarily mean remote working and is not only about automation. Instead of allocated desks, people can choose from a range of different work settings, according to the tasks they are doing at the time.
A lot of it has to do with working differently but doesn’t mean to fully replace the personal touch and social interaction.
Smart Working is a journey and the destination doesn’t have a single end point. There are many options to adopt and a lot of new technologies are coming over the horizon. The future of work continues to evolve and we are all together defining it.