Is your business geared up for smart working?

two people meeting

Today’s modern working environments are fluid and casual whereby work-life balance is championed, replacing the old-fashion strict and rigid working culture of the pre-1990’s. The working culture has evolved the workplace to enhance efficiencies and collaboration between office workers.

As the working culture continues to evolve, we identify three key prominent factors that make up a truly smart workplace; digital infrastructure, flexible working policies, and workspace design.

Digital infrastructure 

In the white-collar, professional industry over 80% of a person’s role will be conducted via digital means – be it over email, phone or online.  

Digital infrastructure encompasses all the technologies - platforms, systems and software - people use in order to be productive in today’s workplace. It gives employees the tools they need to improve their communication, collaboration and connections with each other and is the bedrock of smart working.

If a company doesn’t adopt the right digital tools and processes then smart or remote working is not only hindered but unable to be adopted in some instances. What our research highlights is that beyond a mobile device such as a laptop, the adoption of other technologies drops significantly.

Top 4 remote-working technologies:

  1. Mobile devices (laptops, tablets, smartphones etc) - 77%
  2. Company-wide messenger systems – 21%
  3. Virtual Private Network (VPN) access – 39%
  4. Virtual meeting applications – 47%

Even in this digital age, collaboration can be difficult to achieve. As connectivity continues to grow, so do the platforms and software available for employers and employees to connect on. 

Flexible working

If applied effectively, workplace flexibility puts freedom and autonomy in the hands of the employees, allowing them to determine their work schedule among other priorities. Research highlights that flexi-hours generates high satisfaction, and allows employees to be more focused, dedicated and productive.

We offer top tips for employers to help overcome concerns around flexible-working arrangements:

  • Changing from behaviour-based to outcome-based assessment: On a day-to-day basis, managing smart working requires a move from behaviour-based monitoring to outcome based mindset. Instead of solely assessing performance according to what an employee is seen to be doing, managers should take their output or other deliverables into account and establish an environment of mutual trust.
  • Devising innovative alternatives to face-to-face communication: Flexible working can create communication challenges, as employees may feel less connection with each other. This can lead to a lower sense of belonging. Apart from specifying a set time of the week when the team can get together, we also advise managers to use alternative tools such as instant messaging and virtual meetings to foster communication.
  • Create an open culture of flexibility: Companies should also create a culture where employees do not feel they will be disadvantaged by flexible working arrangements. Some new joiners may struggle to learn if their manager or team members are not around. Managers are strongly recommended to discuss flexible working arrangements openly with all team members to ensure that everyone is treated equally.
  • Beware of ‘burn-out’: With the use of mobile devices, the line between work and private life is blurring. Managers are advised to conduct reviews to ensure remote working employees are not working excessively as this can lead to high stress level and ‘burn-out’. Signs to look out for are a reduction in productivity/output, uncharacteristic detachment and increased cynicism or complaining.

Workspace design

According to a survey conducted by Robert Walters UK, employees think a smart workspace should have the following qualities:

  • 80% - the design makes it easier to interact with colleagues
  • 71% - able to easily communicate and access colleagues 
  • 66% - there is ample seating and space to work

A large number of companies are beginning to introduce “hot desks” and open offices to create an atmosphere that encourages greater collaboration between employees at all levels. One of the advantages of this is that this helps break down barriers and encourages more diverse thinking. The flip side is that noise levels can be a problem for individuals trying to concentrate on their work – as it is important to recognise that individuals all have different styles of working.

A semi-open plan, on the other hand, provides open space where employees can work together easily, whilst also providing private and quiet places - such as phone booths or a quiet hub.

Depending on the nature of your company and specific teams, some settings may be more suitable than others. For example, from our research, we have found that professionals from technology/innovation and banking space prefer an open-plan environment, whereas those from legal/compliance and human resources prefer closed plan.

These changes are among the most prominent in today's market, with continued evolution expected as demands from employees continue to change – this includes the rise of the ‘boomerang employees’ and employee well-being programmes.

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