There are many reasons for initiating a Smart Working project
but one of the most common is the need to reduce real estate.
Defining the project, identifying appropriate personnel and job
roles, establishing procedures, managing consultations and
setting the roll-out agenda and timescale are all significant
projects in their own right.
As a result, it is very easy to focus on closing
buildings and “getting people out there” (whether
that means home, hub or hot-desk working). But
what happens once they are “out there”?
It is quite possible that some (or all) of the
original project team may be redeployed or disbanded
at this stage - just when the real, long-term
projects are beginning.
Whether the challenge
is showing managers how to manage staff no longer
under their constant supervision or showing those
same staff how to manage themselves when they are
not constantly supervised, there are new procedures
to be created, resources to be provided and progress
to be tracked.
It is also important to appreciate that problems
arising out of failure to manage the new culture
effectively may take some time to become evident
(in much the same way that reduced absenteeism is
almost certainly masking increased presenteeism in
the current economy).
10 simple rules
To ensure that Smart Workers are effective
wherever they “touch down”, here are a 10 simple
rules. They are by no means comprehensive but
give a good overview and, for the purpose of
clarity, focus principally on computer users:
- Ensure they have proper health and safety
training appropriate to their new environment.
- Ensure you provide clear guidance about
appropriate behaviour. Don’t take it for
granted that common sense will prevail! If
they spill boiling water on themselves whilst
making coffee in their own home during work
hours, or trip over the cat whilst getting their
laptop out of the car, or set up their
workstation on the landing and roll their chair
away from the desk and down the stairs, how can
you minimise the likelihood of, and your
liability exposure to, such events?
- Think about the physical ergonomics.
If they work at the kitchen table on a dining
chair at the wrong height and use a laptop
without a separate stand, keyboard and mouse,
then musculo-skeletal problems are almost
inevitable. Back, neck or upper limb pain
will, at the very least, inhibit productivity.
In the longer term, this may lead to absenteeism
and, potentially, litigation.
- Provide guidance about
posture. Assuming the equipment makes
good posture possible, personnel need to be
trained to understand what good posture is, how
to achieve it and why it is important.
- Carry out proper risk assessments. A home
workstation will be very different from
something provided in the office. Use a
DSE risk assessment that is specifically
designed for home workers. A
computer-based version will be easiest to
- Set up a mechanism to remind and prompt
users to take breaks, step away from their desk,
stretch and refocus. This can be done
through periodic email reminders, internal
chat/social media tools or dedicated software
- If they spend a lot of time on the
telephone, ensure they use a
- Make sure that any equipment you provide is
simple to use and obvious to set up.
If not, assume it won’t be used!
- Check regularly that individuals are coping.
Is the new way of working matching their
work-life balance expectations? Are they
managing the workload? Are they feeling
isolated? Early recognition of problems
and prompt interventions to address them are
- Cut them some slack! If they want to
start work at 07:00am and then walk the dog for
two hours at lunchtime, think seriously about
whether the business can accommodate that and
whether it will significantly increase both
productivity and job satisfaction.