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Glossary of Flexible Working

Essential vocabulary for managers


We've put together what we feel is the best glossary of flexible working terms and concepts you'll find anywhere on the Internet. 

From 'Activity-based work settings' to 'Zero-hours contracts', it's all there. And what does a 'concierge' have to do with flexible working?

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A Activity-based work settings

The traditional desk and meeting room are not optimised for all the different kinds of work undertaken in the modern office. Having ‘activity based work settings’ means having a range of alternative settings for different kinds of work, where the design supports the tasks and workstyles involved. Typically this will involved a mixture of open plan and enclosed areas, formal and informal, places for short ad hoc meetings, or intense ‘huddles’ or brainstorming, isolated space for quiet/confidential work, etc. This kind of range of spaces is essential for an effective flexible working environment.

'Ad hoc' flexibility

Ad hoc flexibility refers to a reactive, improvised or impromptu rather than strategic implementations of flexible working, e.g. responding to individual requests, or deciding to work at home to get some work finished, wait in for the gas fitter, etc (ad hoc being Latin meaning more or less 'for this special purpose').

Agency working

An agency worker is a form of temporary worker provided for an organisation by a third party company. In some cases the worker is employed by the agency supplying them, in some cases not.

In the Europe Union, agency workers are protected by the Agency Workers Directive, which is intended to ensure that agency workers have the benefit of the same working conditions as permanent employees in the organisations to which they are assigned.

Agile working

A term favoured by some instead of flexible working, having connotations of speed of adapting to changing circumstances.  It also relates to concepts of the 'agile organisation', and so appears more business-focused perhaps. 

Annualised hours

The number of hours to be worked are agreed over the year, rather than a regular amount each week. Hours are then allocated to work according to the needs of the job. This is especially useful in sectors or roles where there are fluctuations in demand over the course of the year, e.g. in tourism, outdoor activities, exams management, etc.
 

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B Broadband

Broadband communications are essential for effective flexible working out of the office. There is no accepted definition for broadband – it’s a general term for data transmission rates over telecommunications and computing networks measured in Mbps – megabits per second. Broadband providers tend to describe anything over 256 kilobits per second as broadband, but the International Telecommunication Union recommends 1.5-2Mbps should become the standard. Anything less than this will prove to be inadequate for many uses for the flexible worker, and will provide a degraded experience.

Availability of broadband is a key consideration when considering implementing home-based working.
 

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C

Career break

A career break or sabbatical is a period of extended time away from work (usually unpaid) to pursue professional or personal development, while being able to return to one’s post at the end of the break.

Collaboration space

‘Collaboration space’ is a term often preferred now to ‘meeting space’, as it reflects the idea that people gathering together isn’t necessarily for a formal meeting, but for all different kinds of collaboration. So it can include project rooms, informal breakout space, ideas labs, telepresence rooms etc as well as regular meeting rooms.

Compressed working week

Working a compressed working week, employees work their standard hours in fewer days – e.g. one week’s hours worked in four days, or two weeks’ worked in nine days. There are a range of patterns of varying complexity.

Concierge

A concierge is a person in a desk-sharing/hotdesking/hoteling flexible work environment who is responsible for managing the space, supporting the space-sharing arrangements, seeing that any booking systems are working etc.

Not the same as ...

Concierge services

Concierge services or lifestyle services are a kind of employee benefit offered by some firms.  The idea is to support their staff in their work-life balance by providing support across a range of services such as childcare, dog walking, planning for life events, etc.

Culture change

Some organisations tend to take a ‘build it and they will come’ approach to flexible/smart working. Change the offices, provide the technology, and the benefits will roll in. Experience has shown that culture change – addressing the people issues, routines, behaviours, etc – is vital to make flexible working work.

Key characteristics of the flexible working culture will include being trust-based, rather than command and control; working with shared spaces and resources, rather than personalised ones; an emphasis on management by results rather than management by presence; a culture of continuous learning and openness to change (etc). This doesn’t just happen, but needs to be actively managed so that the new behaviours and attitudes become embedded.

Cybercafé

This is a café which provides a service to allow patrons to use computers and access the Internet. Can be useful for flexible workers, but these days through access to wifi rather than use of the cybercafé's own computers.  As well as being found in high streets they are sometimes found in companies as breakout space.

 

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D Dematerialisation

Dematerialisation describes transformation of processes and products that used to be physical into a fully electronic format.
Replacing paper processes with online ones is one form of dematerialisation. This is very important for flexible working, to enable staff (and/or customers) to access resources any time, any place.

It also describes the process of taking products online, e.g. CDs being replaced by music downloads; or replacing a physical product with a service, e.g. answering machines being replaced by a voicemail service.

Desk-sharing

Desk-sharing is a general  term to describe having desks that are not individually assigned. There are various different flavours and descriptions of desk-sharing – e.g. non-territorial working, free address space, hotelling, hotdesking, team-based desk-sharing, etc.
 

 

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E

e- At one time the buzz prefix was "tele-". Later it was superceded by "e-",  stands for "electronic". Hence email, ebusiness, ecommerce, etc.

Ecommerce

Electronic commerce is a shorthand for any kind of commercial transaction carried out over electronic networks. The two main distinctions are B2B (business to business) ecommerce and B2C (business to consumer) ecommerce.

e-lancing

‘e-lancing’ is a term coined to describe teleworking freelancers, who gain or perform most of their contracts online. The term has a kind of 1990s feel about it, when the online world was a wonder to behold. It will fade away – how can you be a freelancer these days without being online?

e-work

e-Work, or ework (without the hyphen) is an alternative term for telework or telecommuting. Arguably it describes a broader meaning than telework/telecommuting, which many people associate in particular with home-based working. It means work, electronically mediated.

 

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F Family friendly

Family-friendliness is about achieving the reconciliation of work and family life, mainly through flexible working practices, though it may also include benefits such as workplace crèches, childcare vouchers, etc. As a term it is going out of fashion in favour of the broader and less discriminatory ‘work-life balance’ which encompasses all workers, not only parents and carers.

Flexible staffing

A term mostly used by providers of temporary and agency workers to describe what they do. The emphasis is on being able to recruit and deploy workers on a more flexible basis according to need, and moving salary costs from a fixed to a flexible basis.

Flexicurity

Flexicurity (flexibility + security) is a term coined in European policy circles. It is meant to be a way of reconciling the aims of achieving greater flexibility in (over-regulated) labour markets with ‘European Social Model’ aims of providing employment security and worker benefits.

There are some useful insights on the European Commission website (http://ec.europa.eu/social/main.jsp?catId=116&langId=en). 

Flexitime

Employees work their set number of hours each day, but can vary their starting and finishing times. Usually this is within times decided by the company, e.g. hours must be worked between 7.30 a.m. and 7.30 p.m. Most flexitime schemes also include ‘core hours’ when staff must be working, typically 10 a.m. to midday and 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. In staff surveys, we find that most staff want more freedom to decide their own hours than this.

Free address

‘Free address’ workspace is another – perhaps euphemistic – way of describing hot-desking. It is sometimes used in the sense of being able to work at any work position in a kind of free-for-all. At other times it is used to make a distinction between team-based desk-sharing and non-assigned open-to-anyone spaces.

Free agent

‘Free agent’ is a term to describe those people who want to go their own way, moving away from the corporate world and set up their own enterprise – a slightly more general term than freelancer. Has gained more currency due to the highly influential book by Dan Pink, Free Agent Nation.

Freelancing

A freelancer is an independent self-employed individual who sells their services to clients without any long-term commitment. The term tends to be used more for writers and artists and others in the creative industries, and professionals with specialist skills such as software programmers. The word is derived from the medieval term for a mercenary, a free lancer, who sells his services to whoever will pay for the job.

Functional flexibility

An approach to flexibility within organisations of using labour resources more flexibly through multiskilling.
 

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G Garden office

A variation on the home office is to have an office in the garden, preferably in an outbuilding specifically designed to be a good working environment.  A garden office has all the advantages of a home office, plus a degree of separation from the domestic environment that may be advantageous in some respects, e.g. in terms of getting away from distractions or for receiving visitors.

This is a growing sector and there are an increasing number of suppliers who will provide both standardised and bespoke products.

 

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H Home office

A home office is an office at home. It best describes a separate room set up specifically for home-based working. 

Homeshoring

Homeshoring is a term recently coined with reference to ‘offshoring’. So it describes outsourcing, only rather than taking it overseas (offshore) the work is farmed out to a network of homeworkers, who may be working independently or as employees of a company.

The rationale is that outsourcing is about reducing costs. Offshoring focuses on reducing labour costs. Homeshoring, by contrast, focuses on reducing property and facilities costs, and has the advantage of being able to use more local labour who may be more in tune with language and market, etc. The new technologies make this possible e.g. in virtual call centres.

Hometrepreneur

A clunky new word for a home-based entrepreneur.

Homeworking

Homeworking = working at home. Does what it says on the tin, right? There are though several flavours and nuances.
Traditional homeworking tends to be about stuffing envelopes and sewing: typically low paid and often piece work.
New forms of ICT-enabled homeworking however tend to be higher skilled and less exploitative.

The term covers home-based self-employment, running a home business and being a home-based employee.

A distinction can also be made between working at home, and working from home - the latter meaning using home as a base and going out from there to visit clients, etc.

Hotdesking

Hotdesking is a word for desk-sharing. It is said to derive from the nautical practice of ‘hotracking’ or ‘hotbunking’ – but I suspect that this is an urban legend. In the navy as someone rolls out of their bunk to do their shift, someone else rolls in. So there are fewer bunks than people, and the assets are sweated more effectively – perhaps literally in this case.

So the analogy holds for desks. It’s inefficient and expensive to have under-occupied desks, so better to have fewer and share them.

The term ‘hotdesking’ has a bad reputation in some quarters, due to some early high profile implementations that backfired by being associated with a breakdown of teamworking, as people were assigned to work in the basement one day, and the 27th floor the next. Modern implementations strive to avoid these mistakes.

Hoteling (Hotelling)

Hoteling is a method of providing office space to staff – typically for staff who spend most of their time working away from the office – on an as needed rather than on an assigned basis, using a reservation system. It can apply to whole offices, or designated portions of them.

Hubworking

Hubworking describes working in workhubs – places to touch down and work when you need to. See workhubs for more details.
 

 

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I

ICT

Abbreviation for ‘information and communication technologies’.  Sometimes referred to as ITC or IT & C. Whichever way, they are essential for flexible/smart working. The term signals the dynamism that can be achieved with the convergence of computing and telecommunications.

Putting the "C" in the middle of the IT is important to emphasise that it is not just about "techie" matters but is relevant to everyone whose job involves communication. ICT makes possible the fast and worldwide exchange of information, and has the capacity to revolutionise work processes, products, service delivery, etc as well as working locations.

Instant messaging

Instant messaging (IM) or ‘chat’ is a service that allows two or more people to exchange messages in real time in a text-based conversation, and enables the sending and receiving of files. It also incorporates presence, so that users know when other people are online, whether they are busy, etc.

We all know this – but what has it got to do with flexible working? IM incorporates features that are useful for distributed/virtual teams. Many organisations routinely ban its use, for security reasons and fear of distractions, while others actively encourage controlled IM services to promote collaboration. It is increasingly a component of unified communications solutions.

Interim management

Interim managers are managers who come into an organisation on a short-term contract basis, to plug a key skills gap or to manage change.

Internet telephony

See VoIP

 

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J

Job-share

Job-share is a particular form of part-time working, where two (or occasionally more) people share a full-time job.

 

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K

Ki working

Ki work is a new term that attracted a great deal of media attention initially. It essentially describes homeshoring and virtual company techniques for creating an agile organisation.

I’ve included it mainly as I needed a ‘K’ word ... Can you think of a better one?

 

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L

Leave options

Leave options are options for extended periods of leave – maternity, paternity, parental, and emergency leave, plus career breaks and sabbaticals. Leave connected is supported by elements of statutory provision, but also include elements of choice that relate to flexible working and work-life balance.

Live/work

Live/work space is property that is specifically designed for both residential and commercial use. It usually needs planning permission for dual use and may be liable for business rates on the commercial element, unlike ‘ancillary’ homeworking (homeworking in part of a normal house which doesn’t affect the main residential use). Live/work has many advantages for people wanting to run a business where they also live, and is sometimes promoted by government to encourage local enterprise.

Locational flexibility

A general term for flexible working based on changing the location of work

Location independent working

Arguably the most accurate way of referring to teleworking, ework, workshifting, etc - it highlights that what characterises the workstyle is that it is flexible in terms of location, and can be done from a variety of places.  But it doesn't quite trip off the tongue.

 

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M Management by output/outcome/results

Management by output, outcome or results is a key concept for flexible working, where a manager cannot expected to be always working in the same place and at the same time as his/her staff. It contrasts with ‘management by presence’ and requires better management skills in terms of understanding workloads, scheduling, monitoring, performance management, communication skills and emotional intelligence.

Mobile devices

Mobile technology and communication devices are essential for flexible working. These cover the range of laptops, tablets, mobile phone, PDAs (personal digital assistants) and other handheld devices, digital pens, portable printers, etc. In a flexible/smart working implementation, decisions on who should have what kind of device should be based on an analysis of work needs, and be integrated into loans for in-office provision of technologies. Many organisations are now dispensing with desktop PCs completely now and basing ICT provision on mobile technologies to prevent unnecessary duplication of computing devices.

Mobile working

We all know what mobile workers are. They are not necessarily flexible workers, but flexible workers do acquire more mobility, and traditional mobile workers become more flexible by greater use of the new information and communication technologies.

Multiskilling

Some definitions of flexible working include multiskilling as one key dimension. This means, as it implies, staff being trained in multiple skills to be available for more flexible deployment within the organisation.

Mumtrepreneur

A 'mumtrepreneur' or in the US 'momtrepreneur' is a mum who sets up a business from home.  See also 'hometrepreneur'. Why no 'poptrepreneur'?

 

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N

Nomadic working

An alternative and more romantic phrase for mobile working. It perhaps gives more of an impression of workers with no fixed base, always ready to be on the move from one oasis to another.

Non-territorial working

‘Non-territorial working’ is a term used as an alternative to hotdesking or desk-sharing. The term emphasises the move away from assigned desks, i.e. territorial working. It can be useful as a concept in reinforcing the cultural change needed.

In practice, it seems that the term is preferred in more tentative implementations of flexible working, where better use is made of space in the office not used by more mobile workers, but new ways of working are not widely implemented.

Numerical flexibility

Numerical flexibility refers to an employers ability to increase and decrease the number of staff employed through use of temporary contracts, agency working, zero hours working etc. It enables the employer to align resources more closely with demand, but tends to be unpopular with trades unions.
 

 

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O Outsourcing

Outsourcing is the contracting out of function rather than doing it in-house. In most cases it refers to contracting out functions that were previously carried out in-house, and in some cases, particularly in the public sector, may involve the transfer of staff to the new provider organisation.

Outsourcing is often associated with moves to new ways of working, because both smart working and outsourcing are techniques for business transformation. But there is no necessary link.
 

 

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P

Part-time

Part-time working means working less than 35 hours per week. IN the UK around 27% of the workforce work part-time (mid-2010) and three quarters of people who do so are women.

Part-time work is typically associated with parenting responsibilities, but surveys indicate this is an option of interest to older workers who are thinking in terms of phased retirement. It is also a valuable option when dealing with periods of low demand, e.g. during a recession, as it keeps staff on the books while reducing salary costs.

See also Job-share and Voluntary Reduced Hours.

Presence management

Presence management is about managing your availability in online networks, letting others know if you are busy, available for contact, by what means, etc. As a simple tool it has been available for years in instant messaging products. It has great relevance for distributed teams, letting managers and colleagues know where you are as well as availability, and can be integrated with online calendars and other collaboration tools.

Presenteeism

Presenteeism is a term coined as the reverse phenomenon of absenteeism, meaning people being excessively and unnecessarily present at the workplace. It can also refer to a working culture that always expects people to be there and physically available, linked to long hours working culture.
The phenomenon can arise through insecurity – people fearing they may lose their job or promotion prospects – or through poor management techniques dependent on ‘line of sight’ approaches to supervision.

Flexible working is the enemy of presenteeism.
 

 

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Q Quiet zone

A quiet zone in a flexible working environment is and activity-based work setting where employees may go for quiet and concentrated working. Quiet areas may also be provided in the form of individual pods which are available on a non-assigned basis.

 

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R

Remote access

‘Remote access’ is a general term for ICT systems that enable workers to access their work systems securely from a remote location. Reliable and fast systems are crucial for effective remote working.

Remote diagnostics and monitoring

Remote diagnostics and remote monitoring involve diagnosing or monitoring a problem, issue, or the smooth functioning of equipment, process or sites from a distance, i.e. without the need to go there. It is one form of smart working. The people doing the diagnosing or monitoring can in principle be anywhere.

Right to Request

In the UK and several other countries there is a statutory ‘right to request’ flexible working that applies to designated categories of workers: e.g. parents of children over a specified age, and carers of disabled dependents.

In the UK, plans are afoot to extend the right to all employees. The right to request, however, is only that. There is no obligation on employers to grant requests, though they should only refuse for sound and reasonable business reasons. Employees refused may appeal to an employment tribunal if they feel the decision is unfair or has not followed the correct procedure.

 

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S Sabbatical

A form of career break, usually with a focus on further learning, or writing a book, etc.

Self-rostering

Self-rostering is a form of team-based flexible working where teams work out their own shifts in order to provide as much choice as possible to team members to meet their preferences and circumstances.

Slivers of time

‘Slivers of time’ refers to a flexible recruitment process that connects employers who need staff for brief periods with people who can’t (or don’t want to) work regular working hours (e.g. through caring responsibilities or illness). An online brokerage process connects supply with demand. The ultra-flexible system, where you can your services an hour at a time, has had heavy government backing in the UK. But although it’s a great idea, it is not clear whether there has been any substantial uptake of this form of working in practice.

Smart working

Smart Working is a comprehensive and strategic approach to implementing

  • The range of flexible working options
  • Environments that enable the greatest flexibility
  • Technologies that support the practice and management of flexible working
  • New forms of collaboration (e.g. in virtual teams) that reduce the need for physical meetings and travel
  • Culture change to enable greater organisational agility and innovation.

Softphone

A softphone is software that operates a phone on a computing device, without the need for a separate handset.

Sustainability (in the context of flexible work)

Flexible working contributes to environmental sustainability by creating:

  • Reduced need for property, and therefore energy and resource requirements for work
  • Reduced travel, both commuting travel and business travel
  • Dematerialisation of processes, in particular paper processes.

It is also linked to social sustainability by:

  • Promoting diversity and equality
  • Supporting economic development in less favoured areas.
     
 

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T

Telecentre

Telecentre is a term that probably had its heyday in the 1990s. It means a telework or remote working centre, used either by one organisation or by many, like a telecottage or workhub.

Telecommuting

Despite some academic distinctions, this term is used pretty much interchangeably with teleworking, and has been the more common term in the US. The conceptual emphasis is on replacing the commute journey through electronic access to the workplace.

Telecottage

A ‘telecottage’ is a kind of telecentre – a remote work centre for people to drop in and work at or hire space in, particularly in areas with limited access to modern communications. Back in the 1990s there was a ‘telecottage’ movement that is believed to have begun in Sweden, and grew strongly at first in the UK. However, the growing ubiquity of home-based computing and broadband has seen a consequent decline. Most that survive act as training centres supported from public funds, rather than as work centres.

Telepresence

‘Telepresence’ describes upmarket top-of-the-range and more immersive form of videoconferencing. Meetings take place in a telepresence suite, linked to one or more other telepresence suites. The participants appear in large screens as if they are all gathered in the same room. It is said to be a much more realistic simulation of ‘real’ meetings, enabling greater reading of body language, etc.

Over the next ten years we can expect to see it topped as an immersive experience by ‘holopresence’, 3D images of remote colleagues sitting round the table with us.

Telework

A catch-all term describing any way of working at a distance using a combination of computers and telecommunications. It is often associated with home-based working, but includes site-to-site electronic working, mobile working, etc.

Temporal flexibility

A general term for the forms of flexible working based on changing the times of work

Temporary work

Temporary working is a form of contract flexibility. It takes many forms, such as agency working, short-term contracts, casual working and seasonal working. Use of temporary workers enables employers to align labour resources most closely with demand. It can also offer workers who do not want permanent work contracts the flexibility to work when they need or wish to. Around three quarters of temporary workers in the UK do not wish to have permanent jobs.

Term-time working

Term-time working enables staff who are parents to work through the year except during school terms and holidays, which are taken as unpaid leave. Unless you are a teacher, who have a kind of term-time working but with the holidays paid ...

Time off in lieu (TOIL)

TOIL is a form of flexible hours working that allows hours to be varied across days, by paying back extra hours worked on one day with time off on other days. There is a usually a cut-off point by which hours accumulated have to be taken as holiday.

Transport substitution

'Transport substitution' is a phrase used to describe the transport effect that can occur with teleworking, where electronic communication replaces physical journeys, either the commute journey or in-work travel.

 

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U Unified communications

Unified communications integrates services providing both real-time communication (voice telephony, instant messaging, video conferencing) and non-real-time communication (voicemail, email SMS and fax) into a single user interface. It incorporates call control to route calls/messages according to the selected preference or status of users, and speech recognition and text-to-speech software to converts messages from voice to text or vice versa. It can also integrate with business processes so that, for example, customer information can be called up or appropriate company experts can be flagged and brought into conversations if their presence status allows.

This is very much an evolving field at the moment, but one of increasing importance to flexible workers.

 

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V Variable hours

'Variable hours' is a term used by some in preference to flexitime or flexible work hours. An employer and employee agree a different pattern of working hours than the 9-5, which may or may not include defined core hours.

Videoconferencing

Video conferencing (spelt as either two words or one, but rarely with a hyphen) uses both voice and video images to connect two or more sites and multiple participants to have a conversation or meeting. Videoconferencing basically breaks down into four levels of quality:

  • High end ‘telepresence’ systems that more effectively replicate the look and feel of a physical meeting
  • Room-based/studio systems that create virtual meetings between two or more locations, each location having the potential to have several participants in attendance
  • Desk-based systems with a videophone separate from the computer
  • Internet-based systems using webcams, possibly linked to instant messaging products or to web conferencing systems.

The first two options require booking and usually more on-site technical support. The latter two options offer more personal flexibility for ad hoc meetings. And the web-based options are the cheapest solutions, though with attendant quality issues.

Virtual

‘Virtual’ is a term used as a kind of qualifying adjective for all kinds of activities in the new world of work. Virtuality is about seeming to be something, but not quite something. So virtual reality creates a simulation of reality, and should be almost good enough to be, if not the real thing, then an effective substitute. By being not limited by the normal constraints of reality, it also offers other possibilities.

In the world of work it also has a strong multi-locational connotation, in the sense of 'being there but not there'. So a virtual team is still really a team, only not all in one place.

Virtual assistant

A ‘virtual assistant’ is someone performing PA functions at an alternative location, using modern technologies to communicate and provide support. ‘Virtual assistance’ is a growing sector, operating on an outsourcing basis.

Virtual call centre

A ‘virtual call centre’ is a call centre that is not located in one single place, but in many. Typically, the call centre agents work from home, with full access to the company systems with customer data, etc. Automatic call distribution (ACD) distributes calls to agents as they become available, and computer telephony integration (CTI) connects the caller ID to company systems.

Virtual company

This phrase is used in 2 senses:

  1. A company that outsources most of its functions, and/or brings together teams for particular projects using temporary workers, freelancers, interims and other organisations contracted in for their particular expertise. The model is one focused on a) minimising fixed costs and b) being flexible and adaptable to changing circumstances
  2. A company that has no (or very minimal) fixed offices, and works by bringing people together over via and IT and telecommunications – ‘the network is the office’. This involves virtual teamworking, with people working from a variety of different locations.

In practice a company may combine elements of both of these definitions – few companies are completely virtual in either sense, and it is a question of the degree to which they embrace being a virtual company.

Virtual meeting

A virtual meeting is one that takes place without physically encountering all or some of the other participants in the meeting. The meeting can take place by audio, video or over the web, or a combination of these channels.

The key advantages are in terms of saving time and money and the carbon impacts of travelling to meetings. Cumulatively, virtual meetings lead to the reduction in requirements for real estate.

Virtual mobility

Virtual mobility refers to the replacement of physical transport by the use of new working practices and new communications technologies. So instead of physically travelling to a place to carry out an activity, it can be carried out remotely e.g. via telework or virtual meetings, or by delivering a service electronically.

Virtual mobility is increasingly recognised as a ‘demand management’ tool, i.e. as an important tool for changing behaviours in regard to transport demand, e.g. in the UK government’s Smarter Choices programme.

Virtual team

A virtual team is one that is distributed geographically, and so do not (usually) come together to work in the same place. They work together using a mixture of synchronous communications (teleconferencing, instant messaging, virtual collaboration) and asynchronous ones (e.g. email, working on files held in shared locations, etc).

A virtual team could consist of a few freelancers collaborating, each operating from a home base, or it could consist of people from the same or from different companies in different countries working together on major international projects.

While many people focus on the technology issues around running virtual teams. Most people who do so say the real issues are around culture and teamwork – the people issues – rather than the technologies.

VoIP – Voice over Internet Protocol

VoIP – or Internet telephony – is a means of using the Internet for having telephone calls. The first great advantage for flexible working is that it is far more flexible. You log into your phone from wherever you are sitting in the office. Potentially, you can also log into it outside the office too. The second great advantage is that it is usually much cheaper.

As well as business grade in-office systems, there are a growing number of consumer grade services that are used throughout the world, such as the basic level of Skype, VoipCheap, and voice offerings bundled with messaging software such as MSN and Yahoo. These are extensively used by people running smaller businesses.

Voluntary reduced hours (V-Time)

Voluntary reduced hours is a specific form of part-time, usually for a limited period, when employees can opt to reduce their hours.  During the recession, many organisations have encouraged employees to opt for this rather than to have job cuts.  It can be incentivised by offering slightly more pay for the duration than a simple pro rata calculation.
 

 

A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z

W

Webconferencing

Web conferencing is a way to hold presentations or conduct meetings online, with a geographically distributed audience or group of participants. At a basic level it consists of a presenter who can push out content to the viewers, making his desktop available to all to see, and taking back feedback through online chat mechanisms.

Available systems can also enable other participants to have control of the desktop as needed, or use an ‘interactive whiteboard’ so people mark up or make notes in a shared screen. Polls and surveys are typically part of these systems, enabling snapshots of opinion and voting.

Some definitions make a sharp distinction between web conferencing and video or audio conferencing, but this is only useful up to a point. Most web conferences will include audio, which may be carried online through the web conferencing system or more usually through a separate dial-in audio number. And it may include video, either streaming (one-way) or conferencing (multi-way).

While its distinctive usefulness centres around the ability to share files and work collaboratively on them, the future of web conferencing will definitely include more interactive use of voice and video.

Webinar

A webinar is a particular form of web conference (web seminar) which pushes out content to a distributed audience, including voice or video of the presenter(s) and a limited online back channel for audience comment and interaction.

A webinar is not to be confused with a webcast (web broadcast) which streams video from a live event to geographically dispersed audience who watch it online.

Webinars and webcasts are increasingly important for training and marketing functions.

Wi-Fi

Wireless fidelity - is the branding given to the IEEE 802.11 standard for wireless interoperability. Wi-Fi enabled devices link together without cables to form wireless local area networks -  wireless networks in offices, homes and in public spaces.

They are important for flexible/mobile workers touching down to work, whether in the office, a client’s office, workhub, a coffee shop, airport etc giving them access to the internet and corporate systems.

Workhub

A workhub is a flexible workspace offering an ‘office when needed’ service to modern micro businesses and mobile workers, including those that are home-based.

Shared facilities available to users usually include bookable desks, formal and informal meeting spaces, high speed broadband and costly or space-hungry technical equipment.

Workhubs allow their members to access professional facilities as frequently or occasionally as suits them. This allows them to make smart use of space, serving more business users than traditional offices could house.

Workhubs also provide an environment that facilitates business collaboration and networking, with members exchanging ideas and services and feeling less isolated. Many offer business advice, serving as an incubator for start-ups, and professional skills training.

Work-life balance

The concept of ‘work-life balance’ is all about being able to strike the right balance between ones work life and the rest of one’s life. It’s something that each individual will tend to approach in a different way, according to the degree of integration or separation they want between work and the rest of life. And perceptions are likely to change over the course of life, as we move into and out of situations and relationships.

It has a strong connection with ‘family-friendly’ working practices, and many work-life balance initiatives are strongly connected with issues around combining parenting and elder care with working. But ‘family friendliness’ should really be seen as a subset of work-life balance, as all people, not only carers, wish to balance and prioritise activities in their life. Work-life balance is often linked to women’s issues and greater equality and opportunity in the workplace, as caring responsibilities tend to fall to women.

Work-life balance initiatives at work necessarily involve flexible working options, and greater employee choice of workstyle. But flexible work programmes that focus on work-life balance risk being seen as lacking business focus and somewhat ‘fluffy’. They will be more effective and more transformative if work-life balance is integrated into a wider set of smart working goals.

Workshifting

‘Workshifting’ is a term preferred by some people, mainly in North America, in preference to ‘telecommuting’. Pros and cons to that preference, I think.
 

 

A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z

X

 

Y  
Z Zero hours

A ‘zero hours contract’ is one where an employee is on call, and works for an employer when work is offered, receiving payment only for those hours worked. An employee also may be under no obligation to accept an assignment. Zero hours contracts are most used in sectors where demand is variable, e.g. retail, hotel and catering, home care, etc.

 

A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z

Updated March 2011

 

A sideways look at the jargon...

If you prefer a more light-hearted approach to flexible work and ICT jargon, try out our Jargonbuster series on:

 


 

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