Andy Lake challenges the lack of ambition implicit in these new descriptions of working post-pandemic. And we need to rethink what “remote working” means if we are to maximise the benefits from working smarter
11 November 2020
There’s a growing consensus around the probability that “hybrid working” will be part of the future of work. That is, more people will work at a distance from the main workplace, and those that do will do so more frequently. But the traditional workplace will remain part of the picture. It may shrink, but it will still be there as a core place to work.
Indeed, in Smart Working, there has always been an expectation that people will work in multiple locations. People are empowered to decide where and when is most appropriate to work, depending on the nature of the tasks in hand. Hybrid working is usually part – but only part – of working smarter.
So what’s the problem?
The term “hybrid working” opens the door to people pretty much working in the same old ways, just in different locations. The same is true for another phrase in vogue, “the New Normal”. Both concepts lack the dynamic and transformational aspects of Smart Working.
For example, we put meetings online. But for many organisations, meetings have always been an issue. Now we have shifted their imperfections to the virtual space. Our days become full of virtual meetings that don’t add a lot of value. Have we really made any progress to making collaboration more effective, or improved the speed and nature of decisions?
People may be working from home or local offices – but has the culture changed to one of management by results and a culture of trust? It’s been depressing to read about the boom in monitoring software, so managers can watch over their staff from a distance. It’s command and control with a digital twist. This article highlights the regressive trend: https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-54289152
We’re all remote now – so what needs to change?
Part of the issue is that we need to rethink who is a “remote worker”. The word implies that there is an important central place from which the worker is remote. However, with much more distributed teams, there’s every chance that the people in the office will themselves be remote from many, even the majority, of their colleagues at any given time.
This also involves a radical rethinking of the settings in the workplace, to facilitate ease of interaction with colleagues working elsewhere, on an equal basis.
Too often in the past, implementations of “teleworking” resulted in people working away from the office are seen as exceptional and problematic, and the ways of working and culture in the office remain unchanged.
There needs to be a holistic approach to Smart Working, where there is a single culture and shared ways of working that focus on continuously improving the ways of working. This will result in improvements to business performance, and creating a great place to work for everyone, wherever they are working.