Smart Working is a business-savvy approach to workplace flexibility. It is an integrated and strategic approach to flexible working, bringing together changes in technology and new concepts in workplace design with aspirations for more choice and a more manageable work-life interface.
Flexible working has grown up over the last 20 years for the most part as ‘flexibility by exception’, even where organisations have good policies around allowing people to work flexibly.
That is, there is a default ‘normal’ way of working, and people can ask to have a different working pattern. In many countries such as the UK, this ‘right to request’ is supported by legislation. Employers don’t have to agree to the request, but in principle should have a good business reason for refusing.
Smart Working by contrast aims to reach a position of ‘flexibility as normal’. Work takes place at the most appropriate times and locations for the tasks involved – it’s all about the tasks involved, not about changing the working patterns for a whole role.
So it’s all about management by results rather than by presence, and treating employees like adults within a trust-based working culture.
Smart working requires a rethinking of assumptions
It also involves rethinking assumptions about a whole load of traditional concepts about work – rethinking what the workplace is, rethinking meetings, rethinking what ‘face to face’ means, rethinking traditional processes. This makes it potentially a complex and interdisciplinary field, hence the need for the code of practice.
The initiative for the new guidance comes from the UK government. There has been an urgent need to improve the way government is run and reduce its costs, to deliver much better value for the tax payer and for ‘customers’ of government services.
But government also from the economic development point of view also has a duty to businesses to support best practice. So the UK Cabinet Office commissioned the British Standards Institute and Flexibility.co.uk to develop the Code of Practice.
A Code of Practice for Smart Working has been published by the British Standards Institute, with support from the UK Cabinet Office. It is available from the BSI store .