The tide is turning on the way we work

The Smart Working Revolution

This blog post has been produced for the Greater Birmingham Chambers of Commerce as part of the 2019 Growth Through People campaign.

Growth Through People is the Chamber’s annual campaign aiming to help local firms boost productivity and grow through improved leadership and people management skills. In 2019 this involves 15 free events, workshops and training sessions taking place between 25 February and 26 March, along with thought leadership videos and blog content such as this.

Thanks to our sponsors – the University of Birmingham, Aston University, Curium Solutions and CIPD - all events are free to attend. Interested readers can find out more here.

We are living through a fundamental shift in the way that people want to work. The demand from the UK Workforce for smart working options is growing rapidly. 

Powwownow, the web meeting provider, report that 75% of the working population would take a job with flexibility over one based totally in an office. This means that to attract the best talent, organisations must have a smart workforce strategy in place or face the consequences of skills gaps.

Thankfully, more and more businesses are adopting Smart Workforce Models – introducing more flexible working options such as mobile, hub, co-working or remote working into their organisation because they want to tap into a wider talent pool, reduce overheads, improve staff engagement and improve productivity by as much as 13% - that’s almost one day per week.

Smart Infrastructure

But Smart Working is more than issuing employees with a laptop and smart phone and suggesting they can work from home a couple of days a week.  

To successfully deploy smart working, organisations require the right policy process and infrastructure.  Smart leadership skills, a culture of trust, and easy to use technology are all requirements of a strong smart workforce strategy that will help Top Leadership teams take action today to prepare for tomorrow’s work, workforces and workplaces.  Even more important is the right Mindset – the Growth Mindset.

The problem with leaders is fear of the unknown.

The seizmic shift is so powerful that in every boardroom and HR meeting across the land, people are discussing the in’s and out’s of Smart Working. Technology advances – even small tweaks – can revolutionise the work patterns of your workforce – but even though it is 2019, some Leaders don’t get it.

That’s because when a team is working smart – remotely, in a hub or mobile, the Leader requires a whole new set of skills to those who manage a team based purely in an office.  Some leaders are afraid to admit that they need to be reskilled for this new way of working.

So they cover up that fear with objections.  Listen.  Can you hear them?

“Homeworking won’t work here – we have to be in the office to collaborate”

“I have to monitor what they are doing or they wont do the work like I want it done”

“We can’t do it because of GDPR, Technology, Consistency!”

These are Leaders who are locked in the 9 to 5, five days a week mindset.

The Reptillian Brain

This is the body’s automatic, built-in system and is designed to protect us from threat or danger. This is biological and we all have it.  In fact, so does every other creature in this world! It’s critical to our survival from true threat or danger, but what happens when there is no real danger?

Well, we see Leaders out there fighting off sabre-tooth flexible working requests with blunt objects, grunting at modern technology and throwing boulders at the new ways of working.

What can we do to free up their minds?

First & foremost it’s about helping them to see and feel the vast range of benefits that smart working can bring.  Helping them to rationlise fears and consider piloting a few smart measures at their own pace  – options that might just improve workplace productivity and culture of their department and lead to business growth. 

There are heaps of smart options to choose from in the smart working model – just as long as a Leader is brave enough to step up and take a look. Something as simple as flexible start and finish times can help employees reduce the stress of the commute and also stretch business service hours at the same time.

The trick is to help Leaders to work out which will work for their business and to recognise which they should avoid. How confident are you that your Leaders have the skills to manage tomorrow’s work, workforces and workplaces?

The Smart Working Revolution is running it’s next open Smart Leadership Skills Workshop in Birmingham on 17 May. Join us to bring your leadership skills bang up to date ready for the workplace revolution.

Ruth Gawthorpe 
CEO, The Smart Working Revolution