Digital TransformationWe know that Smart Working can have some unintended consequences - people are collaborating less, and they’re being less innovative. What’s happening here?

There’s a simple explanation that I hear quite often from HR directors: ‘Big Smart Working programmes too often overlook the people side of the equation’.

Worse, a lot of companies are squeezing HR out of important decisions, with harmful effects.

More and more, Smart Working initiatives are driven by a financial agenda. “Let’s save money by getting people to work from home.” Smart working certainly produces some fine looking numbers. Office space rationalisation can save millions by driving up desk utilisation. It’s a good idea, but it’s looking through the wrong end of the telescope. Estate efficiencies are great, but closing buildings has consequences that fall straight into the lap of your workforce.

Yes, you can save money on buildings. But when you forget the people, it hurts your organisation in other ways that take longer to show up on the balance sheet.

HR needs to be at the centre of this. To be successful in Smart Working, you need to put employee experience at the heart of your Smart Working strategy.

Employees working in a Smart Working environment often struggle with a lack of team cohesion. It’s harder for them to collaborate, and they often feel isolated. They often feel frustrated that their company-supplied Smart Working gear isn’t as good as the devices they use themselves.

So what can you do to get the expected returns of Smart Working, and ride the wave to better performance?

Employee experience should be embedded in the three pillars of your Smart Working strategy: property, technology and people.

  • Looking at property first. Companies can do a brilliant job on workplace design with ‘zoning’ for different workplace activities, configurable work stations and the development of collaboration spaces to encourage ‘water cooler’ moments.
  • Next is technology. Technology acts as the enabler to deliver particular business outcomes. It’s there to help your employees work productively as individuals and in teams.
  • People. We believe that putting your employees as the top priority in your Smart Working strategy is vital to your success. Rather than asking “How do we reduce costs?, ask: “How do we ensure our people can work at their best anytime, anywhere?” 

Ultimately, Smart Working by turning your workforce into remote workers and providing them with laptop and mobile devices is only one piece of the pie. To improve the results achieved through your Smart Working strategy, we would suggest you consider:

Firstly, a collaboration strategy. How will you enable your employees to collaborate when they are not situated in the same place at the same time? How will you organise work and teams to encourage collaboration when working apart? What collaboration tooling can help your employees work more effectively in a smart working environment? 

Secondly, your leadership style. The leadership style to manage a team in one place is fundamentally different when managing a team that is virtual. Leaders need to manage by outcomes, not presenteeism. Leaders also need to be mindful of the impact of working remotely on wellbeing and create opportunities for the team to engage and collaborate with each other – either virtually or in person.

At the end of the day, if we expect employees to succeed in a smart working environment, we have to provide them with the support and tools for them­ to be successful.

Please feel free to share any great (or not so great) examples where companies have done this well (or not so well).

Angela Rixon is Head of Digital Employee Experience at CGI.

About this author

Picture of Angela Rixon

Angela Rixon

Director of Digital Employee Experience

Angela leads the Digital Employee Experience Practice at CGI. Digital Employee Experience drives operational and productivity efficiency and effectiveness through a range of innovative workforce solutions. This includes Innovative robotic process automation to drive productivity, cost savings and customer experience Enabling workforce ...

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