10 Ways to Work Smarter NOT Harder

It was Henry Ford who said "If you always do what you've always done, you’ll always get what you've always got.” Globally, millions of people are heeding his warning and changing how they work. Are you?

New Ways of Working

Whilst researching this topic, I came across some amazing statistics that illustrate what I mean.

Did you know:

  • Over 25% of the EU workforce is classed as 'e-nomads' (i.e. individuals who use telecommunications technologies to earn a living)
  • More than 90% of large organisations offer some form of 'flexible work'
  • The amount of part-time working is increasing (e.g. 27% of the UK’s workforce is part-time and 51% of the workforce in the Netherlands)
  • In the UK, 4.2 million people work from home representing a 32% increase from 2001
  • In the UK, approximately 70% of business start-ups begin at home

Work as we used to know it is changing rapidly and permanently.

Working Smarter

‘Smart working’, often referred to as 'flexible working' or 'agile working' involves organisations enabling work to take place at the most effective times and in the most effective locations – the aim is to promote flexibility as the norm and not the exception. Ultimately, smart working will help support and improve our work-life balance, whilst driving down the costs of doing business. Here are my top ten tips for working smarter NOT harder:

Top Tip 1: Managing by Results

Results are more important than activity. I now focus on managing Team Exponential by outcome rather than activity and presence. What does this mean? It means agreeing and reviewing performance and progress with them; it means coaching and supporting them, and it means not ‘micro-managing’ them – above all else it means encouraging them to use their creativity, initiative and judgement.

Top Tip 2: Encourage Smart Working

If smart working is good enough for me, then it is good enough for everyone! I cannot think of many roles where there is no flexibility or scope for smart working – all it involves is encouraging and accommodating the way people work, therefore look for opportunities to capitalise on smart working.

Top Tip 3: Develop a New Culture

A new smart working culture will not just happen by magic. You will need to invest some time to explain the idea behind smart working; you will need to possibly organise some simple smart working techniques; you might need to set time aside to agree a new team charter or new work protocols designed to involve and encourage people to take responsibility for working smarter. Do not under-estimate how big a challenge it will be getting people to leave behind time-based and activity-based measures of performance in favour of outcome-based measures.

Top Tip 4: Rethink Meetings

Why should meetings take place in meeting rooms? Why should they be face-to-face? Why should they take place on the first Monday of each month? With smart working, meetings can be anywhere, any time and for any reason. Think about how you can reduce, replace and eliminate ‘stuffy old fashioned’ meetings.

Top Tip 5: Create a Smart Working Environment

Who said offices need to have neat rows of desks with telephones and computers? Think about it for a moment – is your office layout really best suited to support the achievement of high value work, flexible working processes and encouraging people to share and exchange ideas? Do you have a quiet room for creative planning and thinking? Do you have a space where people can brainstorm and get excited about ideas without disturbing colleagues? If you had a blank canvas how would you design your office?

Top Tip 6: Check Out How Space is Used (or not used)

Do you really need that many desks and cupboards? Why are things laid out in this way? Why isn't there a big table for teams to work collaboratively? Why are there no easy chairs for chilling and thinking? Why is your reception cut off from the main working area? Why don’t you use the space in your local coffee shop as an extension of your office?

Top Tip 7: Use Shared Workspace

I don’t just mean shared desks or 'hot-desking'. I mean mixing up teams from different departments working in the same area – you will be amazed when the physical barriers are removed how other barriers disappear as well. I also mean working in shared space on-line through collaborative platforms such as Wiggio, Slack, Podio or Asana.

Top Tip 8: Go Virtual

Virtual interaction is here so collaborate, meet, and interact in the ‘virtual world’ as well as in the 'real world'. Whilst there will always be a need for face-to-face and ‘real world’ interaction, look to maximise the 'virtual world' and transform productivity, performance and results.

Top Tip 9: Adopt ‘Smart’ Technologies

Technology makes working anywhere, any time possible. The use of laptops, smart phones, on-line collaboration tools and video conferencing makes flexible working possible – you just need to decide how best to use them.

Top Tip 10: Develop a Results Culture

Smart working requires a trust-based and results-focused culture rather than an attendance culture. Instead of being pre-occupied with a time and presence-based approach, embrace the anywhere, any time and results approach and you will be amazed at how creative, productive and responsible the workforce becomes.

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About the Author

John Moore has over 20 years experience of training and developing Managers, Coaches, Consultants and businesses. As Managing Director of Exponential Training, John researches, speaks, blogs and writes about how to improve performance. He also designs and delivers engaging, fun and interactive learning programmes. John is a Fellow Chartered Manager and has worked with managers and organisations in over 20 different countries.

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