Smart Working: evolution or revolution?

A new Smart Working British Standards Institution document has just come out. It's called PAS 3000:2015 Smart working – Code of Practice. PAS – stands for Publicly Available Specification. Andy Lake of Flexibility.co.uk explained that 'It's kind of a strange designation as in the standard wording from BSI in the document's introduction they are at pains to say that a PAS is not a 'specification'. … There is a history behind it, so if someone asks, I guess the best thing to say is that it's a significant step on the road to standardisation – and PAS 3000 takes the form of a code of practice, based on current best industry practice'.

The Code of Practice is 'intended to provide a strategic framework' which it does very nicely in my view. (This is a bit of a surprise to me as I was skeptical in the early stages of the value of a Code of Practice but now I see the finished product I am very happy to do a U turn). It covers Smart Working definitions, principles, leadership and vision, people, workstyles and culture change, environments, technologies, well-being and sustainability.

The optimists will tell us that if you have this Code of Practice in one hand and the second edition of the Smart Working Handbook (freely downloadable) in the other then you have what you need to get going in Smart Working.

The pessimists will shake their heads, saying 'If only it were that simple in practice!' They point out that the Handbook lists the key features of Smart Working as 'management by results, a trust-based culture, high levels of autonomy, flexibility in the time and location of work, new tools and work environments, reduced reliance on physical resources and openness to continuing change'.

Each characteristic on its own is a pretty high bar – collectively they look more like a moon shot for many organisations.

A vigorous response comes back from the optimists: the good news is that it may be possible to clear the bars in stages and a helpful maturity model is available in the Code of Practice and on the Flexibility.co.uk website.They argue for an evolving comprehensive and integrated and evolutionary approach to Smart Working – this sounds plausible.

But, counter the pessimists, you're about to take on a challenge almost as complex as the Musk v Bezos space race but without the billionaire vision and funding to see it through. Hmm – there may be something in this, the optimists agree as they retreat a bit into realism.

Also, the pessimists, sensing backtrack, press the point that there may be spats between the different directors, technology, HR, facilities, etc. as they are likely to have competing priorities/interests in how best to progress Smart Working in the organisation. (Let's hope any spats that might occur are not public as the Musk v Bezos one seems to be becoming.) So probably better not to even think about Smart Working.

But wait, counter the optimists, we can do this – let's just focus on 'evolving', we don't have to have a big 'initiative' or programme. We don't even need to use the label 'Smart Working' or talk about a 'model' both of which risk inviting shock, and resistance. Work, technology and culture are inevitably evolving: people are used to that. After all they've managed to convert from land-lines to smart-phones without a lot of 'change management intervention'. We can actively evolve Smart Working, keeping the maturity model, handbook and Code of Practice in our back pockets but using them to guide us in supporting a conscious and collective evolution. … No, that's not being an under-cover revolutionary. It's just smart working.

What's your view on Smartworking – is it just an evolution or does it require revolution? Let me know.

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