You can’t move in the worlds of workplace planning and productivity these days without hearing the term “Smart Working”. It’s the latest buzzword, the sort that gets HR managers salivating and operations teams running to reorganise processes (yet again) to make things “smarter” – which is basically a codeword for “stacks of new procedures and policy documents”.
Smart Working, say the experts, is all about optimizing people, spaces and technology. Yes, it also means cost savings thanks to less people in the office needing less square meters and using less company energy, but it’s not just a matter of operations or real estate. Where it becomes salient for Internal Communications teams is in how a digital workplace, and opportunities like Google intranet solutions, can play a role. They enable collaboration from anywhere.
After all, this new buzz is all about enabling better communication through flexibility and the digital workplace.
The changing world of work needs better team collaboration
The UK government has even made Smart Working mandatory for departments to help them optimize team collaboration and minimize blockages to communications and productivity. Like something straight out of a Netflix sitcom, they called the programme TW3 - short for The Way We Work - and banked on Smart Working to bring the civil service into the 21st century.
“The world of work is changing,” wrote Bruce Mann of the Cabinet Office and Senior Responsible Officer for Smarter Working, for the UK Civil Service blog in 2016. “People no longer need be tied to the desk – we can work smarter than that, in a way that saves money on property, that empowers the individual and improves productivity. TW3 is helping government to move away from employment models and management practices which were appropriate for the twentieth century, but not for today.”
He continues by naming the benefits of better collaboration as a better lifestyle, better recruitment and retention, a reduced carbon footprint, better diversity, better mental and physical health, better productivity and a more effective use of property. With a list like that, it’s no wonder workplace interest is piqued.
Smart Working is a step up from the teleworking and death-by-slow-internet connection of the noughties – those days when viewing an intranet meant logging in through a VPN, or having a long list of passwords for different applications.
Alison White says Smart Working “means providing people with the tools - the culture and leadership, workspace and technology - that enable people to choose when, where and how they do their jobs.” Echoing that philosophy, Micol Mieli writes in Market Inspector that Smart Working’s main principles involve five areas of work life: leadership, workplace, technology, estate, and people and culture. And the possibilities held within a Google intranet touches each one.
Even if your company’s leadership team is based in one office, that doesn’t mean they’re visible. Visibility gets even more difficult when your team is spread out across the city, the country, the world. But successful communication across the organization must be driven by an active, visible and informed leadership. It’s Internal Communications best practice: get the executives to show they’re authentic – they’re human, and they care.
Award-winning Internal Communications expert Saskia Jones told H&H there are five ways senior leaders can become more visible:
By talking to just one person
By surprising, constantly, and making people feel special
By listening to and learning from employee concerns, passions and ideas
By shunning the polished and scripted messaging to share personal stories
Using Google team collaboration tools and a Google intranet means your leadership can spend more time engaging with employees on their turf, and on their terms. Try ditching the monthly email from the CEO and get him on the intranet for a real-time Q&A - a virtual town hall where every employee feels they’ve had one-on-one time - or keep a channel open for questions with a defined time for a response from the top. We’re all drowning in our inbox, and Google team collaboration tools can act as a life jacket to bring us back to the surface.
The way we work: rethinking the traditional office along technology lines
The rise of technology and the digital workplace has handed employees from all levels the opportunity to make work theirs, and it also means the traditional cubicle farm or row of closed glass boxes is undergoing a revamp. With more people opting for flexible working practices - be it flexible hours or flexible locations - operations teams are rethinking how much space they really need, and what that space should look like.
Smart Working theory espouses the need for open spaces, green spaces, community spaces. But really where it’s heading is towards better-enabled technology to empower employees to work from wherever it suits them – be it from the communal garden, from the dedicated quiet space, from a hot desk, or from the local cafe.
This means the Internet of Things has arrived at the workplace; the “smart office” market is forecast to double by 2023, reaching $46.11 billion. And when your office is smart, you need to work smart. But smart offices still have their difficulties: the audio-visual equipment isn’t working; Bob in the Newcastle office can’t see your screen for the video conference; the office lighting is too bright and the temperature too cold. Even with the best in IoT, you can’t guarantee your employees will want to be in the office.
Smart Working philosophy embraces that, and believes that employees need to be enabled to work wherever it suits them that day – and that might mean working from home. Managers need to ensure their team collaboration will still run smoothly if the whole team isn’t physically in the building; that’s where technology needs to play its role, and where a Google intranet and Google team collaboration tools really come into their own.
But when this happens, Internal Communications teams need to rethink their strategy. How do you communicate with staff when you can’t guarantee they’ll see that all-staff email, or that intranet article talking about that important new process?
People and culture: the flexibility to build a greater work/life balance through tech
What the digital workplace also does is bring that social aspect back to your workforce. Those days when we would gather by the watercooler or the coffee machine and chat about current projects are pretty much over, and that means silos are getting bigger and bigger. How can you make sure you encourage a greater work/life balance for employees to keep them fresh and productive - and engaged - while also encouraging the idle chat that brings out the best ideas?
A Google intranet brings the social into the intranet, not by replicating Facebook for the workplace, but by enabling employees to talk to each other, work together in real-time on documents, collaborate on a project and track conversations. Conversations are personal, but centered around work. It also gives the Internal Communications team a chance to really get to know those they’re communicating to, and gives leadership a chance to talk more one-on-one than a one-way broadcast.
By moving to a digital workplace underpinned by Google team collaboration tools and a Google intranet, you give employees the choice of how to fit work commitments to their preferred communications styles – to the way they need to receive information to make it stick.
Smarter Working, enabled by Google team collaboration tools
A report by US office furniture company Steelcase entitled Engagement and the Global Workplace, quoted by ZDNet, found that engaged employees have more control over their experiences at work – 88% of highly engaged employees cited the ability to choose where they work depending on the task at hand, compared to 14% of highly disengaged workers.
When the time comes for the next engagement survey, consider asking your workforce about their team collaboration preferences and their use of technology. It might just give you the business case to move into Google team collaboration, and to deploy a G Suite intranet – and to take that final step into the era of Smart Working.