Work Wise Week: Why You Need to Embrace Smarter Working

Written by Matt Scott Wednesday 17 May 2017
Smarter working initiatives can boost productivity and drive a better work-life balance for your employees
A girl sitting on a bench and writing on her laptop

As well as being Learning at Work Week, this week also marks Work Wise Week. The aim of Work Wise Week is to promote modern “smarter” working practices such as agile, flexible, remote and mobile working, as well as working from home.

In recent years, there have been a number of smarter working initiatives that have become commonplace, aimed at improving motivation, retaining staff, supporting equal opportunities and diversity and boosting productivity and reducing costs.

In addition, there has been pressure from employees battling to maintain a satisfactory work/life balance, which has been supported by the Government via the introduction of legislation and guidance on flexible working and work-time regulations.

Cultural, economic and social changes are affecting attitudes to how workers balance work with our personal lives, where increasing mobility and technology is shifting the acceptance or need for traditional 9-5 work patterns, to be replaced by more flexible ways and periods of work.

CMI’s own Quality of Working Life research has found that the rise of the ‘always-on’ culture has led to a significant decline in the work-life balance of many British workers in recent years, with more than three quarters of managers (77%) working at least an additional hour each day – that’s an extra 29 days over the course of a year.

In total, 92% of respondents said they were working more than their contracted hours.

Not surprisingly, those working long hours are more than three times as likely to report they feel stressed than those working no additional hours; 54% of managers said that long working hours increase levels of stress in workers.

CMI chief executive Ann Francke said that a lack of professional management was to blame for this excessive working, with “accidental managers” unequipped to balance the needs of their team members with the needs of the organisation.

“There’s nothing wrong with hard graft, but only if you’re well supported,” she said. “Accidental managers who lack the professional skills to deal with the causes of burnout are a threat to their health and others’ at work.

“Productivity will also continue to suffer unless employers train their managers to prevent overwork and strike the necessary work/life balance.”

CMI’s Recommendations for Improving the Quality of Working Life

Improve the ability to manage change – 97% of managers report some degree of organisational change, yet just a fifth see a connection with improved decision making. Focusing on behaviours and measuring the impacts of change are crucial in tackling this leading cause of stress.

Develop better line managers – Line managers have a critical role to play in driving employee engagement. More open, empowering management styles are connected with lower levels of stress, higher job satisfaction and greater personal productivity

Switch off – Avoiding digital presenteeism means giving colleagues the license to switch off. Colleagues can often be their own worst enemies, and while personal choice is key, options such as restricting remote access should be considered.

Empower your people – The most power drivers of job satisfaction are a personal sense of achievement. Where innovative, entrepreneurial and empowering management styles are found, more than 84% of managers are satisfied with their jobs.

Improve well-being - People are not assets to be driven to destruction, it is important to monitor metrics such as morale and illness to identify destructive habits.