This week we are up to “U for Universal” in the WiseWork alphabet. Almost at the end of six months of weekly blogs covering a variety of reasons for adopting our version of flexible working.

There are many different definitions of flexible working and there are several different names for the variations of working patterns that are being adopted. We have ‘agile’, ‘smart’, ‘mobile’, ‘location independent’ and many others. There’s flexitime and compressed hours, home working and hot desking. We have part-time and termtime working, home working and shift work. Then of course there’s zero hours contracts and all sorts of agency work. It can be very confusing for people not familiar with the territory.

To make life simple we’ve defined 7 Universal Principles that should be applied when designing new working practices. At the risk of inventing another label we’ve called them the WiseWork Principles. They are not instructions on detailed design, instead they are guidelines to provide a framework for revised ways of working. Here they are:

  1. Work is done anywhere, at any time (unless proven otherwise).
    This challenges the assumption that work has to be fixed in place and time. Yes, some work has to be done in a rigid pattern, but this should be a constraint imposed for good logical reasons, not a basic assumption.
  2. Employees are valued for output not hours
    Most employment arrangements pay for someone’s time, regardless of how much they produce. This results in long hours cultures were people are rewarded for inputs not outputs. We need to reward productive work, which means getting work done in the shortest not the longest time.
  3. Individuals and teams are trusted to choose how they work
    Instead of dictating to staff how they should get their job done, good managers will tap into the ideas from their people and give them freedom to manage themselves. Being trusted results in highly engaged employees who are more productive and loyal.
  4. Decisions are devolved to the lowest level
    Delegating responsibility down the organisation shows people that they are trusted to make decisions for themselves. This releases creativity and provides a motivational environment for all.
  5. Bureaucracy is minimised
    Many employees are reduced to ‘following the rules’ because they have to do their jobs in a rigid way. Sometimes there are good reasons for this but often it’s lazy management that insists on fixed rules rather than allow individual variations.
  6. Work accommodates individual preferences
    People look for different things from their work and they all have very different lives outside of work. Allowing people to work the way that suits them best is a sure way of getting increased output and loyalty from employees.
  7. People are engaged
    Applying these Principles results in an engaged workforce which directly contributes to the success of the organisation whatever sector it’s in.

How do your woking practices line up with these principles? Are you missing out on the untapped potential of your workforce because you are too rigid in your approach? Will you be left behind as the world of work moves on into the digital age?