Are public bodies gambling with Smart Working?

I’ve been following Don Cooke on Twitter on @enhanced_teams for a while now and he posts a lot of useful links on distributed/dispersed team working. This makes sense, he is the founder and co-owner of CAL, the smart working team specialists working with clients in the public and private sector to raise team performance and lower operating costs through the introduction of smarter works of working. They help organisations ask “how good are we as a team and could we be better?” The company practice what they preach and use ‘best of breed’ software and analytics tools internally. They have also produced a smarter-Working Costs CALculator which uses industry gathered data to use stats such as sickness absence and travel costs to show organisation could be saving if their staff started working remotely.

CAL has had worked with clients from the public sector, both within academia and local government, including Coventry University, Southampton Solent University (working on The Digital Enterprise Programme), Hampshire County Council, Sussex County Council and the city of Westminster. Don regularly talks to audiences on the effective use of remote and mobile technologies in today’s business world and he’s written a blog post for us asking Are public bodies gambling with Smart Working?

Don lives with his wife and four children in West Sussex and blogs at


Many public bodies already have or are considering the introduction of smarter working teams with the goal of reducing office and accommodation costs, even more so in the light of cuts, but are some organisations gambling on it being a success?

My organisation, CAL has been involved in Smarter working teams for over twenty years and have been involved in many successful projects to create the right team accommodation to support and encourage Smarter working. But many organisations take a chance at their success by not undertaking initial work to understand how the teams work and how this will change as the team becomes smarter about how they deliver services.

I want to look at what the crucial factors are in getting smarter working teams and how you can adopt these simple steps into your project or at your organisation.

What do you want to achieve?
Now this may sound a silly question, but very often different managers, departments or directors can want different things, so it is important that this is understood. For example a manager may just want to keep his team area as near as possible to what they have, as they see it as an attack on their team, to be resisted at the expense of others. A department may want to explore different ways of working, encourage part-time working or job share. A director is likely to be looking at the bottom line savings, which the board have agreed to the project based upon making these savings, so it’s all about ROI.

What do your teams think?
We often find that the team members have not been consulted and a feeling of ‘This is a stupid change that will result in no benefit to me and I will lose my desk!’ can set in. Of course this is never the aim of Smart working teams, but any organisation failing to engage fully with their teams will miss the major benefits and an opportunity to create new and dynamic teams, working more effectively.

Setting goals and objectives

We have lost count of the number meetings we have attend, where the first question is; why are we not seeing the savings we predicted from the introduction of smart working? This is usually followed by a catalogue of the above mistakes, where stakeholders have different ideas of what they thought they were buying and engagement at team level has been poorly communicated. The result is there are no real objectives or goals relevant and measurable. So always understand what you want to achieve and the goals that need to be set at every level, from director to team member. Also make sure you understand them all, not just the lowering of accommodation costs.

Measuring on going success
If you can’t measure it you can’t achieve it. The most frequently asked question we get is ‘How can you measure such an indefinable benefit, as Smart team working?’ The answer is looking at the benefits and aligning with costs, such as higher occupancy of a building for the full day, not just at the peaks of the day. Reduction in service delivery times, because teams are working dynamically and the old static team’s boundaries have been removed. Obviously these are just examples and each organisation will be different in how these are found. But by tracking the savings on-going you will start to see savings building month by month, then when the question is asked, ‘What have we saved?’ a comprehensive answer can be given.

Hopefully these pointers will help you avoid the pitfalls before you embark of your smart working journey. If you have any questions about smarter working practices just contact me.

2 thoughts on “Are public bodies gambling with Smart Working?

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