For managers

Tips for supervising staff members in Smart Working

1. Take the staff member's proposal for implementing Smart Working seriously
You may expect a staff member to present a sound plan and not just to vaguely say that they need more flexibility without backing this up with arguments. If someone takes the trouble to present a plan regarding how he or she can make his or her work and life more flexible, then that person is serious about it. If he or she is not serious about it, then he or she will not come up with a concrete plan.

2. Do not immediately say no
By saying no straight away, you are assuming that the solution is not suitable for your organization and at the same time you are saying: "I'm not interested in whether you leave or not." Otherwise there is a large chance of the staff member leaving, if not physically then mentally. So make sure that you listen. Help your staff member to think things through and look at the organizational consequences together. Discuss any concerns. Give serious candidates a trial period and work with them to make this a success.

3. Make staff productivity measurable
In order to be effective you need to have sufficient information on which to base decisions. You should therefore devise a practical system with your staff that helps to make their work measurable. You should not try to do this on your own; after all, staff have the best knowledge of their own work.

4. People do their best work when they can stick to their own schedule
The chance of a staff member's biorhythm running parallel to office hours is very small. It is a good idea for organizations that want their staff to improve their performance to let them work at their own times as much as possible. Allow people to wake up in their own time and allow them to start work when they are ready to. Respect the difference between 'morning people' and 'evening people'.

5. Base your management style on trust
If there is no trust, this leaves space for suspicion, a loss of commitment and the development of the tendency to check. This leads to an unnecessary loss of production for both staff and managers.

6. Communicate clearly and often
Show that you think your relationship with your staff is important and that you appreciate their work by communicating with them regularly and often. However, be aware that communication is not the same as checking.

7. Become a helmsman rather than a checker
Change the classic checker role into the role of helmsman and coach who helps to achieve the results aimed at. As a helmsman, you use clear communication and trust as the basic instruments for management, rather than checking.

8. Achieve more with less effort
Give staff the responsibility of keeping you up to date. Above all, do not make things too difficult by having to chase up things yourself. Instead, make clear agreements about the fact that providing status updates is the responsibility of staff members.

9. Act as an example
Keep to agreements, be straightforward and direct, and do not have any hidden agendas.

10. Delegation
Delegation need not be any more difficult than delegating to office workers with a permanent workstation, as long as agreements are clear. The most important thing is to ask for information, concerns or feedback regarding the task straight away on assigning it. This is because you will have fewer opportunities to make adjustments during unplanned meetings and informal encounters. Good results and peace of mind are dependent on doing this.

11. Double check
Checking properly whether your expectations, the task and your message have been properly understood immediately on assigning a task can save time. This is because people can interpret the same information in numerous ways and draw numerous conclusions from it.

12. Ask for interim status updates
On assigning a task, make clear agreements regarding how and when the staff member will submit status updates to you. These status updates will help you to make adjustments if necessary. If you allow staff not to provide interim updates or to miss deadlines, then this will undermine your credibility.

13. Solving conflicts
Nothing devours time and energy as much as a conflict. As you will be making use of many different communication channels, the chance of conflicts may increase. It is easy for emails or text messages to be misunderstood. As soon as you notice that someone has misunderstood something, you should immediately switch to synchronous communication; a video conference call or telephone contact, for example. You should also make clear agreements regarding the type of subjects that should not be discussed by email, but instead should be discussed in person, for example.

14. Meetings
Organize meetings only when absolutely necessary and when you are sure that a meeting is the best way of achieving a goal. If there are smarter ways of achieving the same goal using other communication channels, then these are preferable. One of the best ways of announcing a meeting is not by email but instead by video message. Visual expression says more than a series of words.

15. Treat people like people
Treat people in the way that you would like to be treated, in other words respectfully and with courtesy. The concept is simple, but the practical implementation of it is not.