A Personal Lexicon for New Ways of Working

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  2 Dec 2013   JohnEary


One of the problems of discussing new ways of working is the number of terms used to describe it. I present below a personal glossary and a commentary on their use.

Agile Working – promises benefits that people are able to react quickly and appropriately regardless of where they are situated and also have the ability to improve processes within a flexible working style. It could be regarded as a combination of Flexible Working and Business Transformation. Arguably what Smart Working was intended to be.

Business Transformation – a rather overused term to describe fundamental changes in the business processes and technologies an organisation employs to address a major shift in the market or meet redefined business goals.

BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) – refers to the policy of permitting employees to bring personally owned mobile devices (laptops, tablets, and smart phones) for work purposes. By keeping personal and business information on the same device many people are now practicing work-life integration, reducing the separation of time assigned for business and personal activities.

Flexible Working – a general term for working at times and places away from the traditional full time 9-5 office based employment. The definition on the Gov.uk site is skewed in favour of employees “Flexible working is a way of working that suits an employee’s needs, e.g. being able to work certain hours or work from home.” The examples given and defined on the site are Job sharing, Working from home, Part time working, Compressed hours, Flexitime and Annualised hours and Staggered hours.

Home Working – self evidently where work is done at home, however there are number of varieties I have encountered.

  • Permanent Homeworking  – for these employees home is their registered place of work and where work activities take place;
  • Partial Homeworking – where employees spend some time, say two or three days a week at home, and the rest the time in the office;
  • Occasional Homeworking  – where employees spend the odd day at home to write a report or wait for the gas engineer to call;
  • Day Extenders – employees who do a ‘full day’s work’ in the office but also do work at home in the evenings and/or weekends e.g.to catch up on emails or finish off a report.

Hot Desking –breaks the link between staff and designated desks and therefore increases the flexibility of accommodation and resulting savings in space of costs of reduced office location. Many staff are distinctly cool about Hot Desking if it is not well thought through and is inferior to the facilities they previously enjoyed.

Mobile Working – a peripatetic lifestyle, working “in the field” or out and about as in the old Martini slogan “anytime, anyplace anywhere” e.g. as practised by service engineers and sales staff

New Ways of Working – an umbrella term that embraces all alternative ways of working to the traditional full time 9-5 single office based employment and doing things differently to how they were done before.

Remote working – working at bases away from a designated place of work, similar to mobile workers but limited to a few locations and thus does not require mobile technologies to accomplish work tasks.

Smart Working – promised the opportunity for employees to ‘work smarter, not harder’.  In reality both central and local government have adopted Smart Working as a way of saving money from hard-pressed budgets. Savings have come from reducing office space by encouraging staff to work at home and providing hot desks when employees are in the office. Real cash benefits are being achieved by the sale, or renting, of the accommodation no longer required.

Work Life Balance –where time for work and social life activities are separately packaged and a balance is sought between them. Legislation specifically supported employees with caring responsibilities to request flexible working.

Work-Life Integration – the effective mixing of business and personal time in a connected lifestyle. Is encountering resistance form some employees who regard it an intrusion into their personal life

So which of the terms have the most common currency? The table below provides a snapshot of the frequency if these terms as searched for on the web by UK users (Source: Google Adwords 7th December 2014.) Keyword-serarches-2014-JPEG.jpgFlexible Working is still the most popular term, up there ahead of the still current hot topic of BYOD, although not everyone may share the definition given above. Smart Working seems to have had its day but its replacement, Agile Working, is now ahead of Remote Working and Business Transformation.. Mobile Working is lower than I would expect given all the continuing debates about mobile devices. New Ways of Working is perhaps too generic to be a phrase that people are searching on.

Although Home Working and Hot Desking are well-established practices they are still in this top five topics of interest. It seems a lot of people are still searching for a Work Life Balance even though it was coined at the beginning of this Millennium. The more modern term of Work Life Integration is not yet recognised by many.


john-eary-100x100-01.jpgWritten by John Eary, Director of JEC Professional Services Ltd. I have a strong track record in advising organisations on new ways of working and exploiting IT effectively. My blog seeks to provoke thinking on the opportunities and challenges of new ways of working presented by technology.



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