Trade Resources Industry Views Computing Is in The Midst of a Flexible Working Trial

Computing Is in The Midst of a Flexible Working Trial

Computing is in the midst of a flexible working trial. Over the next couple of months we'll be testing various virtual desktop solutions, IP phones, multi-person video conferencing, unified communications toolkits, and also lots of different environments and workspaces.

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For example, while I was proofing the next issue of Computing's iPad app, some nice people appeared and delivered a new and comfy looking sofa, and helpfully installed it next to the windows behind me. So I spent the next half hour checking the issue enjoying the natural light, with my feet up. And also enduring lots of doubtful glances from co-workers not involved in the flexible working trial.

And that's one of the issues around new modes of working, and home-working especially. One of the challenges many firms find when they migrate to a task-based management strategy, rather than location (in other words, if you're not at your desk, you're not working) is the issue of trust.

And it's not necessarily the trust between the employee and the employer (because after all every manager should have a handle on staff performance that goes beyond merely totting up the hours they spend at their desk), but more often the trust between employees.

This is especially true when some staff work flexibly and others don't. Sometimes it's inevitable. Certain job functions necessitate being physically present in the office. HR, for instance. It's hard to conduct interviews or manage disputes over the phone - but even then there are plenty of other activities that can be done anywhere, like in HR's case writing policies or developing strategy.

Flexible working is a cultural shift, which can cause consternation when some employees wonder why their co-workers appear to be progressing perfectly well in their careers without bothering to actually turn up to the office very often.

In Computing's case, we've lost some desk space, but if we do all turn up together on the same day (which is a rare thing given our programme of events, interviews and filming), we've got benches, sofas, armchairs or the local coffee shop to choose as workspaces.

Leaving the technology issue to one side for a moment, what we've found so far is that old habits die hard. A huge part of the challenge of flexible working is human behaviour. We've found that we mostly like to turn up at the same sort of time, and sit at the same desks every day, just as we've done throughout our careers. Given the array of workspaces available, we choose the one that's most like our old set-up, then stick to it every day.

That's fine, because you don't change behaviour overnight. Given time, I've no doubt we'll get our heads around the possibilities offered by different environments, with break-out areas and new meeting spaces sure to grow in popularity as we get used to them.

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The Flexible Working Revolution