Smart Working is well established in many other organisations and more problems are feared during the change than actually develop in reality.

The following are some of the most commonly feared problems, and the ways to deal with them should they arise.


The fear of employees becoming isolated is most associated with extensive or full-time remote working. Most remote working is not full-time, and there is regular contact with colleagues in the office.

Good training for team members and managers in effective remote working plus good protocols for reporting and team communication ideally addresses this fear in most cases. People often focus on homeworking, but having the option to work in places other than home can be important. Arranging face-to-face get-togethers for social interaction and teambuilding remains important.

Individuals can feel marginalised if, for example, working remotely or part-time they miss out on hearing about development opportunities. It is essential to maintain an inclusive communications culture.

Team fragmentation

With team members working in different places and at different times it is sometimes feared that team cohesion will be lost.

Following the guidance in Top Tips for Managing a Smart Working Team and Rethinking Meetings and Collaboration will help to maintain team cohesion and should help to improve collaboration techniques.

Most of all, having team conversations and agreements will help to develop collective approaches to overcome any issues.

Overworking or being ‘always on’

When a long-hours culture or a culture of “presenteeism” combines with the technologies to work anytime, anywhere, there is a real risk of overworking and burn-out.

Properly used, the technologies and the new working practices should empower employees to control their availability for work more effectively. This should contribute to – rather than harm – work-life balance. However, for this to happen there needs to be explicit agreement about availability for work – and about the right to “turn off and tune out”.

Having the right mechanisms and role design in place to enable others to share workloads when individuals are unavailable can help to reduce the pressure to be “always on”.

Ergonomics and health & safety

There is good advice available for health and safety when working away from the office on the intranet, and some advice in the resource for employees Working in a Smart Working Team.

Basically, all the guidance and regulations that apply in the workplace also apply wherever someone is working, and the employers’ duty of care is the same.

So colleagues shouldn’t work for prolonged periods on a portable device without connecting to an additional screen or using a laptop or tablet riser, so that the screen is at the right height. An additional keyboard or mouse may be required for the optimal ergonomic set-up. You should also have the chair and desks at the right height, sit with correct posture, and take regular breaks from screen work.

As people use similar portable devices for non-work activities, developing good practice while working should help to minimise the risk of musculoskeletal problems and eyestrain when using these devices at any time, both for work and non-work activities.

Underperformance when not working in the same place

Managers sometimes worry about spotting underperformance when not working in the same place or at the same times as those they manage.

With good systems and routines for managing by results and good team communications, this risk should be minimised.

However, managers and team members should be aware that things that might be picked up through casual conversation or observation in the office might be missed when not working together in the same place.

So signs like changes in levels of contact, not contributing to online meetings or changes in tone of emails and messages should trigger conversations about how they are getting on to see if there is a deeper problem developing that may affect performance or wellbeing.

Dealing with resistance to change

Changes to working patterns are not compulsory, so no one should feel forced to work remotely or at different times. However, everyone must be prepared to adapt to work with new ways of collaborating and working in a culture of greater flexibility.

It is important that two different cultures are not allowed to emerge – one for people who make the office their main base at regular times, and one for people who work flexibly.

Team agreements and training are important to ensure that everyone is open to Smart Working.

Resistance to change at manager or team leader level can be especially damaging to morale and create feelings of unfairness and disadvantage for members of that team when they see other teams working more flexibly. In such instances, intervention from more senior managers may be necessary to resolve the issues and establish consistency.