Telecommuting to Smart Work. What are we talking about?

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During the past three months, due to the health crisis caused by Covid-19, we have attended a social experiment of unimaginable proportions. 3.5 billion people have been sent home to work from there in confinement.

We still have short perspective on the impact that this social experiment has had on each individual in particular, and on society in general, but we are beginning to have the first data. For the purposes of this short article I will focus on the following points:

  1. During the confinement stage there has been a drastic reduction in the emission of harmful gases into the atmosphere. It is the first time that this has been achieved since such a measurement exists. We should not waste this opportunity to further reduce emissions, and we should be able to avoid returning to previous normalityin this area.
  2. Between 50 and 75% of people who have done Home Office do not want to return to the previous situation in the same conditions. They have discovered the benefits, many, and the disadvantages, some, of working remotely.
  3. Most managers, however, doubt that remote working is a long-term sustainable solution once the health crisis is over and want to see their employees back in the office.

Thus, we are faced with a situation in which there is a great and indisputable advantage for the PLANET, the reduction in gas emissions. A significant advantage, with nuances, for people. And a doubt or mistrust on the part of business leaders.  How can we reconcile the interests of all and maintain the advantages that this will bring us?


It is important that to start solving the problem we agree on some basic definitions:


  • 1. Telecommuting. The misnamed telework is as old as the internet. Since households have an internet connection and access to tools such as email, file sharing and video conferencing, many people have worked remotely at specific times. Anyone of us who has logged in to solve a problem or while sick has stayed home to work has teleworked. We could affirm that this ability to telework is a necessary but not sufficient condition to configure the new modality that comes in organizing work.
  • 2. Home Office. During this pandemic, companies have had no choice but to organize their production by doing home office. Thus, the home office has been a temporary remedy to overcome a crisis situation. The question: is the home office model that companies currently have in place sustainable in the long term?
  • 3. Smart working. A third level of development of this modality is what we would call “Smart working” or intelligent work and that requires decisive intervention, both from the organizational development teams and from the human resources professionals, to design and implement a highly effective Human Performancemanagement system.

If teleworking is a technology capability, Smart working is a deliberate way of organizing production, so that maximum benefits are obtained in the three mentioned axes, people, business and the planet.

Organizing a team of professionals under the design principles of Smart working requires:

1. Having the right people in the right positions. Right people / right seats,  the idea first introduced by Jim Collins in his now classic From good to Great summarizes this fundamental point.

2. Clarity. Oddly enough, many of our companies are guided more by routine than by a well-defined business goal. Clarity has to do with social commitment  and purpose (what reason does this business have to exist beyond achieving a profit?).

What is the reason for a company to exist? Those of us who have been in business between 1980 and 2020 have been educated in the idea that companies exist to maximize the value of their shareholders (Alfred Rappaport). But times change and needs and social values ​​change before times. Today, the best definition I have found of why companies exist says something like: A company is a project of dedicated and committed people, who work together,  to offer a sustainable solution to a social problem.

  1. Commitment. What makes a person work hard towards a goal? Is it the salary, is it the project itself, is there something else? The answer to this question is answered by science and Daniel Pinktells us in this video. As a summary, we can anticipate that the three elements that make a person happy with their work are: autonomy, competence (abilities) and purpose.,

For all these reasons, Smart Working is not a passing fad or a necessity for the crisis. It is a coherent way to advance in the organization of work, when companies are clearly making progress in their social commitment and purpose and professionals in the knowledge economy seek more than just a good salary and social recognition to dedicate their best specialized efforts.

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