Smart Working at the University of St Andrews

The way we work is changing. New technology, changing staff expectations, and a challenging HE environment mean that universities need to adapt and transform their working practices.

‌Like many other organisations, the University of St Andrews is embracing these changes by promoting the adoption of different ways of working - approaches that encourage collaboration, productivity and a positive work experience. We call these approaches 'Smart Working'.

Read on to find out more about Smart Working at the University of St Andrews.

What is Smart Working?

Smart Working is “an approach to organising work that aims to drive greater efficiency and effectiveness, enhancing personal and organisational outcomes through a combination of flexibility, autonomy and collaboration, utilising a range of practices, technologies and working environments.”

In other words, smart working is about working in the right place, using the right at the right time, depending on the type of work you are doing - which may change during a working day or week. It’s also about approaches that facilitate collaboration, use new technology, and which place more emphasis on results than on simply being present.

We want to create a workplace that gives you the workspaces and tools to do what you do in the most effective way it can be done. This is the primary aim of our Smart Working policy‌.

Why is the University moving to Smart Working?

There are many potential benefits to Smart Working, both for University and for its staff members.

The benefits for the University

  • A great staff experience
  • Higher productivity and motivation
  • Efficiency and productivity
  • Staff recruitment and retention
  • Business continuity (on a snow day, for example)
  • Resilience and flexibility

The benefits for you

  • More scope to use different workspaces and technology dependant on the kind of task you are working on
  • Greater focus on outputs and results
  • Better communication with colleagues
  • A healthier way of working
  • Greater sense of being part of one team, within a forward-looking organisation


How do we do Smart Working?

Successful Smart Working is all about these four key elements:


Smart Working can only be achieved with the right mindset and workplace culture. When we have more autonomy to work from different locations and in different workspaces, and even at different times, a culture is created that removes the the focus on 'presenteeism' and focuses more on results and performance. Smart Working also requires high levels of trust between colleagues and a sense of personal responsibility from everyone in the organisation.  


In order to facilitate Smart Working, we need to agree some protocols and guidelines. This can include having a clear desk policy; showing your availability in MS Teams; and being more aware of paper-less working and information security. Our Smart Working policy (coming soon) sets out our guidelines and protocols for Smart Working.

Space and tools

Smart Working also needs us to have the right tools at our disposal. Rapidly changing technologies allow you to work at different times and locations, even when you are collaborating with others. The next section of this webpage looks in more detail at the type of hardware and software that can aid Smart Working. It is also important to have the right workspaces in which to conduct Smart Working. Eden Campus will be custom-built in order to make Smart Working as easy as possible. Other parts of the Campus already have a range of different workspaces, or will be developed in the future to facilitate more Smart Working.


There are many skills that we need in order to Smart Work effectively. These include:

  • working with less direct supervision?
  • communicating with colleagues and partners?
  • time management?
  • managing data security responsibly?
  • less paper-dependant processes
  • IT / AV skills

The technology we use for Smart Working

Technology allows you to work at different times and from locations, whether accessing shared files and systems, holding virtual meetings, collaborating on drafting documents or having one-to-one or group meetings.

Your laptop allows you to work from anywhere. Take it to meetings to minimise handwritten notes by using Office Online or OneNote.

Assign tasks, share meeting minutes and chat about ongoing work in Microsoft Teams to keep colleagues informed, regardless of their working hours. Use the Files tab to store and co-author documents with other colleagues, reducing the need for meetings. Host audio/video calls and share your desktop to communicate with colleagues anywhere.

Instant message colleagues through Teams for quick questions. Show your availability status so colleagues know whether to contact you. If your calendar is up to date, this will sync with your Outlook appointments. Also set your location to show colleagues where you’re working. 

Use other Microsoft 365 applications such as:

  • OneDrive to share your files and collaborate;
  • Task management tools like Planner and To-Do.
  • Keep your workload visible to colleagues and add important deadlines to your calendar.

Visit the IT training page if you would like to learn more about what training is available.

Personal case studies

“Smart working offers me so much flexibility and means I have my fully portable office wherever I am. This allows me to be really visible in my faculty where my clients are.”

Julie Bullimore is the Organisational Development Lead for the Faculty of Medical Sciences at Newcastle University. Read more about Julie's experiences of moving to smart working.

Case studies from other organisations

Smart Working facts and figures

  • Law firm Addleshaw Goddard increased staff productivity by 15-20%
  • Communications equipment company Plantronics:
    • reduced absenteeism from 12.7% to 3.5%
    • reduced staff turnover from 15% to 3.5%
    • improved job satisfaction by 40%
  • BT eliminated 338,607 trips a year through the use of conferencing
  • Natural England saved saving £3.3m per year, 21,000m2 of space and 2650 tonnes of CO2

Watch some case studies from other organisations 

Information for managers

Managers have a key role to play in ensuring that Smart Working is implemented effectively and in setting an example of how it works in practice.

Line Managers need to embrace managing by outcome rather than presence and using different ways to keep in contact with their team, in assessing workloads and monitoring performance. This will mean ensuring schedules are shared, information is saved in a shared facility, improved communication across teams and in relation to work, progress being made and issues being experienced.

Manager will need to consider how staff can be given greater autonomy to decide the most effective location and time for different tasks to be done. Staff will need to accept the responsibility and accountability that goes along with greater autonomy.

Throughout 2020, the University will be running Smart Working sessions specifically for managers which will help you understand the best way of leading a Smart Working team. 

We can also run a Smart Working session in your Unit or team. For more information or any queries, email us at

Frequently asked questions

Q. How do I communicate with my colleagues and stay contactable?

A. New technology allows us to be connected with colleagues in many different ways. It is important to let colleagues know your working pattern and whereabouts – update your calendar, use your Teams status, use your email signature, update your corporate directory entry and use email to tell people where you are. When away from your desk for long periods or working away from your normal location make sure that people can contact you; for example, if appropriate divert your phone and include contact numbers in your email signature. Always remember to dial colleagues who work remotely into meetings.

Q. Where can I see the University’s Smart Working policy?

A. The University’s official Smart Working policy is found on the Governance Zone.

Q. How is Smart Working different from flexible working?

A. Smart Working may incorporate flexible working practices but the aims, drivers and scope are significantly different. Flexible working is adoption of an agreed, long term change to standard work patterns. This is designed for an individual, usually to help that person balance work and home life, or accommodate any specific circumstances that make a standard work pattern difficult. The University has an existing policy to accommodate Flexible Working. Smart Working is based on a range of approaches to work, such as using different types of workspace or different technologies, to drive long-term organisational success. Therefore, they are not considered the same.

Q. Is this only for people working at Eden Campus?

A. No, this policy is designed for all University of St Andrews staff members. Eden Campus has been designed specifically with Smart Working in mind but everyone in the University can benefit from this way of working.

Q. How will this impact on my working day?

A. As Smart Working is activity-based, you may move around more during the day. You might start your day at a desk, then move to a quiet working area when you need to concentrate, then move to a collaboration area to meet with colleagues and work together on a project. It very much depends on what type of work you are doing, and where you feel you’ll be most productive.

Q. What is the definition of Smart Working?

A. The University of St Andrews defines Smart Working as: “an approach to organising work that aims to drive greater efficiency and effectiveness, enhancing personal and organisational outcomes through a combination of flexibility, autonomy and collaboration, utilising a range of practices, technologies and working environments.”

Q. What is not covered by the term Smart Working?

A. Smart Working is NOT the same as:

  • AGILE methodology (this is a term used in IT/software development)
  • Formal arrangements for flexible working (we have a separate policy for this) 
  • A synonym for ‘working from home’ and ‘flexi-time’
  • About taking away your desk or saving space?

Q. Who can I contact for support?

A. If you need any help with Smart Working, please email for support and advice.  

Q. Who can I contact for training?

A. OSDS offers both general and bespoke Smart Working training, and will soon set up a Smart Working Managers Forum. If you would like to see what's available or to sign up for training, please visit our Transition Pathway webpage

Q. Is this only for parents or people with caring responsibilities?

A. No, the Smart Working policy covers everyone regardless of caring responsibilities. However, Smart Working can be beneficial for parents and carers.

Q. I am a manager. What do I need to know?

A. Managers have a key role to play in ensuring that Smart Working is implemented effectively and in setting an example of how it works in practice. Smart Working also emphasises staff autonomy and can require a different management style. Throughout 2019, the University will be running Smart Working sessions specifically for managers which will help you understand the best way of leading a Smart Working team.

Q. What equipment will I receive?

A. Everyone will receive a laptop and each fixed desk will have a docking station. There will be different solutions for telephony depending on your job role.

Q. Can I work wirelessly/remotely?

A. Yes, your IT equipment and software will allow you to work anywhere, on campus or off. Your laptop will be able to connect to any WiFi and you will have access to all of your usual software and services.

Q. Is there a clear desk policy?

A. Yes, we ask that you keep a clear desk to allow others to sit at your desk if you’re not there. if you will be away from a desk for a long period – 2 hours as a guide – please clear the desk so that someone else can use it as a touch-down space if necessary.

Q. Will I have access to all of the University services I need to do my job?

A. Yes, whether it’s SITS, T4, or any other University system, you will have access to everything you need to do your job and be productive.

Q. How often can I work from home?

A. This should be discussed with your line manager. They are in the best position to decide what arrangement will suit the type of work that your particular Unit does. 

Q. Will everyone be subject to the same Smart Working policy?

A. Yes, everyone will be covered by the same Smart Working policy, it is University-wide.

Q. How can Smart Working help with project management and collaboration?

A. Smart Working provides an excellent way to project manage and collaborate with colleagues. Using software such as Teams and Microsoft 365, you will be able to work together both in person and online.

Q. Will my manager support me moving to smart working?

A. Yes, everyone is covered by the Smart Working policy so you will have the full support of your manager.

Q. How does the Smart Working policy impact full time and part time staff?

A. The Smart Working Policy applies to all staff equally. Smart Working should have no negative impact on any member, instead it should impact positively as the focus in on working in the smartest way possible.

Q. How does Smart Working impact me if I have a fixed hour contract?

A. Smart Working should have no impact. The purpose of the policy is to ensure that individuals are able to work in the most productive way possible for example, hot desking in town if you have several meetings rather than returning to the office. Smart Working should bring about positive change for all employees, allowing them to work in the smartest way possible.

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