O2 trials Olympic-scale remote working


O2's Slough office is much quieter today as the company conducted a massive flexible working initiative, allowing a quarter of its 12,000-member workforce to work from outside the office.

The company plans to use this experiment in preparation for the transportation chaos expected to hit UK businesses during the summer Olympic Games.

O2 will pass on information from their pilot, the biggest yet, to other businesses looking to experiment with flexible working practices in summer 2012.

Our figures show that we're trending about three times the VPN traffic of a normal day.

"Today's office-wide flexible working initiative is an opportunity for us to take the next step on our flexible working journey and tangibly demonstrate the opportunity and potential available to British businesses today," said Ben Dowd, business director for O2.

"By sharing experiences from across our business, from business divisions to operations, we hope to encourage more organisations to help their workforce become mobile."

O2 has set up an online dashboard to keep track of today's progress, comparing it to a typical day. The site also serves as a place where O2 employees working outside the office can share their photos and feedback via Twitter hash tags.

"Our figures show that we're trending about three times the VPN traffic of a normal day," Dowd told IT Pro.

Employees working outside of the office today are doing so from their own devices. O2 already caters for such worker demands.

"We've been letting people bring their own technology and register their own devices in the office through a program we've named 'Bring Your Own Portal.' Effectively we're allowing employees to register any kit they have," Dowd said.

O2 will also evaluate the wider spectrum of economic benefits from the initiative. O2 stated that is has previously saved over 3 million in overheads through such measures. The operator will also monitor reductions in electricity usage and CO2 emissions as a result of today's initiative.

"It's very good from a sustainability point of view. If less people are coming to work then there are less people using resources. This is a great way to save money as well," said Dowd, who is also working away from the office today as well.

"I've been mostly working on my smartphone and iPad all day. I went out for a business lunch and now I will continue working from home on my iPad."

With the summer Olympics quickly approaching there is a strong drive for more businesses to switch to a more flexible work system. O2 expects one third of businesses to shift in this direction in the future.

O2 employees have shown an incredible amount of positive feedback and support for the initiative and, according to Dowd, overall production has increased.

"If you trust your employees they will give back more to you and become more productive," he said.

"It's been a very long and busy day," Dowd said. "But it is very exciting to do the biggest trial of this kind in the UK."