This week, thousands of public servants worked from home in a trial of the UK government’s plan to offer staff flexible working arrangements throughout the Olympics and Paralympics.
Operation ‘StepChange’ is a simple, common-sense solution to a big problem. Can you imagine what central London will be like with an extra 3 million trips a day during the Olympic period? The tube will be incredibly slow and the roads will be congested beyond anything we have ever seen before.
Do we really want to see our staff forced through that twice everyday? The extra stress put on the transport system will undoubtedly lead to severe delays, which could cost businesses millions. When that cost is factored in with a disgruntled workforce that is battling just to get into the office, businesses could be faced with a serious problem. Offering staff flexible working arrangements is an obvious answer.
The proliferation of affordable and easy-to-use technologies such as high-speed broadband, HD video communications and cloud computing, means it’s now possible for workers to access the tools they need to do their job during periods where travel becomes untenable.
Having a flexible office requires good planning, which is exactly why Whitehall has announced several training days to trial the program. Once a scheme is in place, we know that it can produce a far more productive and happier work force. And in this case, it will have much wider positive impact by considerably reducing congestion in London.
It’s encouraging to see an example of the public sector leading the way and training their staff to be ready for an event that will undoubtedly impact every worker in London. How many private companies can say they are as prepared?
More organisations could learn from this example – trialing remote working schemes mean that an office can cope with large events like the Olympics as well as unplanned events such as the extreme weather we’re seeing at the moment.
With some clever planning and support from the government there is no reason why those working during the games will not get to enjoy them just as much as those attending. I predict and hope that summer 2012 marks the tipping point for the next level of flexible working the UK.