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February 8, 2012

O2 trials work from home strategy ahead of Olympics

Telecoms firm is preparing for disruption to transport, but will the strain on Internet services prove too great?

By Vinod

Thousands of staff at O2’s UK headquarters have spent the day working remotely to test how prepared the company is to deal with potential disruptions during this summer’s Olympic Games.

While around 3,000 workers will be operating remotely – whether it’s from home or a public place – the headquarters near Slough will be empty. The telecoms giant says it is not only a test in case there is any travel disruption or delays during the summer Games but also part of a wider flexible working policy, a policy that has already saved O2 over £3m.

The policy has also seen the company reduce the number of desks at its Slough office to just 550, well below the number of employees there. Encouraging workers to be more mobile has also helped O2 achieve a 53% reduction in its carbon emissions.

"We believe a cultural step-change is underway affecting staff and businesses, as work increasingly becomes something we do, rather than a place that we go," said O2 Business Director, Ben Dowd. "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."

"We practice what we preach, and by asking O2 employees to work together as a team to test the company’s flexible working practices for themselves, we want to show that there are no limits – no matter how big or small your business is. By sharing experiences from across our business, from business divisions to operations, we hope to encourage more organisations to help their workforce become mobile," he added.

In a similar trial this week, thousands of civil servants are working from home. If the trial is successful the government hopes to have many employees working from home during the Olympics, to ease the pressure on London’s Underground system.

However, the plans of thousands of workers to operate from home during the Games could be disrupted by poor Internet speeds. A recent report from the Cabinet Office claimed that the extra strain on the UK’s Internet infrastructure could result in speeds slowing down or even crashing completely.

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