Flexible working pilot staff ‘more productive’

Over a third of 02 staff said they were more productive when they worked from home during a huge flexible working initiative whose results were released today. 

Over a third of 02 staff said they were more productive when they worked from home during a huge flexible working initiative whose results were released today. 

On 8th February 2012, O2 asked the entire workforce in its head office to work away from the office for the day. Employees based at O2’s Slough HQ – a quarter of its 12,000-strong workforce – participated in the pilot, operating remotely for the day as the doors were shut and lights turned off at the business’ 200,000 sq ft office.

More than 2,500 people successfully worked away from the office, with only 125 mission-critical staff left in the building. Thanks to newly strengthened networks and upgraded collaboration technology, everyone who needed to get online and communicate was able to do so. Eighty eight per cent of staff said that they were at least as productive as on a normal day at the office, with 36% claiming to have been more productive. Sixteen per cent of people slept a bit longer than usual and 14% spent additional time with their families.  In line with the company’s ambitious three-year sustainability plan, 02 says the experiment also benefitted the environment, with approximately 12.2t of CO2eq saved.

The pilot found O2 employees saved 2,000 hours of commuting time, with over half of employees saying they spent saved commuting time working. Only 125 staff needed to work from the office that day and only 109 cars entered the car park (against 1,100 on an average day).

Ben Dowd, Business Director for O2, said: “Line managers are used to managing people they can see. Managing them remotely is a completely different thing.  Our Pilot on 8th February didn’t solve all of those problems, but it is a good start. We can do a lot more to support line managers in charge of remote teams, but we know it’s not going to happen overnight. We’re educating people about the whole future of work here and there’s still work to be done, but we’re pleased to say this is a fantastic start”.

O2’s electricity consumption decreased by 12% on February 8th. This was not as dramatic as the 53% decrease in water usage, but a significant number nonetheless. In combination with the reduction in CO2 emissions achieved by the commuting cuts, 2,000 hours of travel time was saved – an average of 45 minutes per employee. O2 employees saved nearly £9,000 on the day primarily through reduced commuting costs. Interestingly, gas usage in the building increased slightly – probably due to the loss of body heat in the building.

Technology was at the heart of the pilot and new technology was brought in, but the firm’s IT helpdesk had a normal day with the usual volume of calls. Over 400 people attended training sessions in the run up to the flexible working day.

Ben Dowd said: “The success of O2’s experiment extends much further than just allowing some of the workforce to stay at home and work. It proves that with the right thinking and planning, even the largest organisations can protect themselves from the most severe disruptions to their business.  It shows that given the right preparation and communication, conservative presenteeism-based attitudes to work can be changed, with great benefits for both managers and staff. It shows that businesses really can make significant and lasting reductions to their environmental impact, in a multitude of areas. Above all though, it demonstrates that the principles underlying flexible working really are the principles that will build the future of work, and determine the way that people, technology and buildings interact in the decades and centuries ahead. O2 is using these principles now, to build tomorrow’s businesses today.”

02 hopes that the pilot will also showcase the wider economic business case for flexible working in helping to drive efficiency, productivity and innovation. It says it has previously saved over £3 million in overheads through such measures. O2 has pledged to help over 125,000 business employees work flexibly.

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