Some UK employers, including the Government are telling their staff that they can work from home during the Olympics and Paralympics to prevent London’s transport network from becoming even more overcrowded. Transport for London (TfL) has set a goal of reducing the number of commuter journeys across the capital by a third during the games and is encouraging individuals and employers to change their commuting and working patterns to assist with this.
Canary Wharf, which is within three miles of 20 Olympic venues, has seen much activity and publicity aimed at encouraging the 100,000 people that work there to consider working flexibly during the Games.
Elsewhere in the UK, O2, the mobile communications company, is encouraging staff at its Slough European HQ to work from home when the Games are on as the site is close to the Olympic rowing venue. It even ran a test exercise earlier this year when it closed the office for a day.
So if it’s ok to work from home during the Olympics, why don’t UK companies allow their staff to work flexibly all the time? If the infrastructure, systems, connectivity, etc, can support workers for a seven week period during the Olympics and Paralympics then there is no reason why they can’t continue to work this way once the Games are over.
And what about the many companies that are ignoring the advice to allow their employees to work flexibly? In January 2012 Deloitte, the official professional services provider to London 2012, surveyed businesses and found that only a third were considering flexible working. It seems that old management habits die hard.
In my post Time to trust your staff I argued the case for more flexible working within the UK. Research has shown that changing our working patterns would reduce congestion and carbon emissions, improve productivity and reduce time lost to transport problems. All of which could save the UK economy £2.2bn a year. However, the vast majority of employers just do not trust their employees to manage their own time. And many managers still prefer to see their staff sitting at their desks from 9 to 5 day instead of allowing them to work at a time and place that suits the individual.
For those companies that are allowing their staff to work flexibly during the Games there is the hope that they will realise that it brings many benefits and that their staff can indeed be trusted at all times and not just on special occasions. This may in time encourage other companies to trust their staff.
So let’s hope that part of London 2012’s legacy will be a more open and trusting attitude to flexible working within the UK.
Photo: Olympic Park, London 2012