James Campanini, managing director at Cisco WebEx shares his thoughts on O2’s flexible working trial and its importance in managing staff ahead of one of the biggest events the UK has ever hosted.

Back in 1980 – through the medium of song – Dolly Parton told us about the woes of toiling through the office 9-5 working day. I think the message there was about not getting due recognition for your hard work. But I like to think that maybe (just maybe) Dolly was a trailblazer for the benefits of flexible working and her song was a desire for better way of remote working that didn’t involve a strict, rigid work-day. 

Well, in 2012 we’re fortunate that for many workers, flexible working exists. Indeed it is seen as key to success in a global economy, allowing individuals to host meetings from the comfort of their own home which accommodate international time zones, or come to work later in the day in order to avoid rush hour.

You will recall a month or so ago O2 implemented a flexible working trial – practicing for the disruption that London will experience this summer. The hope was to avoid affecting efficiency and productivity in the workplace by ensuring everyone is well equipped and the relevant remote working technologies are installed and operational. As expected, O2 has met its objectives and the trial proved to be a great success; reporting a collective saving of £9,000 in commuting costs, a 12.2 ton reduction in CO2 emissions and freeing up 1,000 hours for employees to relax and spend more time with their families.

I expect O2’s decision to carry out a flexible working trial is only the start. Those that are already successfully implementing collaboration tools will continue to do so, well; and those who do not, will have a last minute panic, rushing to organise their staff ahead of one of the biggest summers the UK will ever see.

But the question is, just how important is a trial to the successful implementation?

It’s dependent on a number of factors; size, culture, experience with collaboration tools and so on. For a company like O2, its essential – managing so many staff is a significant logistical challenge. A case-by-case approach is best – whilst I expect many companies to follow suit and carry out a trial, there will most certainly be many that won’t.

Let’s not forget how important video conferencing is in changing the face of meetings and the role it plays in shaping the way that people meet and work. Collaborating with colleagues and clients through video is not affected by travel disruptions and saves companies the time and expense incurred with face-to-face meetings and when travelling to the office. 

Businesses need to be equipped to cope with the increasingly fast-pace at which they work, and the huge impact that this Summer’s sporting events are going to have on our working day. However, as we have seen with O2, companies need to appreciate that there are processes to follow to make working this way effective.

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