Although four weeks of “intense preparation” were the key to ensuring that O2’s flexible working pilot went off without a major hitch, providing training for line managers dealing with remote teams is now considered a priority.
O2 asked employees at its headquarters in Slough – a quarter of its 12,000 strong workforce – to work remotely for a day in a bid to test whether contingency plans intended to manage expected travel disruption during the Olympic Games would work.
Only 125 designated staff, who were deemed “mission-critical”, remained in the building on Wednesday 8 February, leading to a 12% drop in electricity consumption and a huge 53% decrease in water usage.
About 12.2t of CO2 or the equivalent of driving 42,000 miles in a medium-sized diesel car was also saved as were 2,000 hours of staff commuting time.
Around 52% of employees said that they spent the additional time working, while 16% got some extra sleep in, 14% spent more time with their families, 12% used the time to relax and 6% commuted elsewhere.
Nearly nine out of ten workers taking part in the trial also claimed that that they were at least as productive as normal, while 36% believed that they were more so.
But Ben Dowd, O2’s business director, pointed out that the main issue for the organisation centred around line managers, who were used to managing people they could see and who found managing them remotely to be a completely different proposition.
“Our pilot on 8 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,” he said.
Another important issue was upgrading the firm’s technology infrastructure to cope with the increase in remote traffic. As a result, the vendor enhanced both its network infrastructure and updated its virtual private network technology.
Dowd said: “Four weeks of intense preparation across the business – everywhere from HR and internal comms to IT and property services – laid the ground for an almost completely empty building and a widely distributed workforce. And thanks to this rigorous planning, the experiment was an astonishing success.”