This week in the Company Net office we’ve all been talking about a news article that caught our eye – “O2′s UK head office in temporary shut-down as 3,000 staff pilot remore working“.
Last Wednesday, O2 launched a huge flexible working initiative, closing the doors to their head office and enabling one quarter of their staff to work remotely for the day and continue business as usual. This bold move was designed to test the organisation’s contingency plans for managing the anticipated disruption around this summer’s Olympics, in addition to acting as the next phase in O2′s flexible working strategy. The article suggests that one third of UK businesses are expected to encourage their staff to work flexibly this summer, so O2′s initiative will also act as a pilot for other organisations.
It’s great to see a one-day event like this grabbing the headlines and getting people talking about the benefits of remote working, with reduced carbon emissions and rush hour congestion, improved staff engagement and productivity, and opportunities to access vital talent for your business without the constraints of geography - regular readers of this blog will know that here at Company Net we love to talk about the benefits of remote working as part of our 2020 Vision. We use Microsoft’s Office 365 to ensure that we can all securely access all of our documents and tools and communicate with one another whenever we need to and from wherever we are, and it has changed the way we work and collaborate for the better. So now that we, like many other businesses, have enabled our staff to work remotely, perhaps now is the time to start actively encouraging it?
Perhaps I’ve been jogged into thinking more about this personally this week because on Tuesday I did actually work from home – the usual kind of story, car being serviced and an appointment in town in the late afternoon that would’ve been hard to make if I’d been going there straight from the office. But even before I read the O2 article, I was thinking about how much I’d achieved that day and how much more productive than usual I’d felt.
I got up at the same time as usual, but without the half hour early morning drive in to the office, I sat down and started going through my email. Ching! I immediately gained an extra half hour on my day. Assuming a conservative 8 hour working day, that’s an extra 6% of productive time just by removing half of a two-way commute, which really adds up (in terms of both productivity and carbon emissions/fuel costs saved) to a tangible benefit.
I went through the working day, accessing and collaborating in secure documents with colleagues. I was able to communicate instantly with anyone I needed to speak to in the office using Lync, without even having to pick up the phone. Lync carries presence information, allowing me to easily see which of my co-workers were at their desks and could immediately respond to a query, who was in a meeting and at what time it would end. I never felt disconnected from being part of the “team” and was even able to share jokes and participate in the usual ’round the coffee machine’ chat, so I didn’t feel distanced from my colleagues at all.
I made all of the usual calls I would make to clients and partners, accessing our CRM system through Outlook to allow me to record actions and any important information so that my colleagues in the office could be updated and see the status of any leads or accounts instantly. I dialed in to a meeting. Even though I was in the middle of a large organisational task, preparing for our SharePoint event with AvePoint on Monday, I never once felt that I was missing a piece of paper that I’d left on my desk or didn’t have contact details to hand.
But what surprised me most by the end of the day was just how much I’d achieved. Perhaps it was the lack of distraction from ringing phones, other conversations in the office, involving myself in less relevant tasks, seeing someone else getting up for a fresh coffee and going to make one for myself… who knows? But I certainly felt more focused.
Now I’m not suggesting that working remotely is something I’d want to do every day – I enjoy spending time with my colleagues and I’d miss the social side of work if I did that all the time. But perhaps it is something that both I and the business would benefit from doing more often. And now that our staff have the provision to do so, perhaps it is time for us to start looking at what that might mean for the business on a larger scale? What if everyone worked from home on one day a week and what are the positives and negatives that might impact our productivity?
So now I’m interested to know, is this something you would consider for your business? Are your employees ready to work remotely in the event of major disruption, such as the Olympics, Glasgow 2014, or even just a bout of bad weather? How would you feel if each of your staff worked from home on one day a week? Does your organisation recognise results over “face-time”, or would a cultural shift be required?
I’d love to hear your thoughts on the whole topic of remote working and the technologies that support it. Just like O2, if we all share the knowledge gained from our individual experiments, positive and negative, then our collective learnings can make a huge difference to the way we all work on a daily basis.
So what do you think?