'Seven weeks away from the office for
Olympics' as 'Whitehall tells staff: stay home for
the summer'. (The Times, 15th May 2012)
Homeworking during the Olympics has hit the
headlines - but not exactly in a good way. The
leading article in the Times makes no bones about
equating working from home with slacking and
And, according to The Times:
"Some Ministers are concerned that the
government's work rate will drop, giving an
impression of 'slacking' while the country is
mired in a double-dip recession.
"They are also surprised that the scheme
seems to have been signed off by Justine
Greening, the transport Minister, and Francis
Maude, the Cabinet Office Minister, with little
awareness of the public relations or
implementation problems this may create."
And apparently, 'business groups (sic) expressed
deep dismay at the plans'. Only one group is
quoted, however. The Business Services Association,
which represents outsourcing companies is quoted as
"Seven weeks is a long time to have the heart
of government working intermittently".
What's the real story?
The real story - apart from perhaps the Times
living in a time warp - is that businesses and
organisations throughout London and the South-east
of England are pushing ahead with modernising their
working practices. The likelihood of extreme
congestion and disruption to travel is concentrating
minds about the alternatives.
And government is no exception. In fact since the
middle of last year the government has been pressing
departments to aim to cut their travel by 50% during
this period. And working from home is one of the
The Times article - apart from being old news -
seems to be the opportunity to trot out old
prejudices on the lines of ‘if anyone isn’t visibly
present in the office they are probably shirking’.
It’s well past time we turned this on its head.
The assumption that if people turn up in the office
they are doing something useful needs to be booted
One of the great merits about having people
working remotely is that it puts the emphasis firmly
onto managing by results. And have we ever needed
this more in government than the present time?
And in the 21st century, it’s very odd to have
millions of people travel billions of miles every
year to work with computers and telephones – things
that can done almost from anywhere, including home.
And is it only government now that should operate
without virtual meetings?
We should all hope that this Olympics homeworking
is only the start. Let’s get everyone working in
government to work from home or a local base. Then
we can sell off double the amount of office space
they are thinking of at the moment and save a
fortune in business travel. And the politicians can
do likewise. It could be the end of the
parliamentary expenses issue, and maybe put them
back in touch with their constituents too.
And the interesting thing is that government
organisations throughout the UK are indeed
modernising their business practices to increase
efficiency and reduce their overheads.
Homeworking is a key part of the mix. So
flexibility is for life, not just the Olympics.
And not only government
Businesses in the region face
the same issues as government. The possibility of
disruption means that the Olympics should be seen as
presenting - apart from all the fun - a risk for
business continuity. Just like if we had seven
weeks of snow.
So if businesses have not
already made plans, now is the time to do so.
The best way is to get strategic about it. Our
2-pager to help organisations get started can be
download from the link above right.