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Flexing up for the Olympics

Government and businesses in London shaping up to work differently this summer - but the Times says business leaders and government ministers are 'dismayed' by civil servants working from home

'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 shirking.

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 saying:

"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 options.

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 into touch. 

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.



May 2012


Download our 2-page guide to prepare for the Olympics

If they are not already geared up for remote and flexible working, what should organisations be doing to get themselves prepared?

To set the ball rolling in a practical way, we've prepared a 2-pager to get you on the right track.

Download are guide here:

Smart Flexibility for the Olympics

... and let us know how you get on.


"Flexibility is for life,
not just the Olympics"


Andy's way of coping with the last Olympics in Beijing - seriously no work here!






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