Before the London bid was even submitted, plans were put in place to succeed the Games and use the catalyst of sport, this global event, to leave a far-reaching legacy in London and the UK. The legacy is part social, part physical – such as the transformation of the Athletes’ Village into affordable housing.
But perhaps the real Olympic legacy lies not in bricks and mortar, but in its ability to shift the future pattern of the workplace as we know it.
The idea is this. Businesses in London are expecting nothing short of congested chaos immediately before, during and after the Olympics. Forecasts predict that on the busiest days, up to 800,000 ticket-holders will be making an extra three million journeys in and around London on public transport. As a result, thousands of London-based businesses have adapted their IT systems to allow staff to work from home.
Perhaps this is the catalyst that businesses need to introduce more flexibility into the workplace – be it a change to working hours or remote working opportunities. Or perhaps workers will be back at their desk as soon as the Games have finished.
Paul Carder, Founder & Director of The Occupiers’ Journal, believes that the Olympic phenomenon will serve as a key introduction to flexible working for both workers and managers; one that they might otherwise never have known.
“It will certainly help to boost the interest in flexible working,” he said. “Every time an employee works from home, they will realise that they can do it, and their manager will realise it can work.”
Certain attitudes will need to change to adapt to the reality of a remote workforce. But if it works, Paul believes this could be the key to change. “It will open those individuals up to the concept of homeworking which could make it harder for workers to return to the office,” he said. “Similarly if individuals have experienced a change in working hours, they may be reluctant to go back to the 9-5.”
A timely study by Advanced Workplace Associates digs deeper into the issue. Designed to capture the experiences of homeworkers and distance workers during the Olympic Games, the study aims to gather feedback on the effectiveness of working from home and tackle the million dollar question: how can ‘distance working’ be improved?
Commenting on the study, Karen Plum, Director of Consulting at AWA, said that many organisations are using the Olympic period as a “stepping stone” towards greater acceptance of flexible working, which may serve as a “legitimate alternative to trudging into the centre of London in peak times every day”.
She added: “We think it’s important to formally capture and quantify feedback about ‘distance working’ both during and after the Games, to give organisations a firm base on which to make judgements and future plans.”
Interested individuals are urged to contact Helen Stenhouse to take part in the study: [email protected].
The legacy of the 2012 Olympic Games is expected to bring positive change and inspiration in many different forms. Will the mobile working revolution strike gold in the UK, or will workers head straight back to the office after the Closing Ceremony?
In Part Two, we delve further into the topic and assess the management processes that can either help or hinder the mobile working revolution.