April 04, 2012, 3:15 AM — An experiment conducted by O2 has found that 88% of its staff are just as productive working remotely, whilst one-third claimed that they actually got more work done when they aren't in the office.
Some 3,000 employees based at O2's head office in Slough took part in a pilot that required them to work from home for one day, as practice for problems that may occur during the summer's Olympic Games.
In preparation, O2 upgraded its virtual private network (VPN) as well as its network infrastructure, which saw a 155% increase in users on the day, and a 110% increase in VPN data sent across the network.
The company automatically redirected traffic between servers in the north and south of its offices to ensure that the load was spread efficiently and that there were no local bottlenecks.
O2 also accelerated the deployment of a new Microsoft Lync system ahead of the pilot, an enterprise collaboration tool. It claims that this was "risky" given the short timescales, but ultimately provided a stable platform for audio, video and sharing features.
Lync meetings hosted increased by 29%, with 506 meetings organised, compared to 313 on a normal day.
"The success of O2's experiment extends much further than just allowing some of the workforce to stay at home and work. It proves that with the right thinking and planning, even the largest organisations can protect themselves from the most severe disruptions to their business," said Ben Dowd, business director at O2.
"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," he added.
"And thanks to this rigorous planning, the experiment was an astonishing success - not just in terms of the productivity of the workforce, but as a demonstration of the power of flexible working to forge lasting operational, cultural and environmental change within modern organisations."
On the day, the 3,000 O2 employees saved 2,000 hours of commuting time, with the majority of that saved time (52%) spent working.
Approximately 12.2t of CO2eq was saved on the day, which equates to the CO2 emissions from driving 42,000 miles in a medium-sized diesel car. Employees also saved £9,000 on the day, primarily through the reduction in commuting costs.