England is expecting millions of visitors when London hosts the Summer Olympics in July 2012, further crowding the city’s already overloaded streets. UK Transport Secretary Philip Hammond is not losing too much sleep over the situation, because he has a partial solution – telework.
A year before the athletes and the Olympic torch are expected to arrive, Hammond already is urging the city’s private-sector companies and UK government agencies to make arrangements that permit their employees to telework during the two-and-half-week-long event.
“We have committed to reducing our travel footprint during the Olympics, and increasing home working will be a key feature in achieving our goal,” he said in a statement, adding that he is expecting the government to act as a role model for his proposal, hoping 40 percent of government workers ride out the Olympic traffic jams by working from home.
Fortunately, his admonition is likely to be heeded as telework is well-employed and on the rise in the UK. The latest Confederation of Business Industry/Pertemps Employment Trends Survey determined that 46 percent of British firms offer some level of teleworking, a more than three-fold jump from 2006.
And some firms that have embraced the work arrangement have been reporting dramatic benefits: British Telecom, for example, the official communications services partner for the 2012 Summer Olympic Games, has had a telework program in place since 1986 and says at present that nearly 17 percent of its workforce, or 15,000 of 92,000 total employees, telework on a full-time basis, saving the company £90 million annually (approximately US $147 million) while they enjoy productivity gains of 20 percent compared to their office-bound colleagues.
London is not the first Olympic host city to look to telework and alternative work options as a potential way to better manage traffic congestion. In 2008, the Beijing municipal government asked the city’s state-owned enterprises, institutions, and other organizations to institute flex-time arrangements where possible and to do as much business as possible online.