O2 talks up benefits of flexible working

News 3 Apr, 2012

Network able to deal with 162 per cent increase in VPN traffic.

O2 has hailed the benefits of remote working after a trial revealed that over a third (36 per cent) of employees were more productive when working from home.

The operator allowed 2,500 employees from its Slough HQ to work remotely, while 125 of the firm's mission critical staff went to work as normal. The pilot was carried out to test O2’s contingency plans ahead of this summer's Olympic Games, which are expected to cause widespread travel disruption across the capital.

IM usage was up by 40.8 per cent over a normal working day.

Out of the remote workers, 88 per cent claimed they were as productive as they would have been during a normal working day. Meanwhile, 16 per cent said they used the extra time to sleep a bit longer and 14 per cent were able to spend more time with their families.

To cope with the demand on infrastructure, O2 upgraded its Virtual Private Network (VPN). Traffic was redirected between servers at different offices to help spread loads and to prevent bottlenecks. At its peak, traffic was up 162 per cent across the VPN, but there were no issues, according to O2.

Employees primarily used instant messages (IM) to communicate with each other. IM usage was up by 40.8 per cent over a normal working day. During this time, 146,876 IMs were sent, reaching a peak of 17,843 messages per hour.

O2 also accelerated the deployment of the Microsoft Lync messaging platform to enhance the firm's remote communication capabilities.

The number of Lync Meetings increased by 29 per cent with 406 meetings organised. Attendance also increased by 25 per cent, with 1,356 participants compared to 1,077 on a normal day.

Overall, employees saved a total of 2,000 hours of commuting time and around £9,000 in reduced travel costs, O2 added.

Ben Dowd, business director for O2, said the trial was a success, but admitted there was room for improvement.

“Line managers are used to managing people they can see. Managing them remotely is a completely different thing," he said.

“We're educating people about the whole future of work here and there's still work to be done, but we’re pleased to say this is a fantastic start”.