Brits Try That Working From Home Thing Before Olympic Crowds Converge

Because no one can tell if you’re wearing actual pants or some kind of pajama legwear when sending a work email, mega-big British company O2 tried out the whole working from home thing at one office, with about 2,875 of its employees.

It’s not just about seeing if people like talking to their cats or taking a midday dance party break: The city of London is a bit nervous about all those crowds flooding public transportation during the upcoming Olympic games, and having people work from home could help alleviate that traffic, reports the Telegraph.

Workers from O2’s Slough office (the city where the original British The Office is set) were told to work from home one day so the company could study the benefits and potential cons.

According to what workers said, it seems the trial was a success. But come on — anyone who’s allowed to eat pizza in their underwear while on a conference call is going to report that everything went swimmingly. Meanwhile, 125 of their unlucky coworkers were deemed “mission critical” and stayed in the office.

Some of the findings: Staff saved a collective £9,000 (about $14,200 U.S.) in reduced commuting costs; 14% said they saw more of their families and 36% t said they were more productive than when at work; 1,000 hours usually spent commuting were spent working and workers reported 1,000 extra hours of sleep and relaxing.

The company saved as well, including a reduction in CO2 emissions, and 1,000 fewer cars on the campus. Electricity and water use declined 12% and 53% respectively. However, gas use rose in the building, as there were fewer warm viable worker bee bodies to contribute heat.

No word on how many employees refused to shower or change out of their pajamas until it was time to head out for the evening and see actual people.

Working from home ‘more productive’ [Telegraph]


Edit Your Comment

  1. Marlin says:

    I get a lot more done at home then in a office setting.

    • bhr says:

      I do for a day or two, but the longer I’m not in an office the worse my work habits get. I have to be very regimented working at home not to waste entire days watching ID and playing dumb computer games.

      • StarKillerX says:

        You mean as opposed to being in the office and reading/commenting on this site? lol!

        • bhr says:

          Im self employed at the moment. I do most of my work from 4-8pm and 6-10am. (I like to have things waiting in people’s inbox in the morning.)

        • CubeRat says:

          I have multiple monitors and flip between multiple projects. I sometimes have a lot of dead time waiting for others to complete their work or info to arrive. Other times, I’m so busy I work 10-12 hours strait with only a quick run to the vending machines or toilet. This week, the programers seem bedeviled with problems….they will probably fix them Thursday afternoon, so I’ll be crazy busy Friday and can’t leave on time.

  2. Hi_Hello says:

    i wonder what the job responsibilities are for those 125 people who couldn’t work from home.

    • MaxH42 thinks RecordStoreToughGuy got a raw deal says:

      I know…I could possibly be considered “mission critical” as there are updates and fixes to our web site that other people either wouldn’t have access to do or wouldn’t be able to do them correctly or promptly (some people might have access and might figure it out, but it would take them days), but I can do that from home just as easily as from the office.

    • Snowblind says:

      Cleaning staff.

      • pecan 3.14159265 says:

        But that’s usually outsourced, so they wouldn’t really be O2 employees. Same with building security.

      • Kitamura says:

        I think few office buildings consider cleaning staff mission critical personnel even assuming they directly employed that type of worker.

    • Mr Grey says:

      I am betting some were IT – While I can do 95% of my daily work from home, you do need a body in the office to power cycle the occasional frozen box, or replace the dead mouse on some managers desk.

    • CubeRat says:

      Maybe they have offices that people actually come to visit…eg, couriers, mail delivery, office supplies – or client/customer meetings.

    • bhr says:

      I would imagine it’s people at the very bottom and the very top. Janitors, mail room clerks, accounts payable folks probably all have to be in the office to deal with the daily crap that comes into the office. And if they have mission critical people then the probably made department heads come in to “monitor” everyone.

  3. RandomHookup says:

    You do know the English use the word “pants” to describe underthings?

    • calicopaisley says:

      As an American with a British fiance I always found this really pretty amusing.

      Of course, I’m sure there are people who enjoy WFH totally in the buff, also.

  4. StarKillerX says:

    A one day test is sort of silly.

    There is a huge difference between someone working from home one day, to see if it’s feesable, as opposed to doing it day after day.

    As time goes by I think that increases in productivity by some people will be wiped out by decreased productivity from others.

    • Evil_Otto would rather pay taxes than make someone else rich says:

      Then you evaluate the employee’s performance accordingly, just the same as if they worked in a brick-and-mortar office. Even if productivity is a wash, your workers are happier, less gas (petrol) gets burned, less electricity and water is needed, etc. A better rested, happier workforce is a more productive workforce overall, so I doubt the ‘bad apples’ would be enough to drag down everyone else.

      • StarKillerX says:

        I doubt they would even come close to breaking even, productivity wise,

        Also let’s not forget, that while they might talk about employees not burning gas to get to work but that’s simply because it’s sounds good, their only real concern will be what the company saves, or doesn’t, by having employees work from home.

  5. AlteredBeast (blaming the OP one article at a time.) says:

    I find the funniest part that they had to burn more gas to make up for the lack of employee generated heat.

    I’d say, just tell the mission critical folks to wear a scarf. Like Harry Potter, or Doctor Who, or soccer hoolagans. Brits love scarfs (apparently).

  6. HappyBigCar says:

    Glad I’m not the only work-from-home person who puts “midday dance party break” on their to-do list.

    Also, pants are so overrated.

  7. scurvycapn says:

    Working from home definitely makes me more productive. Distractions such as my dog are nothing compared to being at the same location as co-workers. When you are physically available, people are more likely ask make small talk, ask you to look at some work-related item for them, etc. When I go to the office, it feels like half of my time is spent not doing what needs to get done.

  8. humphrmi says:
  9. Martha Gail says:

    I am always more productive at home. It’s a matter of setting timed goals for myself. The great thing is when I get up to stretch I can switch my laundry from the washer to the dryer or wipe down my counter tops. I think 4 days at home and one in the office to touch base in person would be ideal for me.

  10. GameHen says:

    I work from home full time and have been doing it for 12 years. Even with Consumerist breaks, I’m incredibly productive. I do a lot of user support. Answering emails and phone calls cuts out a lot of the chit-chat and catching up when you’re sitting face to face with someone who stops by your cube.

    I also do a lot of project work and being at home allows me to turn off the phone and email and focus on what I’m doing. When I do go work in the office, I’m constantly interrupted by drop-ins. I get a very small fraction of the work done.

    Mileage varies I’m sure depending on how disciplined the individual can be. My husband worked from home for about 6 months and spent the majority of his days playing Starcraft (it was several years ago). Even so, he still was able to get about 3x the work done as his in-office peers. He was creating web ads at the time and his output was very measurable.

    I do miss the personal interaction, but I definitely appreciate being able to avoid the majority of the stupid politics crap.

  11. Kevin411 says:

    As the Atlanta Olympics approached in 1996, companies were shifting to non-traditional schedules, enabling working from home (such as you could in the mid-90’s), and taking other steps to avoid/reduce traffic delays. The city was pleading with people to take transit (such as it is here), carpool, take vacations, etc.‚Äîfearing total gridlock on the highways otherwise. So many people were scared out of town and off work that traffic flowed better for those three weeks than it has since the 1960’s! The highways were half empty even at rush hour.

    • Kevin411 says:

      Just found on the CDC website: Several years ago, researchers took advantage of a natural experiment to learn about the impact on pediatric asthma of decreased traffic levels and improved air quality. During the 1996 Summer Olympics Games in Atlanta, when peak morning traffic decreased 23% and peak ozone levels decreased 28%, emergency visits for asthma events in children decreased 42%. At the same time, children’s emergency room visits for causes other than asthma did not change. These results suggest that efforts to reduce traffic congestion and improve air quality can also help improve the respiratory health of a community.

  12. bben says:

    Sounds like a great idea to me. It will give the company a chance to evaluate whether certain jobs actually require the employee to be physically present in the office or not. And also allows the employees to see if working from home suits them or not. Not everyone can work from home for various reasons. some people just will not get anything done, others have physical reasons they need to be at the office – such as to meet with clients.

    A friend worked for a company in Atlanta who started allowing some employees to take one day a week to work from home. Within several months, they went to flex time where the employees who could were allowed to work from home nearly all the time, and if they did need to come in, could do it during off hours. Unless he had a required meeting, my friend usually went in once a week for about 4 hours at night from 8 to midnight. No problems commuting, no distractions. It saved the company and the employees pile of money. As well as cutting down on the traffic a small amount.

  13. BorkBorkBork says:

    My father worked from home while I was growing up (middle and high school years) and it was a great thing.

    He’d divide his work between the early morning and late evening, so that he could save the middle of the day to hang out with the family (aside from the occasional midday phone conference). Like when I would come home from school we could chat, or we’d go sailing, or go on a bike ride.

    It was just really nice having him around during the day.

  14. HogwartsProfessor says:

    There are many times at Exjob I would have preferred to work at home, or be able to leave early. But as a non-exempt employee, and as the front desk especially, they usually wanted butt in seat. Even if I finished early, I had to sit there and try to look busy. That’s when I would pull out the flash drive and work on my own stuff on that. No one could see what I was doing.