· Features

Flexible working can benefit everybody (especially during the Olympics)

This morning London wakes up to the first working day of the 2012 Olympic Games.

The Rank Group has a working flexibly policy which is designed to provide flexible working arrangements for employees, whilst also ensuring that the needs of the business generally and the needs of other teams (where these are interdependent) are met. Flexibility for employees must be balanced with the need to ensure that optimum levels of service are delivered both to the operational front line teams and to colleagues at support offices or in the field.

At Rank Interactive, the online division of The Rank Group, we are able to make most use of flexible working as our product offering is online as opposed to the other divisions of the company who offer gaming and betting in casinos or bingo clubs.

We employ a range of people whose jobs are well suited to the home environment. For example, Enzo Cesanelli, who is an information architect has welcomed the opportunity to work from home as he says that it provides an invaluable stress-and-distraction-free opportunity where he can get work done.

During this time he can concentrate on the more strategic aspects of the projects that he is working on and have a calm environment to do research.

Enzo's manager Caroline Grindrod admitted that she was slightly less enthusiastic when home working was first discussed as she was concerned about the logistics of managing a 30-strong team who were working on a virtual basis.

She has overcome these issues by introducing a few rules including using a shared calendar showing who will be working where and when. She reports that her team is happier and that there is a sense of being trusted and responsible for their jobs. She initially thought that it could be a nightmare from a managerial point of view but is happy to report that there has not been a single negative comment about the scheme since it was introduced.

With two office locations in central London, working from home is coming into its element in the coming weeks as the Olympics reaches town. Since March we have taken the opportunity in senior team meetings to flag up Olympics-related issues such as employees getting into and home from work and the potential impact on customers. We have asked our managers to consider if team members could work from home or start earlier or later and or finish earlier or later.

Also we are reminding team members to check how much their travel into London could be impacted. The Paddington office in particular is likely to be affected as it is the main hub into London from Heathrow and we are keen to promote our flexible policies to help our colleagues but also to maintain the same high levels of service for our customers. As a novel way of reminding employees, we are placing a personal letter with a Paddington 'hot spots' picture attached and a chocolate Olympic medal on every desk. They get hundreds of e-mails every day and a personal letter (particularly with chocolate) will have a big impact.

Flexible working is a long-term commitment for us as an organisation, both as a means of maintaining a high-quality and happy workforce, but also because it does generate real bottom-line cost savings. By providing hot-desking for a proportion of our employees, we can save significant sums on central London office space. What's not to like!

Nick Davies (pictured) is head of HR for Rank Interactive