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O2's UK head office in temporary shut-down as 3,000 staff pilot remote working

O2 today has launched the biggest flexible working initiative of its kind with a quarter of its UK workforce operating remotely for the day as the doors of its Slough base are shut and lights turned off.

The pilot aims to "push the boundaries" of what is possible through flexible working and will underpin O2's contingency plans to manage expected travel disruption and delays during the summer's Olympics games.

Today 3,000 employees will need access to the necessary technology tools, services and support to enable them to work completely remotely.

With one third of the UK's businesses expected to encourage their staff to work flexibly this summer, O2 will share learnings from the pilot with other organisations, to support them in their plans for managing the impact of a range of events during the summer months.

Flexible working has become an increasingly important aspect of British business culture, with almost half (47%) of UK employees citing it as their most important employment benefit.

O2's flexible working aims to send a clear signal to O2's employees, business customers and other UK organisations on the advantages of working flexibly. These range from improved staff engagement and boosted productivity, to better work/life balance for employees.

Ann Pickering, director of HR at O2 (pictured), said: "We live in such a connected world today that it's far easier for employees to remain in touch, no matter where they happen to be. There are huge benefits to be gained in enabling your workforce to be mobile. Not only does it foster trust between organisations and employees, but allowing staff to shape their own working environment gives them back one of their most valuable resources - time. It also allows companies to overcome geographical boundaries and open new doors in terms of recruiting the best talent. So whether it's a mum that needs to be at home for the school run or an employee that working remotely three days and travels to the office for two, with the right tools, implementing flexible working policies have the potential to transform the way we do business."

For companies, it is hoped that the pilot will also showcase the wider economic business case for flexible working in helping to drive efficiency, productivity and innovation. O2 has previously saved over £3 million in overheads through such measures.

The company will evaluate reductions to electricity usage, CO2 emissions and travel time as employees swap their usual journey to work in favour of working from a remote location.

These learnings will be applied in line with the company's three year sustainability plan, in which O2 pledges to help over 125,000 business employees work flexibly, and collectively save over 500,000 miles of travel and over 160,000 thousand tonnes of carbon emissions.

O2 business director, Ben Dowd, added: "We believe a cultural step-change is underway affecting staff and businesses, as work increasingly becomes something we do, rather than a place that we go. Today's office-wide flexible working initiative is an opportunity for us to take the next step on our flexible working journey and tangibly demonstrate the opportunity and potential available to British businesses today.

"We practice what we preach, and by asking O2 employees to work together as a team to test the company's flexible working practices for themselves, we want to show that there are no limits - no matter how big or small your business is. By sharing experiences from across our business, from business divisions to operations, we hope to encourage more organisations to help their workforce become mobile. "

The initiative marks the latest phase in O2's flexible working journey, following in the footsteps of previous efforts. These include O2's Tomorrow's Workspace initiative, which saw the business consolidate its operations into a single campus in Slough. By enabling the workforce to be more mobile, O2 achieved a 53 per cent reduction in its carbon footprint and despite having the same number of people HQ is now operating with 550 fewer desks.

While more than a third (39%) of businesses say that allowing staff to work flexible hours makes their workforce more productive, and 43 per cent believe that it helps to retain employees, existing policies are often outdated and ineffective. More than three quarters of organisations are hindering the sharing of best practice by preventing staff from working flexibly across teams, while 16% still have no flexible working policy at all.