James Kirkland: Does flexible working reduce stress?

In the run-up to the Olympics, we at O2 held the UK’s biggest ever flexible working trial for our 1,700 Slough-based office staff. With the rowing at nearby Eton Dorney attracting up to 30,000 visitors a day, we needed to find alternative arrangements for staff or risk losing them in traffic chaos. So for one full day, everyone stayed away from the office, working at home, in cafes, on the move or wherever they could.

This trial helped put our systems to the test and delivered some meaningful data: 52% of saved commuting time was spent on work, 14% spent on family, 16% on more sleep and 12% on relaxation (sport, television). Also, 88% of staff said they were just as productive and 36% said they felt more productive.

We are much greener and better off by working from home, saving over 65,000 miles of driving and £9,000 in commuting costs in just one day. But there are barriers to getting it right; and getting it wrong can increase stress, rather than reduce it. For a start, the technology has to work. We use Microsoft Lync, so we can share audio, video and screens with each other remotely.

Also, managers have to trust their staff. We worked hard to shift attitudes about having to be seen in the office to be productive. Flexible working really works for me. I love the buzz of the office, and sometimes there is no substitute for a face-to-face meeting. But having the option to work flexibly during a busy week helps me make the best use of my time.

– James Kirkland, head of pensions, benefits and recognition at Telefonica Europe

Read more responses to the Big Question