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article imageOp-Ed: The Olympics will be a testing time for London’s businesses

By Alan Cairns     Jul 5, 2012 in Business
London - London is gearing up for the Olympic Games, which open in just three weeks. As the capital prepares for a flood of visitors, its businesses are preparing new working practices to help alleviate transport congestion and keep things running smoothly.
Transport in London can be slow and tedious at the best of times, so it’s no wonder that many of the capital’s business managers are worried about keeping their business ticking over during the Olympic Games this summer.
The UK government has already been encouraging civil servants and businesses in the city to implement flexible and remote working practices to alleviate congestion on London’s transport network, and ensure that business in the capital doesn’t grind to a halt during the Games. The government’s remote working initiative produced newspapers headlines, with the Daily Mail declaring that civil servants are getting a “gold medal for skiving”.
This week London mayor Boris Johnson went further in saying “We all know that [home working] is basically sitting wondering whether to go down to the fridge to hack off that bit of cheese before checking your emails again" despite Transport for London recommending London’s businesses to put remote working plans in place to combat extended journey times during the games. The Get Ahead of the Games site has been developed by Transport for London on behalf of the Olympic Delivery Authority, London 2012, the Department for Transport, the Highways Agency, National Rail and the Mayor of London to help individuals and businesses check journey times and plan ahead.
Remote Worker Management
So many business owners and managers are asking themselves how to implement remote working practices without it negatively impacting productivity or profitability. Managing a remote or mobile workforce requires some thought, but with the increasing adoption of smartphones and mobile Internet devices it is actually becoming easier. A growing number of professionals have personal smartphones, palmtops, laptops and tablet devices which can help them to access work emails and access important data from wherever they choose to work. Some employers provide smartphones and mobile devices, but many professionals would actually prefer to use their personal devices anyway.
Managers need to ensure that remote workers have access to all the data and files which they need in order to do their job. This could involve sharing documents across Google Drive or other cloud services, or installing VPN services on worker’s personal machines. Allowing them to access centralised data rather than creating a personal copy for them will mean that documents are updated in real time, with all employees accessing the same files.
Customer Services
One of the biggest obstacles companies will face in implementing remote working is filling the customer service gap. Calls can be re-routed to employee’s home addresses but this doesn’t ensure that the call is answered. Businesses can’t allow their customer service to suffer as a result of implementing these practices, so it’s important to ensure that there is always somebody available to talk to customers when they call.
Some businesses resist the urge to invest in a call answering service, as simply being forwarded calls or answer machine messages is something which many telephones can handle all on their own. What they don’t realise is that virtual receptionists have more to offer than simply call forwarding and answer machine services. A recent study by CSnotepad found that 61% of business managers in the UK were unaware of the services offered by virtual receptionists. This can include order taking, diary organisation and more.
It’s important to get telephone answering right, as it’s still the main source of customer service enquiry in the UK, receiving 37% of customer service communications, and a Natterbox survey recently revealed that 6 in 10 UK consumers had cancelled some sort of paid service because of poor telephone experience.
This summer could be a testing time for London’s businesses. With the London Mayor and Transport for London issuing contradictory advice to business managers in the capital, it’s up to business themselves to work out how to keep things moving during the Games.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of
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