Guest Blog: Smarter working starts with smarter commuting

During the winter months, disruption to travel is particularly common and causes many problems for commuters. Factors such as adverse weather, increased demand on services or simple error can all contribute to a decline in passenger satisfaction.

Unfortunately for commuters, this means that their journey into work can often take longer than anticipated. Many will remember the severe disruption caused by the floods and storms last winter. But rather than battle through, why not just stay at home? Part of working smart is commuting smart and identifying when the journey is worthwhile.

Increasingly, businesses are enabling their employees to work remotely. Powered by the mobile and cloud-based services, employees are able to be just as productive at home as they could have been in the office. Technology that enables remote access to internal systems, secure sharing of documents and video calling means there is almost no aspect of the office environment that is not replicable at home.

A study from O2 and the Centre for Economic and Business Research published earlier this year found that 80% of businesses did not provide their staff with remote access to key business systems that would enable them to connect and work remotely, making their lives easier and work more efficient. This in turn was leading to an efficiency deficit costing the UK economy around £30bn a year.

However, when being in the office is the preferred option there are still things that can be done to make the commute less painful. Starting meetings later in the morning will allow people to travel outside of rush hour and, if a problem arises during the morning, gives them time to adjust their route or mode of transport. If more businesses adopt this approach, the reduction in congestion could be huge and make the commute far more enjoyable.

But it’s not just commuters that need to behave differently to tackle this issue. There are a number of steps our travel companies could take to improve the commuter experience during the winter months which will bring benefits all year round.

Equipping frontline employees with tablets and smartphones will enable them to access the latest travel information and offer advice direct to commuters on how long the disruption is expected to last. Or, why not give passengers the opportunity to check for updates themselves by providing interactive screens or downloaded apps. Putting the power of information back in the hands of passengers means they are able to make informed decisions during their journey.

Another issue that needs to be addressed is the accuracy of this information. If transport providers focus on ensuring information is given in real-time and kept up-to-date, this will go a long way in improving customer satisfaction by ensuring they are not receiving conflicting information and advice.

At O2, we challenged ourselves to work smarter and spent time with the HR department to identify the behaviours that could be adjusted to deliver the greatest impact. A smarter working programme was formed to help boost staff efficiency and productivity. Replacing travel with technology has been the most successful behavioural change and between May 2013 and March 2014, the programme achieved a saving of;

424 tonnes of CO2 by avoiding 13,672 car and 2,060 rail journeys

£509,100 in employee productivity and travel costs

and 29,212 hours of employee productivity gained

Ultimately, mobile and connectivity solutions keep people connected. Increasingly, commuters are expecting ubiquitous connectivity. Commuters want to be able to make informed travel decisions, stream content to keep themselves entertained, or upload a piece of work and keep in touch with colleagues or friends. This is made possible by 3G, 4G and through Wifi provided by one of our 10,000 free O2 Wifi hotpots readily available across the UK.

Disruption is not avoidable but, with smart commuting and improved connectivity throughout the journey, it can be manageable.

O2 will be producing a report on disruption in early December to explore the issue in more detail and discuss what transport providers could do to tackle the problem. In the meantime, you can tweet me @actonjohn or use #O2Passenger to get in touch.