With only just over 2 months to go, public and media anticipation of the London 2012 Olympic Games is really hotting up. Whether you enjoy sport or not, it will undoubtedly be a spectacle to remember and is likely to garner a great deal of interest, especially once the actual events are underway.
The challenging effects on businesses and their employees in London have been well publicised, with many opting to promote home or remote working throughout the games, however the wider ramifications for businesses across the UK, especially the increased pressures on the Internet infrastructure, may be less obvious and yet are still important considerations for every organisation.
Obviously many businesses that are located around or near Olympic events will be directly affected by travel restrictions and likely congestion around the sites (such as those located in The City) are already planning and practising ways to get around any likely problems.
For many this will involve remote working on days that will be influenced by the Olympic events, which will put unusually high pressures on UK Internet providers and networks. However, there will undoubtedly be wider consequences as the nation turns to online video streaming and the web in general to keep abreast of the latest results as the spectacle unfolds.
As with other key audience events such as the World Cup, the draw of the Olympics will undoubtedly be a popular time for employees to take annual leave to watch it, or at least for the pressure to be put upon employers to offer coverage of key events.
Whilst the economy dictates that businesses need to keep their eye on the ball, employee satisfaction is an important part of creating and maintaining a well-motivated and committed team – the key to any successful enterprise. On the other hand, whilst we are living in an age where remote or home working is a realistic and often beneficial facet of modern business, it’s important to recognise the wider ramifications on the IT and communications function and, if need be, to seek expert advice on the best ways to achieve this.
Whilst the technology is available to provide employees with a comprehensive eye on the games, it’s also important to remember that the IT network can be used to control and even limit this usage so it doesn’t encroach on the main business functions of the organisation.
Video catch-up sites such as BBC iPlayer or key websites that will stream the events can be blocked or limited so that employees aren’t abusing the privilege. To do this effectively, organisations will want to discuss the measures at a management level and the in-house IT team or retained professional IT provider can help to ensure that network settings are just right to find a good balance between upsetting employees and adversely effecting productivity during working hours.
Naturally, for some companies, business drivers mean that rigid working hours will need to be maintained despite employee interest in the events, especially for client-facing employees. Without wishing to sound draconian, in these situations it may be advisable to block sports related websites, either permanently, throughout the event or during certain working hours, to discourage employee distractions. This is a straightforward procedure for your in-house or outsourced IT support team to administer and can be revoked later if appropriate.
Like the physical paths of communication, the UK Internet network is also bracing its self for the inevitable increase in traffic. As well as the strain on the existing Internet infrastructure, the considerable IT and communications demands of the event mean that getting new communications systems installed may be harder, especially in areas close to the event.
In London for example, there will be a two month delay on new leased IP lines being installed, which will inevitably delay any subsequent work and will likely have an impact on businesses for the rest of the year. It is of course possible to work around these problems by making full use of existing systems, and even the mobile telecoms network, to get around these potential issues, but it should be considered in the wider IT plan and is something that good IT service providers can help you to deal effectively with.
Hosting the London 2012 Olympics has always promised to be a challenge as well as an undeniable benefit to UK plc., and like the country as a whole, businesses need to be well organised to deal with these. For many businesses that already use Unified Communications there will an obvious case for allowing home working, but the squeeze on the busy IP networks will need to be considered.
For other businesses the cost and practical considerations may mean that a sensible policy for modified on-premises working which ensures the IT systems are well-managed may be more prudent. Whatever the approach, it is important to plan ahead and judge the best path for your business and employees – so everyone can be a winner during these landmark games.