The “Greatest Show on Earth” arrives in London in July: if your business isn’t fit for the Olympics yet, there’s still time to plan ahead …..
Whilst Olympic fever may not have gripped Britain quite yet, there’s certainly a rising tide of excitement about the Games coming to London this summer.
Whether or not you’re a sports fan, there’s no doubt that the Games will have a major impact on the UK, particularly London and the South East where the majority of events take place. With more than 14,000 athletes, 5000 officials and 26,000 media coming to the UK, it’s clear that London will experience considerable disruption during the Olympic and Paralympic Games’ seven weeks’ duration.
The Games are expected to bring major economic benefits – with Visa Europe estimating a £750 million increase in consumer spending over the summer. Whilst many will welcome this financial boost, many companies in the capital are concerned that the inevitable travel restrictions, delays and disruption will have a negative impact on their business.
With this in mind, businesses have been encouraged to develop plans to minimise the Games’ impact on their staff, customers, deliveries and operations. Large organisations such as HSBC, Citi Group and BT have developed plans which encourage flexible, mobile and home working. Many organisations will simply enable their staff to work more flexibly – whether from home or another location outside the capital.
For SMEs looking to develop a plan, information sites such as and Transport for London (www.tfl.gov.uk) are great starting points. They provide detailed information about the dates, locations and times of events, as well as useful planning tools and advice.
An effective plan doesn’t need to be particularly sophisticated – but it should be realistic and relevant to your business – whether that’s alternative travel arrangements, start times, working from different locations, customer information or rescheduled deliveries. Give your team the chance to comment on the plan too, you may be surprised at the creative suggestions that come back! As most companies now offer some degree of home, mobile and flexible working extending these options during the Olympics is an obvious solution.
For companies located on or around Olympic Route Networks (roads directly connecting venues, make up part of an Olympic course or used by officials) this may be an essential due to the ongoing disruption and volume of people in the immediate area.
Despite major investment in London’s transport network, it’s inevitable that delays will occur during the Olympics. 80% of all spectators expected to travel to events in greater London by rail (including the tube and DLR) and on Games’ busiest day, an additional three million people will travel by tube (double its capacity on a normal working day).
Careful planning can minimise the delays – the most obvious ways include staggering start and finish times, avoiding non-essential travel and particularly busy days and scheduling meetings outside of central London.
If travel is essential, it’s vital to plan ahead – find alternative routes, use less busy tube stations, using Boris bikes or encourage staff to walk or bring their own bikes into work for the duration: it may be just the incentive your team needs to get fitter! Developing a plan that includes such alternatives is relatively easy – many official Olympics websites include walking maps, locations for Boris bike stands, details of Thames river taxis, cycle lanes and other routes.
Working with suppliers and customers will be an essential part of any plan: scheduling deliveries out-of-hours, using bicycle instead of motorbike couriers, stockpiling supplies or working with other local businesses to arrange joint deliveries can overcome the difficulties of road closures, restricted access and large numbers of people in and around the City and central London. Given the expected congestion, it’s not surprising that some companies have encouraged their staff to take their annual holidays during the Games. Currency exchange firm, Travelex reported that around four million people will leave the UK in the five days before the Olympics start.
But if it’s not possible for everyone to take their holidays during the Games, it may be possible to use technologies to lessen the Games’ impact. Teleconferencing and video conferencing are perfect ways to bring team together and hold meetings without needing to travel. Similarly, setting up virtual offices and cloud computing solutions allow teams to work together regardless of location.
Temporary relocation outside London is another option for companies where home, flexible or mobile working are not realistic options. Whilst some businesses plan to relocate London teams to their offices outside the capital, others are looking for temporary office outside London.
The impact of the Games has already been seen by serviced office providers, such as Business Environment. Bookings for video conferencing suites at BE’s business centres outside London have already risen by 65% for July and August. The company has also seen a 70% increase in London based companies looking for temporary offices at its centres in Bristol, Reading and Milton Keynes during Games.
Whether your business is staying in London, your team are working flexibly or you’re looking to relocate for the duration, there’s still plenty of time to get your business fit for the Games.
It simply needs a little thought, research, a bit of creativity and finally some planning – the very tools that every business says are keys to its success!