London firms pass Olympic ‘Stress Test’ but questions remain for those yet to prepare


16 June 2012

The vast majority of companies that participated in a London 2012 Stress Test last month are confident that they will be able to minimise disruption this summer. After testing their alternative working plans ahead of the Olympic Games, just under 80% of companies said they were confident that their business could cope with the impact of the Olympic Games.

The Stress Test, which was organised by Canary Wharf Group and Deloitte, saw over 100 companies test a variety of measures with their staff looking at IT, telecommunications and transport requirements during the Games. 45% of companies tested measures specifically designed in response to potential transport disruption during the Games, demonstrating the additional effort some companies are putting in over and above business as usual preparations for the Games.

42% of companies asked staff to change their working hours, whilst 40% encouraged employees to re-route their journeys and 25% asked staff to use a different mode of transport. In addition, measures already likely to be in place were tested as 85% of companies assessed the effectiveness of their home working arrangements and 34% tested alternative business locations.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, these established measures were felt to be the most successful. 85% of companies that tested home working found it to be effective or very effective whilst around 70% of companies felt the same way about alternative business locations. However, some businesses discovered that whilst staff already used to working from home had no issues, those who tested it for the first time experienced some connectivity issues.

Whilst around 70% of respondents also found changed working hours to be a success, re-routing or changing the mode of transport were less effective. However, even here around 60% of companies to test those measures were happy with the results. One respondent found that buses were the most popular alternative mode of transport and on average added just 20 minutes to staff journeys.

Despite a generally positive experience some companies did suffer problems with a number of measures. Over 25% of companies that asked employees to use a different mode of transport on their commute felt this wasn’t effective, whilst 23% felt similarly about alternative work locations, 16% about re-routing staff and 12% about changed hours. Even the well established option of working from home presented issues for one in ten of the participants who tested this measure.

Mark Naysmith, Games Readiness director at Deloitte, said: “This research paints a positive picture amongst companies that have tested their preparedness. It isn’t clear how many of the participants had existing home working policies in place, but it is not surprising to find this well established working practice perform well. What is more encouraging is that the other Games-specific measures also appear to have been effective for the participants. If an organisation has confidence in the effectiveness of these measures they are more likely to use them when they really need them.

“However, the fact that some companies experienced difficulties indicates the need for companies to be thorough in their planning and testing and not take these changes for granted. It is also likely that companies engaged enough to participate in a Stress Test in the first place will be better prepared and more confident than the average business. Questions do still remain for the wider business community about whether they are ready or not.”

Drew Gibson, business continuity manager at Canary Wharf Group, added: “In a sense, it is good to see that some companies struggled with these measures. This means they learned something from the exercise and can put it right before Games time or use alternative measures. There is certainly still time to plan and improve and our research demonstrates that a range of options exist for companies to mitigate the challenges and ensure that business doesn’t stop this summer.”

Mark Evers, Director of Games Transport at Transport for London, said: “Central London will be transformed into one huge sporting and cultural venue this summer. That will have a big impact on both the road and public transport networks so it is vital that businesses, such as those that took part in the ‘Stress Test’, take the time now to test their plans and communicate them to their staff, suppliers, customers and visitors.

“In these final weeks before the Games, London’s business leaders need to ensure their employees are clear about the plans in place within their own organisations, so they can take action to change their travel as a result. Help and support is available on our travel planning website.”