Ten tips for working from home: Olympics edition

The London 2012 Olympics is going to be a huge working-from-home experiment for many organisations. Here are some tips on making it go smoothly
By Steve Ranger, Global News Director
1 of 10 Steve Ranger/ZDNET

Olympics runners

The huge influx of tourists into London for the 2012 Olympics will put huge strain on the transport system. As a result, many businesses in London and elsewhere in the UK near to Games venues have told staff to work from home for some or all of the Olympic period.

Read this: London Games: Planning a business and IT strategy

For many staff it will be the first time they've had to work from home. As any athlete will tell you, gold medals are awarded in the summer, but they're earned in the winter. It's the same with working from home: preparation is everything.

With the Olympic opening ceremony on Friday, you don't have long to get your plans in place — so here are some ideas to make sure your remote working during the Olympics wins gold.

1. Test, test, test

Test your home-working set-up before you have to use it. That VPN connection that worked fine when you tested it in the office will have a nasty habit of not working when you are remote, for example.

And as most of us rely day-to-day on passwords and web addresses stored in our browsers' history, if you are using a different PC to the one you work on, make sure you know all the passwords and URLs you'll need.

Also — as the helpdesk is unlikely to want to wade through one million tourists to reach you — make sure you're running the most up-to-date versions of software already by installing any updates needed before you go home.

2 of 10 Steve Ranger/ZDNET

Home working

2. Have the right kit

Working from a laptop slumped in an armchair is probably fine for one day, but for prolonged working from home you're going to need better kit. A mouse, keyboard and if possible a monitor — and a decent chair — will make the experience less painful.

Also, don't forget the paperwork: if you rely on physical files or documents, make sure you have them or access to them. And if you are removing sensitive data from the office environment, make sure it is properly protected — by encryption, for example

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3. Let the cloud take the strain...

While the Olympics itself won't risk using the cloud, this could still be a good opportunity to test out cloud-based technology yourself. If you are working from home or other locations, cloud storage might make sense (although bear in mind the need to sufficiently protect sensitive company data).

4 of 10 Steve Ranger/ZDNET

Man in field

4. ...but still have a backup plan

Earlier this year, the Olympic organisers were warning of internet outages arising from the huge number of people going online during the Games — to watch events, for example. While these warnings may have been downplayed, with the huge numbers working from home it's wise to assume that at some point you may find your broadband failing when the entire street starts streaming Olympic video.

So make sure you have some work that doesn't rely on a network connection to keep you busy — and the boss happy — until you get back online.

5 of 10 Google/Edward Moyer, CNET News

Google+ Hangout

5. Don't forget about your colleagues

Having some kind of virtual meeting during the day can help keep team morale high and give some structure to the day. This is important especially when working outside of the office for long periods of time. There is a reason why people like working in offices — interaction and having someone to discuss ideas with is an important element in working efficiently.

Test a number of different ways of keeping in touch with the rest of your team and work out which are best. Email, instant messenger, Twitter or a Google+ hangout might all work well for different types of teams — make sure you've tested them and have everyone's contact details before you leave.

6 of 10 Steve Ranger/ZDNET

Playful businessman

6. Set boundaries...

Working remotely can generate a new set of distractions — cats, the washing-up, the Olympics on TV — that aren't (usually) a problem in the office. And if there are other people in your home during the working day, it's tempting for them to try and lure you away from working.

So set boundaries — make it clear that you are working by sticking to set hours, by shutting yourself away or by even putting on your work clothes.

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7. ...but don't be a slave to the home office

Just because you can work at 6am or 11pm (or both), it doesn't mean that you should. Working from home is not the same as working all the time. Just as you set boundaries for when you can work, make sure you have a clear point at which you stop work too.

8 of 10 Karen Friar/ZDNet

Olympic stadium

8. Check the Olympic timetable before scheduling a meeting or a call

Don't get so wrapped up in work that you forget that the world's greatest sporting spectacle is going on. And while you might not be a huge fan of the long jump or discus, your colleagues or your boss might be. So before booking in that meeting it might be wise to check which events are taking place and when, and whether you'll be upsetting any fans. After all, if it's a heat for the 100m, it's not likely to take very long.

9 of 10 Steve Ranger/ZDNET

Man in the dark

9. Don't become an Olympic hermit

The Olympics and Paralympics run from 27 July until 9 September. That's a long time to work from home, especially if it's not something staff are accustomed to doing. Make sure there are regular opportunities to meet up or work together — even if it's only occasionally — otherwise team cohesion will suffer.

10 of 10 Steve Ranger/ZDNET

CityMapper app

10. Check out this Olympic app list

Of course, with all the disruption of the Olympics comes some fun — if you've managed to bag yourself a ticket or two, that is. If you are going to the Olympics, check out this list of iPhone apps to help you navigate, manage your data and generally have a good time.

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