What are London agencies doing to avoid being disrupted by the 2012 Olympics?

With many thousands set to descend on London, and Transport for London widely publicising the disruption that will be caused, The Drum speaks to London-based marketing and communications agencies to discover their plans for operating during the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games.

Bil Bungay, founding partner, Beattie McGuinness Bungay

I think that we are of the view that we should suck it and see. We have estimated that much of the agency live within two miles of BMB so for them a nice healthy walk there and back would be an excellent and appropriately athletic-ish thing for them to do! For those that live in the West of London - there is likely to be less congestion than can be expected in the East, so we suspect that they'll be able to make it in. For those that find it impossible to get in (we aren't anticipating many) we will use technology to keep them connected to the agency. We are incredibly busy at the moment and will likely be for the foreseeable future so it's essential that we have as little interruption as possible!

Jane Asscher, chairman and managing partner of 23Red

We are planning to operate across two phases. The first phase will offer flexi time. People will be able to come in from 7.30am in the morning and then leave at 4.30pm or can come later 10.30am and leave at 7pm. The creative department mostly cycle and are being encouraged to do so during the period.The second phase will only click in if the traffic is still too congested. We are also putting in place VPN access in order to log in remotely.

Warren Johnson, managing director of W Communications

The Olympics are a major inconvenience, and there has been a complete a lack of communication from Transport for London. The cynic in me doesn't expect TfL to get in touch but it should have and there will be a negative impact on my business. In an attempt to limit the disruption to normal agency activity we've decided to implement shifts, with staff able to work from 7am-2pm and 10am to 8pm.

Andy Cairns, managing director of Inferno

We are going to put a few measures in place to smooth out the bumps caused by the Olympics, the biggest thing we’re doing is not trying to avoid the disruption caused by the Olympics, it will be inevitable in Covent Garden and the Olympics is hugely exciting for London. Rather, we’ll try and give our people the agility to work from wherever they are and the responsibility to make it work for our clients too. We’re all hooked up to more gadgets than ever so it’s less about connectivity and more about using technology responsibly.

Claudia Douglass, founder of innovision

At innovision, we have been planning for the Olympics on many levels, for the last 5 years. Business continuity is an agenda item at every board, management and team meeting, we simply cannot afford to let our business be disrupted. Fortunately, our commercial model is based on creating temporary environments so it's second nature for all of our people to think about flexible and portable infrastructure.Practically our strategy is built around trust and choice. We are offering our out of townpeople the option to work remotely, supplying kit and communications tools which will allow for efficient home working but also pre-booking accommodation for the busiest dates so that we can still offer face to face meetings for clients at short notice.We trust that our people will make good choices about how they work during the peak Games time. Communication and travel are the great unknowns, so we have a fleet of innovision push bikes at the Studio, Bat Phones (analogue landlines installed in directors homes and in the studio), satellite phones, multiple network mobile deals, local area connections at each of our off site sites And clear continuity planning for each of our key people which takes the form of a buddy system. We are already comfortable working to quality management systems such as ISO9001 and BS. 8901 And these systems support sustainable ways of working, encourage risk assessment and mitigation and clarity around consistent process, this makes it easier for a buddy system to work.As we will be busy delivering activations for many clients over the Olympics it hasn't been practical to encourage holiday to be taken during this time. We are all very buoyant and excited about this work and that feeling of celebration will be embraced, we have already got the big screens up in the agency, the kitchen has most mod cons, we have shower facilities and being slap bang in the middle of the park can escape the madness simply by coming into work. Bring it on!

Scott Hendry, head of UK Planning at gyro

At the start of the year, there seemed to be a general consensus in the marketing and media industries to hold off on developing Olympic contingency plans until more became known. I believe this is still the case and that employers will take it as it comes, allowing staff to work flexible hours when and if they need to unless it is absolute necessary for them to be in the office. What is interesting is the potential impact this may have on working hours following The Olympics. Depending upon the success of flexi-time working, this might herald a trend where employers introduce it as a benefit on a longer term basis. This could lead to a slow dismantling of the classic ‘9-5 working day’. The technology for such a shift is already in place – broadband household penetration is at 74%, and online tools such as Skype allow everyone to have access to conference facilities. The marketing and media industries, often the first to make use of such technology, seem a natural testing ground. I see the Olympics as a trial period for another style of working that many have been unwilling to introduce for fear of a potential negative business impact. Will mass flexi-time working impact positively or negatively on productivity, output and growth? Let's wait and see.

Mark Middlemas, managing partner for UM London

UM London is very much operating a “business as usual” approach to London 2012. We have done lots of preparation for the biggest event in London’s recent history by attending lectures, conferences & seminars to ensure we are aware of all eventualities for the business. We’ve also kept a close eye on media trends around the Games and have been producing a monthly update to keep UM colleagues around the world up-to-date with the latest developments. Our global markets have been keen to understand the media activity happening around the event – not least our friends in Brazil, who have it all to come with Rio 2016.

Jason Cotterrell, UK country director, CBS Outdoor

During the Olympic Games period, all our offices and regional delivery centres will remain open and it will be business as usual for CBS Outdoor UK. As the Official Provider of Advertising services to the Olympic Games, it is of paramount importance that we continue to deliver a slick and seamless service for clients during the Games period.In circumstances where we expect serious commuting difficulties, there is a flexible working policy in place. The business will continue to monitor and evaluate the impact of any travel disruptions on the business and Heads of Departments have been asked to put measures in place to minimise disruption.

Tina Brazil, people director for Profero

With the Olympics just around the corner, Profero have taken in to consideration the whole teams travel movements and how their journeyscould well be impacted during this time. An anticipated 60% will be affected with some journeys possibly taking on average an additional 20 to 40% longer, but those are just on average, in some extreme cases this could well go up to 100%. We’ll pre-emptively be managing our client’s expectations by briefing them fully on our plans, whilst trying to keep external meeting movements to a minimum. We will of course be looking at flexible working times during the more intensive periods and as a Global agency we are of course advocates of Skype, so will continue to use these methods. The company we use for client taxi’s has advised us of an additional 100% on travel times, and a healthy 20% of the team have already stated they will try and miss the expected crowds by cycling either in and out of work or to and from meetings. Most importantly though, we wouldn’t want any of the team to miss this epic event. In fact one of the girls is participating in the opening ceremony, so to make sure the team are all included (and to make sure the bandwith doesn’t take a kick) we are projecting the whole event on the back wall of our open plan office. Now let’s just hope we win bring home some medals, come on Team GB!

Darren Keen, managing director of MARS\Y&R

Clients come first and we will work on a flexible but consistent basis according to their needs. We have equipped MARS\Y&R so that any employee can work anywhere and everywhere. Everyone has a top-end laptop and smart phone supported with remote-focused cloud-based system IS infrastructure. It's all about trust, grown-up scheduling and treating everyone as adults - it's a well-trodden policy and part of our DNA. We'll be picking up the phone and seeing clients as normal, subject to the meeting venue not being located in E17! But of course where Games activity means it's impossible to travel somewhere we will be sensible about it; ultimately we want our people to be safe and happy so we'll make our plans around that day-to-day, week-to-week during the invasion! At MARS\Y&R we like to play hard and socialise together. Giving everyone an opportunity to enjoy 'the greatest show on earth' is a fantastic motivator. We'll watch key events together on the big screen as well as organising all-agency Olympic events so that everyone actively takes part in both the sports and the broader non-games experience. The Olympics are fundamental to several of our clients so you could say it's also a case of seeing the fruits of our efforts as an agency come to life. Why wouldn't we want MARS\Y&R people to feel part of that? And of course some lucky members of staff have bought tickets or secured them via client-sponsors and they will be attending with our blessing.

Justin Cooke, founder of Fortune Cookie

With offices in the UK, US, Australia, Poland and the Netherlands we’ve thought of several ways to beat the chaos/extra people traffic, not just in the UK but when working with international colleagues and clients. We’ve also thought of ideas to make everyone feel part of the biggest sporting event of our lifetimes…We already work rush hour-friendly hours of 10am to 6pm and during the Olympics we’ll be giving employees the options to work 8am to 4pm or 11am to 7pm to better suit their travel needs. We’ve always been fully equipped to offer flexible working from home options which will increase 50 per cent during the Games. We just ask each employee spend a minimum of two days in the office each week.We’re asking Cookies to be considerate of clients’ arrangements by replacing meetings with conference calls and not scheduling meetings at peak travel times. Meanwhile, our Brighton office gives all UK Cookies the option to work beside the seaside.Juggling international time differences is something every Cookie deals with. Early morning and late evening catch ups between offices are a regular occurrence. We ask international Cookies to remember our London team will be working varying hours or from home.

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