Boris Johnson, London's hapless, silver spoon-sucking mayor, thinks that those working from home are living in a "skivers' paradise", but one of the potential legacies from the London 2012 Olympic Games is a liberalisation of employer attitudes to homeworking.

London employers were spooked into letting staff work from the comfort of their living rooms during the Olympic Games by officials' hellish prophecies of transport vexation, but the rail and Tube network has coped much better than under the normal commuter crush and staff morale will undoubtedly be boosted by a more comfortable working life.

"As long as businesses have not seen a drop in productivity, and evidence suggests that those working at home are actually more productive, then there is a chance of the Olympics bringing about a step change in business," Colin Stanbridge, chief executive of the London Chamber of Commerce and Industry (LCCI), told IBTimes UK.

working from home
London's businesses may experience a "step change" to more homeworking after the London 2012 Olympic Games (Reuters)

Reduced overheads, a more family-friendly and flexible working style, less stressed staff and boosted morale, a lower rate of turnover for the workforce, and above all increased productivity from limited commuter time and fewer interruptions are all touted as benefits of homeworking.

Almost half of the capital's workforce complete work more quickly when working from home, according to research compiled just before London 2012 by LCCI and global recruitment firm Harvey Nash, with 46 percent of 178 London businesses surveyed reporting increased productivity.

There was a better work like balance for 54 percent and reduced stress levels for 43 percent, while 51 percent saying they felt more job satisfaction because of homeworking.

Staff turnover also fell for a quarter of businesses, who said that the cost savings from staff homeworking meant they were able to retain more people than they would have otherwise.

Increased staff morale also meant that fewer wanted to quit their jobs.

"We already know that 80 percent of businesses offering some kind of flexible working and many will have used the Games to test out whether it works for them on a wider scale," Colin Stanbridge, chief executive of the London Chamber of Commerce and Industry (LCCI), said.

"IT infrastructure seems to have held up well and people working from home have helped the transport system run so smoothly."

Mixed message for businesses ahead of London 2012

Ahead of London 2012 businesses were being given mixed messages about what they should do with the capital's workforce.

"You should expect your staff to turn up," whinged floppy-haired Johnson before the Games.

"It is going to be possible to get to work, but it's not going to be perfect. This is not a glorified sicknote for the whole of London."

Meanwhile Transport for London (TFL), the authority responsible for London Underground, was frantically warning employers to let their staff work from home to ease the pressure on the system, which many feared was doomed to fail because of overcrowding from the spike in travellers.

Fortunately for the Victorian underground system many commuters were given the option of working from home, with reports of satisfied travellers getting seats on even the busiest of Tube lines in rush hour, something of a novelty for Londoner used to a Sardine-style squash.

"By changing the way you travelled, you helped support the Games and kept London moving," said a teary-eyed statement from TfL transport commissioner Peter Hendy at the end of London 2012.

"Without you, the past two weeks wouldn't have been possible. Thank you."

Research on homeworking and productivity

There is more than just the LCCI's evidence to dispute Johnson's assumption that homeworking is tantamount to pulling a sickie.

A paper from California's Stanford University detailed the experience of a Nasdaq- listed Chinese multinational corporation that employs 13,000 people, that experimented with homeworking for its call centre staff.

The staff who volunteered for the scheme were randomly split into working from home or the office for nine months. At the end of this period, those working from home saw a 13 percent increase in their productivity.

"This improvement came mainly from a 9.5 percent increase in the number of minutes they worked during their shifts (i.e., the time they were logged in taking calls)," said the Stanford report.

"This was due to a reduction in breaks and sick-days taken by the home workers. The remaining 3.5 percent improvement came from home workers increasing calls per minute worked, due to the quieter working conditions at home."

At the end of the scheme, it was deemed so successful that the business rolled out the offer of homeworking to all of its employees, letting staff choose if they wanted to work from the office or at home. Half chose home.

A similar experiment carried out by telecommunications giant O2 with 2,500 staff in the months ahead of London 2012 found that 88 percent of its workforce worked just as well at home as they did in the office, with 36 percent - more than a third - recording increased productivity.

"Line managers are used to managing people they can see. Managing them remotely is a completely different thing. Our pilot didn't solve all of those problems, but it is a good start," Ben Dowd, business director for O2, said.

"We can do a lot more to support line managers in charge of remote teams, but we know it's not going to happen overnight. We're educating people about the whole future of work here and there's still work to be done, but we're pleased to say this is a fantastic start."

Staff working from home do not just benefit from the comfort element, they may also save money from having to commute less often.

With rail travel costs in particular on a seemingly never-ending upward spiral, as the latest inflation data shows train ticket prices rising by 0.2 percent in June, this would be a welcome relief for a hard-pressed workforce struggling with the high cost of living and a double-dip recession.

As data emerges in the coming months on the productivity of the capital's homeworking staff during London 2012, Britain may witness a cultural revolution in its businesses and the benefits for both employees and employers reaped.