By Greg Mesch, CEO at CityFibre.

Earlier this week we partnered with the Chartered Management Institute (CMI) to release some exclusive research around the UK’s move to hybrid working, and how issues with connectivity among workers could be holding back the long-term move to more home working.

A majority of the 1,000 managers polled said that their staff had experienced problems resulting directly from unreliable broadband connections while working from home, such as being left unable to use video calls and being forced to drop out of important meetings. Despite this, 58 per cent of managers polled said that no action at all had been taken by their organisation to help their employees improve their broadband connection.

It was clear from the polling that businesses recognised that improving connectivity for those working at home would benefit workers, their managers, and also their wider organisation.  But with only 42 per cent of managers polled saying that employers should be responsible for ‘fit for work’ connectivity at home, there remains uncertainly around where the onus lies to improve workers’ connectivity.

Even among those organisations where help is offered, the level of support varies hugely – from ‘fix it yourself’ payments to staff, to the supply of additional routers, and the use of mobile phones for ‘hot spotting’.

The poll found that 85 per cent of managers are expecting many of their staff to spend some time working remotely from September. And in this new climate the overwhelming majority of managers – 94 per cent – agreed that improved broadband connectivity would allow the digitally excluded the opportunity to undertake job roles that can be done remotely in the UK.

Ann Francke, CEO of the Chartered Management Institute said: “Despite the disruption of the pandemic, the transition to hybrid working has been positive for the majority of employees and has allowed them to adapt work to their personal circumstances. Because of this flexibility, most people want hybrid working to stay.

“Poor connectivity could jeopardise this once-in-a-generation opportunity to change our working practices for the better. If employees are to reap the benefits of dynamic working practices, then stable and reliable connectivity will be essential for business productivity.

“Any leader worth their salt knows that supporting employees to work flexibly will encourage diversity and inclusivity across companies. It will enable companies to tap into a wider talent pool from across the UK and empower individuals with more choice and autonomy in their professional lives.

“Investing in training to prepare managers and leaders for an increasingly digital and connected world should be a Government priority if the UK is to ‘build back better’.”

From our perspective at CityFibre, this new age of hybrid working shows businesses should care as much about their employees’ digital productivity at home as in the office. Relying on yesterday’s copper-based home broadband services will leave millions of employees struggling to connect and contribute while costing the economy untold millions in lost productivity.

The good news is that with the nationwide full fibre rollout ramping up fast, far superior connectivity will soon be within easy reach of most homes and businesses. Encouraging and even incentivising take-up of these faster and more reliable connections by employees needs to be the focus for the industry, the government, and businesses like ourselves.

 

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