Even if you haven’t thought about it yourself, you’ve likely heard friends, family or work colleagues say they feel they’re in need of a “digital detox” – in other words, temporarily forgoing digital devices in an attempt to reduce stress levels.

Whether it’s disturbed sleep patterns caused by blue light emitting devices, over-exposure to airbrushed images on social media or simply feeling that you just can’t switch off, many of us have become all too familiar with the effects of too much screen time.

The past year, however, has highlighted major benefits of digital technology too, enabling positive changes that are likely to remain for the foreseeable future.

Throughout a strange and difficult year, the internet has been our place of work, our classroom, even our refuge! It’s helped us keep in touch with loved ones and unlocked a more flexible way of living, working and learning that most of us have welcomed with open minds and arms.

Home-working At the start of 2020, a mere 6% of UK workers were based at home. Now, it’s the norm for so many more of us, regardless of sector or industry.

Homeworking can often feature fewer distractions (at least for those who aren’t simultaneously juggling home-learning or the needs of little ones). It has been shown to reduce work-related stress and boost efficiency, for example, with 70% of home-workers reporting that they’ve been just as, if not more, productive as they were when office-based.

It has also unlocked more flexibility. During breaks we can walk the dog, tackle household chores and cut down on commuting time – leaving us with some much-needed breathing space and balance in our hectic lives. The impact has been so profound that, when the pandemic is over, the majority of us (88%) are keen to continue working at home in some capacity, while nearly half (47%) want to work predominantly or exclusively from home.

Supercharging health & wellbeing

Beyond our working lives, digital technology has proved an extremely useful tool in helping us stay healthy and active. Fitness and wellness apps have been popular for some time, but when gyms and fitness studios were forced to close, many of us had no choice but to turn to the online world to keep on track with our goals. Downloads of health and fitness apps, for instance, grew worldwide by 46%, while daily active users surged by around 24%, demonstrating that people were actually using them. What’s more, according to a survey in the United States, 60% of those who downloaded a fitness app during lockdown enjoyed it so much they planned to cancel their gym memberships.

The same can be said for apps such as Headspace and Calm which have been developed to help users sleep better, meditate and relax. According to the Washington Post, during the first of lockdown in March 2020 downloads of “mindfulness” apps increased by 25% – with three quarters of a million downloads made in one week alone.

The rise the Internet of Things and Smart Cities

One final area of digital opportunity lies in the Internet of Things (IoT). Wouldn’t it be great to save more time on our daily tasks with smarter homes? Intelligent appliances can help us wake up on time, manage our refrigerators to minimise waste, control heating and lighting, improve energy efficiency and help us save time, effort and money so we can focus on what really matters to us.

Digital investment in community infrastructure can also help make towns and cities safer, greener and more efficient for the benefit of all citizens. Plenty of examples exist across the globe, from making parking problems a thing of the past in South Korea’s biggest city, to keeping New York clean and tidy with smart waste management trucks and improving transport efficiency in Iceland.

As you can see, digital innovation is already having a positive impact when it comes to freeing up leisure time, supporting our fitness goals, making environments safer and greener and more. Nevertheless, challenges still remain when it comes to unlocking digital benefits for all. For many of us, poor connectivity can still hold us back, with interruptions adding unnecessary stress and frustration. Meanwhile, in communities where poor connectivity is widespread, smart city initiatives and other innovations remain a pipe dream. According to Ofcom, nearly 200,000 households across the UK currently get download speeds of less than 10Mbps, making even basic services like email a daily frustration, let alone video conferencing or streaming.

This is why CityFibre is working to future-proof communities by investing in town/city-wide full fibre network rollouts across the country and giving them a digital foundation to serve their needs for decades to come. Our data consumption is growing at an exponential rate, and, just like we need more pipes and wires to carry water and electricity when more homes are built, increased web traffic needs more bandwidth to service our data-hungry ways.

However, the vast majority of UK homes still connect to the internet via networks built for telephones – copper networks designed to carry sound, not data. Full fibre, on the other hand, is designed specifically for the digital age. These networks use 100% fibre optic technology to carry data at light speed all the way from the home to the point of connection – a pristine open highway with no bumps in sight.

To find out more about CityFibre’s full fibre roll out in your town/city, register your interest or check which internet service providers are currently available, visit: www.cityfibre.com/register

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