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Homeworking is here to stay, and everyone should benefit

Published: 7th June 2021 08:58
The last twelve months have seen an astonishing shift in the working patterns of millions of Brits. At the start of 2020, a mere 6% of UK workers worked from home. Now, it's the norm for so many of us, regardless of what sector or industry we're in. Indeed, the success of this unexpected experiment suggests that, as far as remote working is concerned, the genie is well and truly out of the bottle.

 Joint research from the universities of Cardiff and Southampton has found the majority of us (88%) are keen to continue working at home in some capacity, even after the pandemic is over, while nearly half (47%) want to work predominantly or exclusively from home moving forwards.

The upshot of this is that the huge spikes in our household data consumption we've seen during 2020 isn't likely to disappear with the pandemic. Demand for video conferencing services - such as Zoom or Microsoft Teams - rocketed by more than 30% compared to 2019. However, for such services to consistently work as they should, households need a steady internet connection of at least 10Mbps. Yet, even today, many homes across the UK still fall short of this figure.

So, how can homeworkers trust in their connectivity when they often have online learners, gamers, smart devices and entertainment services like Netflix or iPlayer competing for bandwidth too? These connectivity issues make remote working extremely difficult for countless people across the UK, a problem which urgently needs to be addressed if our economy is to bounce back as hoped.

Homeworking - why didn't we think of it before?

 Homeworking offers a host of benefits on every level for us at home, employers and society as a whole. In order for it to keep benefiting us all long-term, our digital infrastructure needs to be up to the task. This is why CityFibre is investing up to £4 billion nationwide by bringing the fastest and most reliable network technology - full fibre - within reach of up to 8 million homes by 2025.

This plan includes Portsmouth, where CityFibre is investing £32 million pounds.

It's not hard to see why so many of us want to stick with homeworking after the pandemic. Homeworking can often feature fewer distractions (at least for those who aren't also juggling home-learning or the general needs of little ones at the same time), and it has been shown to reduce work-related stress and boost efficiency, with 70% of home-workers reporting that they've been just as, if not more, productive as they were when office-based. For many, it has also unlocked more flexibility to take much-needed breaks when needed - 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.

On top of that, according to American researchers, it's also left us with more in our pockets, with the average employee saving as much as $5,000 a year (more than £3,500) due to reduced travel and other factors. Businesses and communities are benefiting too. By having a greater number of employees working full-time or part-time from home, the same study showed that businesses could recoup as much as $11,000 per worker by having happier employees, in turn improving staff retention rates and reducing their office footprint. Furthermore, by taking commuting cars off the road, communities can benefit from fewer accidents and reduced carbon emissions, which is a winning situation for everyone.

Finally, offering good homeworking solutions can make recruitment a lot easier, while also opening up the job market to those who need more flexibility, including parents, carers or people with disabilities. If businesses had a pool of candidates before, now they have an ocean, with job advertisements now more focused on securing the right candidate for the job, rather than being confined to the office locale. Skills shortages are already costing UK businesses nearly £7bn a year in recruitment fees alone, so adopting a ‘work anywhere' model could provide UK businesses with a significant competitive advantage.

Levelling up connectivity for all

  Although there are many positives about the shift to homeworking, there are still challenges; the most significant being that many of us are still held hostage by poor connectivity. According to Ofcom, nearly 200,000 households across the UK currently get less than 10Mbps, making even basic services like email a daily frustration, let alone video conferencing or streaming.

As you might expect, having poor connectivity can significantly impact efficiency and productivity, creating unnecessary stress and frustration for both workers and employers. What's worse, it tends to affect entire communities, leaving digital black spots in locations across the UK. One recent example includes Fife in Scotland, where four-fifths of households in Kirkcaldy and Cowdenbeath suffer from sub-standard speeds, leaving the region at risk of being left behind by better-connected areas nearby.

Allowing homeworking to become the norm nationwide would be a boon to the entire UK economy, as well as to the environment by reducing transport emissions permanently. But, allowing the nation to become one of haves and have nots will have the opposite effect, by leaving communities behind as others flourish.

Future-proofing our towns and cities with full fibre

By investing in town/citywide full fibre network rollouts, CityFibre aims to future-proof communities by ensuring they have infrastructure that reliably supports their digital needs for decades to come.

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 insight.

 

The difference between full fibre and ‘regular' fibre is stark, but if you think you have ‘fibre broadband' today, the chances are there's copper in there somewhere stymying your speed. Currently, just 20% of UK premises can access a full fibre connection, so there's lots of catching up to do!

Fortunately, for residents in Portsmouth you have a choice.

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

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