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Providing what it calls a “rescue package” designed to help more than five million small businesses get through the Covid-19 crisis and return to work, UK operator Vodafone is to offer SMEs its Unlimited Business Broadband bundle and Microsoft 365 Business Standard free for six months.
Vodafone has run a number of programmes designed to help small business since the start of the Covid-19 crisis. In the early days, it implemented a new policy for those small businesses it considered most at risk within its supply chain to ensure that, for the next six months, all new orders would be paid in 15 days.
The operator has also been providing financial support to small businesses struggling with bill repayments, including a six-month payment plan to spread the cost of their mobile services, and a guarantee that businesses will not lose Vodafone services as a result of late payments.
The new offer comes at a crossroads for all UK business as the lockdown conditions are eased and many are considering a return to work. Yet resent research has suggested the current blurred lines between work and home life will become increasingly blurred, with many home workers wanting to preserve their new way or working.
Indeed, a study from Dynata at the end of May 2020 found that that three-quarters of people expect to work from home more often after the lockdown, and almost two-fifths now want to work from home permanently. Just under two-thirds reported they are just as, if not more, productive at home than they were in the office (31% more productive, 31% just as productive).
Regarding small businesses, a US study from Zen Business found that nearly half of US small businesses may not have been prepared for the abrupt shift to home working before the Covid-19 outbreak, but they are now well set up and the majority indicate that now teleworking has been established, they will continue with it.
In the UK at the same time, after polling more than 1,000 firms, Small Business Britain and BT Skills For Tomorrow found that many across the UK SME sector were actively embracing digital tools to power recovery with the need for physical offices and other traditional ways of working now increasingly being rethought.
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Aiming to tap into what will be a continued demand for reliable networking, the new Vodafone broadband offer will be available to all small business owners, including those already in a contract with Vodafone can be taken up any time in the next three months. This means that small business owners, even those who are already Vodafone broadband customers, can sign up to a new 24-month contract and have the first six months free, with no set-up costs.
“Our role in these challenging times is to keep the UK connected and help businesses return to work,” said Vodafone UK CEO Nick Jeffery. “Small businesses have been hit particularly hard by this crisis. By reducing their costs and providing them with our brilliant technology and expertise, we hope to help them get back on their feet and return to growth. A little financial help now, will go a long way in the future.”
In unveiling the offer, Vodafone revealed the work of creative promotional marketing agency Cat Among the Pigeons. Explaining what the offer could do for the Leeds-based firm, managing director Paul McGann said: “With one less bill to think about for six months, this offer will be incredibly helpful to small businesses like us.
“As a recent startup, we were just three months into the business plan when the government advised social distancing and restricted all non-essential travel movement across the UK. With Vodafone’s fast and reliable broadband connectivity, we have been able to maintain our levels of service and carry out business as usual even while working remotely.”