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UK employees complain of lacking tools to work at home effectively

Even though employees expect to continue working remotely for the foreseeable future, a significant proportion of teleworkers lack access to the required technological equipment

From a technological perspective, among the key consequences of the Covid-19 outbreak has been the mass adoption of teleworking, resulting in a huge spike in the usage of video conferencing, but it would appear that in the UK at least thousands of working hours are being lost as a tenth of UK workers say that they haven’t been provided with the appropriate equipment to work remotely says research from Utility Bidder.

The study from the provider to businesses of competitive quotations and additional energy agreement services was conducted on 14 April 2020, surveying 1,000 people across the UK. It included people aged 18-54, and featured executives, managers, directors and other senior management.

Mainstream flexible and remote working has been on the agenda for well over a decade but the survey by Utility Bidder worked to the general principle that with social distancing measures expected to remain in place until the end of 2020 at least, employees should expect to continue working remotely for the foreseeable future. Indeed other recent surveys have shown that there was a general expectation among UK employees that even after the lockdown ends they would work from home more often and in some cases permanently.

However, the study highlighted a worrying feeling among a significant proportion of workers that they were still not being properly supported through the current phase of remote working by their employers.

Only an eighth of those surveyed said they still do not have, cannot get or do not plan to have access to all the relevant technological equipment they need to work remotely. One respondent to Utility Bidder’s survey even said they are working from home “without even having half the equipment needed” while another wrote that their company “provided laptops but they’re not able to cope with the number of people using systems”.

Overall, 45% said they do not feel supported by their employer in general. A third said that a very small amount of support was provided, whilst 13% responded that they had received no support whatsoever. Although over three-quarters (76%) of respondents said they already had stable internet at home before lockdown, and 20% said this was arranged after lockdown was announced, 4% of the sample revealed they didn’t have access to reliable internet. The survey also found that 11% of people didn’t have all the relevant software for working at home.

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While eliminating the twice-daily commute to and from the office can give people more free time during the day, the survey also found that teleworking can also bring difficulties in terms of striking a healthy work-life balance. Nearly two-fifths of those surveyed (38%) said they were worried about achieving a good balance and a similar percentage admitted that they were worried they wouldn’t be able to keep their focus at work, while 37% revealed they were concerned their employer didn’t think they were working hard enough. Just over a third (34%) stated they were worried they may end up working longer hours.

Despite concerns about remaining focused, the study highlighted that many people are finding they can work more productively and manage their time better away from the distractions of the office. All respondents said their time management had improved since they started working remotely, while 45% felt their personal productivity had increased.

In a call to action to firms whose staff are working remotely, Utility Bidder noted that to further boost the productivity of remote employees, it was important for firms to make sure that they provided remote workers with all the training and technical support they need to do their jobs effectively remotely.

As part of this process, Utility Bidder added that firms should ensure they have access to and know how to use remote working tools that can help them perform their roles. The cost of not doing so is potentially large. James Longley, managing director at Utility Bidder, calculated that thousands of working hours are being lost across the UK every day because employees are not being supported with the technology and equipment they need to work remotely.

“Our mission is to support businesses and help them save money. One of the most important ways in which businesses can currently do this is by helping their staff remain productive so they can continue servicing their customers and clients,” he said commenting on the survey highlights. “Thousands of working hours could be lost without the proper technology and equipment, so it’s essential that businesses are supplying this where possible.”

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