Zoom fatigue kicks in as working from home becomes working from phone

Research from leading telecoms operator finds over a third of Brits working from home are increasingly switching to mobile data to stay online in lockdown

Since the start of the third national lockdown, the UK’s workforce has once again been forced to work and learn under one roof, leading to increased stress, not least from connectivity issues which are, according to research from mobile operator O2, leading to people relying on their mobile data more than ever to stay online during the day.

The survey was conducted online by YouGov between 22 and 24 January 2021, contacting 4,328 adults, of whom 1,351 were working from home. In all, nearly half (47%) of Brits indicated that they were experiencing increased stress since the beginning of 2021 due to connectivity issues in their homes.

With more people now at home and sharing their broadband, over a third (36%) of Brits currently working from home were found to be regularly switching to mobile data to stay online and 61% of Brits agreed that being able to connect to mobile data had made the experience of working from home better.

Over a quarter (28%) of respondents have also considered switching to mobile data for an important business call. Younger people (61%) and those with children in the household (65%) were the groups most reliant on mobile data to keep them connected as they tackle working and studying from home.

On 5 January, the UK government launched its “Get help with technology” programme, which aims to increase data allowances on mobile devices to support disadvantaged children. It is designed to expand temporarily allowances for mobile phone users on certain networks so that children and young people can access remote education while their face-to-face education is disrupted. All of the major operators are part of the scheme.

Interestingly, given the almost ubiquitous nature of the video-conferencing solution since the first lockdown was announced, the survey identified what it called “Zoom fatigue”. This, it said, was causing a resurgence of voice calling as people revert to the familiarity of the phone call. O2 data from January showed that on the day that the third national lockdown was announced, there was a significant increase in voice call traffic. The mobile operator also found people were also spending longer catching up on the phone during lockdown, with voice call duration increasing by an average of 30 seconds.

As working from home becomes the norm, connectivity is an increasingly important factor when moving home. The survey showed that the majority of Brits (67%) who were working from home and have been using mobile data agreed that access to it would be an important factor when choosing where to live. This was especially important for young people, with 76% of 18- to 34-year-olds agreeing that access to mobile data would be important to them when choosing where to live in the future.

Commenting on the survey findings, Emma Evans, head of network experience at O2, said Covid-19 had demonstrated that reliable mobile connectivity is essential, helping families across the UK home school their children, stay connected with loved ones and keep businesses across the nation up and running.

“It’s because of this that O2 is committed to its role in rebuilding Britain, and why we are investing more in our network in 2021 than ever before,” she remarked. “We are pleased that the use of mobile data is able to support families and households to get through this difficult, unprecedented time when connectivity is crucial for daily life.”

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