Boom in hybrid working, high-speed connectivity drive influx into UK market towns

Network data from TalkTalk shows many UK employees are moving house as hybrid working transforms working habits and becomes very much here to stay

Covid-19 has driven business leaders to accept the hybrid model of working and, as multiple lockdowns have signalled the end of the traditional five-day office week, research from TalkTalk has found that 40% of office workers have moved home or have considered moving during the pandemic.

The connectivity provider’s study revealed that as business presence spreads into the UK’s hybrid working hotspots, three-quarters (74%) of employers said that with formalised working-from-home arrangements, they now view an employee’s at-home workspace as an extension of their office. Nearly nine in 10 firms (86%) said their employees were in favour of flexible working policies, and 80% agreed it is a good idea for the business and employees.

Also, 85% expect to operate some form of hybrid working system moving forward. This aligns with the wishes of office workers, four-fifths of whom say hybrid working is an important employment benefit, while 86% said a flexible working policy would be key to accepting a new job.

Business leaders and employees both expect workers to be in the office two to three days a week. Indeed, the study found that the changing face of the office is inevitable, with many staff now seeing it as a space to collaborate on tasks (28%) or somewhere to hold important business meetings (20%).

A fast, reliable internet connection is regarded as essential to hybrid work, with 85% saying they would be willing to pay more for a home with access to full-fibre, high-speed broadband that would support remote work. Employers (92%) and employees (94%) agreed that the new working week would not be possible without employees having access to fast, reliable internet in their homes.

There was also a broad consensus that employers should subsidise their employees’ home broadband. Three-quarters (75%) of business leaders said they should contribute financially, and nearly half of employees (46%) said the same.

The shift in working practices has seen standard daily commutes become a thing of the past. Nearly a quarter of workers (22%) would now consider moving home and living more than hour away from their office. Living closer to family (27%), finding a more suitable home working space (22%) and living somewhere greener (18%) were the most popular reasons for moving.

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The study revealed that the grand move has already started. TalkTalk said that with the advantages of living and working from suburban and rural locations clear to see, network data showed that the South East and the East of England have been the biggest beneficiaries of office workers leaving cities, with an increased internet usage of 46%. Meanwhile, the West Midlands grew by 43%, with the North East, South West and East Midlands all increasing their data usage by 42%.

UK market towns such as Kingston (52%), Guildford (52%) and Dudley (49%) have seen some of the largest increases in network data usage in the country since the start of 2020. Reigate and Redhill (48%), Chelmsford (48%) and Dorchester (45%) have also experienced significant growth.

“We are proud to play our part in helping people work from home during the pandemic, not just as an employer, but as a provider of the fast, reliable connectivity needed to embrace this shift,” said Jonathan Kini, managing director of TalkTalk Consumer and Business. “With hybrid working set to continue, we are investing more in keeping our network resilient to meet increased demand. We are rolling out full-fibre plans to homes and businesses across the UK at pace, powering this new era of hybrid working.”

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