Poor home connectivity risks jeopardising switch to hybrid working

CityFibre, Chartered Management Institute survey warns once-in-a-generation opportunity to change working practices for the better could be put at risk because of network issues

Hybrid working will be a fixture for firms as they adapt to the post-Covid working environment, but a survey from CityFibre and the Chartered Management Institute (CMI) has warned that a once-in-a-generation opportunity to change working practices for the better in  the UK could be jeopardised without further action on connectivity reliability.

The Managers voice pulse point poll was conducted between 22 July and 2 August 2021, taking the opinion of 1,029 managers, most of whom said their staff had experienced problems resulting directly from unreliable broadband connections while working from home, such as being unable to use video calls and being forced to drop out of important meetings. Despite this, 58% of the managers polled said no action had been taken by their organisation to help employees improve their broadband connection.

The poll found that 85% of managers were expecting many of their staff to spend some time working remotely from September. And in this new climate, an overwhelming majority of managers – 94% – agreed that improved broadband connectivity would enable the digitally excluded to undertake job roles that can be done remotely in the UK.

Assessing the findings, CityFibre said it was clear that businesses recognised that improving connectivity for those working at home would benefit workers, their managers, and their wider organisation. But only 42% of the managers polled said employers should be responsible for “fit for work” connectivity at home, so uncertainty remained over where the onus lies to improve workers’ connectivity.

Even among those organisations where help is offered, the level of support varied hugely – from “fix it yourself” payments to staff, to the supply of additional routers and the use of mobile phones for “hot spotting”. 

Responding to the findings, CityFibre CEO Greg Mesch said encouraging and incentivising take-up of these faster and more reliable connections by employees needed to be the focus for the industry, the government and businesses.

“In the new age of hybrid working, it’s clear that businesses should care as much about their employees’ digital productivity at home as in the office,” he said. “Relying on yesterday’s copper-based home broadband services will leave millions of employees struggling to connect and contribute, while costing the economy untold millions in lost productivity.

“The good news is that with the nationwide full-fibre roll-out ramping up fast, far superior connectivity will soon be within easy reach of most homes and businesses. Encouraging and even incentivising take-up of these faster and more reliable connections by employees needs to be the focus for the industry, the government and businesses.”

Chartered Management Institute CEO Ann Francke said that despite the disruption of the pandemic, the transition to hybrid working has been positive for most employees and has allowed them to adapt work to their personal circumstances. Because of this flexibility, most people want hybrid working to stay, she said, but a “once-in-a-generation opportunity” to change working practices for the better could be jeopardised without further action.

“If employees are to reap the benefits of dynamic working practices, then stable and reliable connectivity will be essential for business productivity,” said Francke. “Any leader worth their salt knows that supporting employees to work flexibly will encourage diversity and inclusivity across companies.

“It will enable companies to tap into a wider talent pool from across the UK and empower individuals with more choice and autonomy in their professional lives. Investing in training to prepare managers and leaders for an increasingly digital and connected world should be a government priority.”

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