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Increased 5G availability sees working from home mean working from phone for 24 million

Research finds that more than eight million workers who have bought a 5G-capable smartphone since the start of the pandemic are a key driver of the switch to mobile data

Nearly 24 million people in the UK are using smartphones to join office meetings and video calls, write documents, edit spreadsheets, and answer emails, spending as much as 12 hours per week on average doing their job from them as technology improves – nearly double the time spent using pen and paper, according to research by Uswitch.com.

The comparison and switching service engaged research firm Opinium to survey a sample of 2,000 UK adults from 5 to 9 November 2021.

It found that despite the massive roll-out out of fixed gigabit, in particular full-fibre, networks across the UK since the Covid-19 lockdown was announced in March 2020, close to a sixth of workers reported an increase in time spent working from smartphones since the start of the pandemic, as more people have regularly worked from home.

A quarter of people (24%) rely on their mobile phone to make video calls, while close to a fifth (17%) are using it to dial into meetings. A further half of workers were found to be using their mobile device to answer emails and one in seven (14%) are using their phone to work on spreadsheets.

Some seven in 10 Brits (70%) have at least one work-based app on their phone, including apps used for video calls, emails, communications, documents and networking, among others. Users of iPhones were most likely to “work from phone”, spending 156 minutes a day working on their device, compared with 132 minutes for Samsung users.

The study also found that more than 15 million consumers now own a 5G phone, which is capable of connecting to much faster speeds when not on Wi-Fi, and more than eight million people said they have bought one since the start of the coronavirus pandemic.

With more people relying on technology to carry out their work, two million Brits said they now depend on their 5G connection for work.

Read more about UK 5G

Examining age demographics, USwitch.com discovered that young people aged 18 to 34 were the most likely to work from phone, with the average young worker spending an hour and 42 minutes a day sending emails, working on documents and doing video calls. That’s compared with the mere 30 minutes a day that over-55s typically spend working from their phone.

“The way we use our smartphones has fundamentally changed in the past two years, and it’s unlikely to go back to business as usual any time soon,” said Ru Bhikha, mobiles expert at Uswitch.com.

“Phones are now used for much more than calling friends and family, they are an extension of our office setup and millions of people are using them to dial into calls, send emails, and work on documents, spreadsheets and presentations.

“The benefits of 5G are steadily becoming more apparent for many mobile users, who might have noticed an improvement in their service as the mobile infrastructure is improved. With well over 15 million people investing in a 5G-ready handset, it is clear that consumers are ready and keen to access these faster speeds.”

The Uswitch.com survey confirmed a trend first highlighted in February 2021 by mobile operator O2. The survey was conducted online by YouGov between 22 and 24 January 2021, and found that nearly half (47%) of Brits indicated they were experiencing increased stress since the beginning of 2021 due to connectivity issues in their homes.

Over a third (36%) of Brits working from home were found to be regularly switching to mobile data to stay online, and 61% agreed that being able to connect to mobile data had made the experience of working from home better.

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