Homeworking is set to become a permanent fixture for thousands of UK businesses as nine in 10 (86%) plan to offer more remote working options to their employees. The new research, commissioned by Zen Internet, found that the drive towards homeworking has been accelerated by the pandemic – with almost half (49%) saying their plans to expand remote working came as a result of Covid-19.
Businesses looking to offer more remote working options are clamouring to do so with a level of urgency. Seven in 10 (70%) plan to act within the next year and one in four (24%) are looking at between one and two years to implement. This marks a step change in business attitudes – only one in five (19%) offered and encouraged remote working as an option to their entire workforce pre-March 2020.
A number of big technology and financial services firms such as Google, Microsoft, Schroders and PwC have highlighted their intention to stick with remote working, and today’s research follows a BBC survey which suggested that 50 of the biggest UK employers had no plans to return all staff to the office full-time in the near future.
Whilst businesses are eager to adopt homeworking, they are wary of teething issues and the need for infrastructure to support such modern, flexible working practices. With the rise of the prosumer which has been further facilitated by remote working reliable, ultrafast connectivity is key to thriving.
Top three teething troubles imperilling productivity for large businesses and SMEs
• Almost half (46%) of SMEs say that poor internet connections in staff homes is a major challenge, compared to a third (34%) of large businesses
• One in five SMEs (21%) and large businesses (18%) say staff are unable to access the company system from home
• One in 10 (12%) SMEs and one in six (17%) large businesses reference poor integration of communication systems as barriers to a smooth remote working process
These challenges are leading businesses to question whether they are fit for a remote working future with one in five (17%) that plan to offer more flexible working options stating they do not yet feel prepared.
New technologies for a new era
With homeworking embedding itself into company cultures, and colleagues suddenly spread across different locations, many businesses are looking to new technologies to support alternate ways of communicating with both internal and external stakeholders. Half (50%) of businesses are already using a cloud-based solution for integrating their communications channels, such as voice and video. This is the case for six in 10 (60%) large businesses, but only two fifths (40%) of SMEs. When it comes to future intentions, 45% of businesses do not currently use a cloud-based solution but would consider it. Almost two fifths (38%) of large businesses identify with this, compared to over half (53%) of SMEs.
This trend towards cloud communications looks set to accelerate, but companies are also looking at other technology to support their digital transformation. For example, a fifth (20%) of businesses say that over the next year they will prioritise investing in unified communications as a whole. Over the same period, more than a fifth (22%) of businesses will look to invest in providing / subsidising the cost of better home connectivity for their employees that work from home on a regular basis. Meanwhile, two fifths (39%) of businesses will invest in laptops and smart devices.
Paul Stobart, CEO, Zen Internet, said:
“The trend towards remote working signals a departure from the orthodoxy of the office. Accelerated by Covid-19, the phenomenon is set to root itself into our working lives as employers eye office space savings and employees crave the convenience of working from home on a regular basis. In particular, the rise of the prosumer has meant that reliable, ultrafast connectivity in the home is absolutely an essential commodity.
“Businesses of all sizes will need to adapt to this cultural shift in modern working practices by taking a pragmatic approach and adopting new technologies which can support the transition to remote working. This will ensure businesses can continue to communicate effectively with their customers, clients and colleagues.
“Whilst many businesses are equipping themselves for a remote future – embracing new, cloud-based communications solutions – some appear less prepared for new ways of working. These businesses should research their options and act now so that the challenges of dated technology and listless IT systems can be avoided down the line.”