With the easing of lockdown, what kind of connectivity will business customers need as they return to work?
As the UK gently eases itself out of lockdown and with more businesses taking a hybrid approach to home and office working, what will the impact be on connectivity and bandwidth. Paul North, Head of Regional Sales at CityFibre considers the possibilities.
As the past year has demonstrated, it has been possible for most businesses to operate successfully with staff working from home. But what happens when lockdown restrictions begin to ease and offices potentially open back up? The reliance on reliable connectivity and good quality video conferencing tools has soared and their use has become second nature now to many of us. So, is there cause for businesses to adopt a permanent working from home culture? Or is a new hybrid approach more realistic?
It’s not at all clear yet how or when workplaces will reopen. Right now, people are still advised to continue working at home, if possible. But even when it is allowed, will it ever really be the same? As people have gotten used to home working some have grown to love it, and some have grown to hate it. But one thing that has been proven to most organisations, is that we can be just as productive at home as in the office and whilst face-to-face meetings still pose a potential risk and travel restrictions may still apply, many are likely to continue with their use of cloud based apps and video conferencing tools – wherever they are based. Therefore, they will continue to require suitable connectivity and bandwidth to support such applications.
A new hybrid approach
Based on talking to our own channel partners and their business customers, the main trend seems to be falling towards the adoption of a hybrid approach, with approx one third of employees saying they would happily return to the office permanently, and the rest content and, in some cases, more productive working mainly from home.
So, what does this mean for businesses? The adoption of a hybrid working model could lead to some initial cost savings as businesses may be able to reduce their current office space whilst still catering for those wanting to return to the office. But, they will continue to be increasingly reliant on their reliable and fast connectivity for all employees – in the office and at home – to support video conferencing, VoIP and other cloud based applications that we have all relied on so heavily over the last 12 months.
Does this mean that we are going to see vast swathes of offices in city and town centres, and business estates lying unoccupied? That seems unlikely, but they may well be a bit quieter for a while at least. Further to that, what does it mean for the supporting infrastructure and services, such as communications?
For CityFibre and our wholesale channel partners, by offering adaptable products, we can ensure that should an office need a boost in bandwidth, our flexible services (such as Ethernet Flex) allow them to do so. Whatever the customer needs, we work with our wholesale partners to create the best possible solution. The dynamics of the working world have changed and it’s our responsibility, and that of our wholesale partners, to ensure we deliver the right solution.
What can businesses do?
Whether a business adopts a hybrid working approach, or advises employees to return to the office, when it is safe to do so, the most important thing to consider is bandwidth. Does the office have sufficient bandwidth options when more employees are back in the office, and do employees working from home have sufficient network connectivity?
There is a lot to consider, but this is also an exciting time for both connectivity providers and their business customers. Due to the pandemic, we are all trying new approaches and technologies and realistically it could take time to iron out the creases and ensure we adopt the right approach. There has never been a better time to reassess current connectivity provision to ensure its still fit for purpose and evaluate the new technologies available to you and your customers, especially with the continuous expansion of full fibre coverage and gigabit capable solutions.
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