Although hybrid working practices were already on the rise pre-pandemic, the events of the past two years have permanently changed the working landscape.
Research carried out by business telecommunications provider, Fusion Communications, found over 52% of businesses plan to adopt hybrid working long term post-pandemic, and 35% feel remote working is their biggest communications challenge.
Following the release of these findings, they spoke to Oliver Rowe, Founder and CEO of Fusion Communications, to gain a greater insight into how businesses are managing their communications in the new hybrid working world, as well as the issues they have faced as a result.
How are businesses managing their communications now hybrid working is more common?
“The hybrid working movement has forced many businesses to adopt new communications solutions to maintain employee connectivity and productivity. IT teams have had to revamp their approaches to workplace communications to ensure they remain secure when employees are accessing corporate systems, services and platforms remotely.
“To make hybrid working easier for employees, an increasing number of businesses have adopted tools that enable real-time collaboration. Instant messaging, voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP), video calling and social networking have all increased in popularity.
“Communications that offer flexible connectivity are preferable to enable employees to share information quickly, efficiently and securely. Unified Communication as a service (UCaaS) is one of the most commonly used communication services in the hybrid working space. Its versatility makes it ideal for businesses that need tight integration between different software.”
From your experience working with businesses throughout the pandemic, what are the communications and connectivity issues businesses are facing as a result of hybrid working?
“Home internet speeds have been one of the biggest burdens for both employees and IT teams. Immense pressure was put on home internet servers as people began working from home, and the infrastructure simply wasn’t prepared.
“You can have the best and most efficient communications solutions in place, but if employees have poor home internet performance, it can severely impact productivity by hindering access and the performance of tools employees use each day.
“Since businesses have adopted hybrid working, internet reliability has become less of an issue as there has been less stress on the infrastructure due to employees spreading their time across the office and home. However, now the government has once more ordered people to work from home as part of its ‘Plan B’, I would not be surprised if people experience issues again.
“There has also been the problem of employees not taking to new technologies and, as a result, not using them. This can be especially frustrating for IT teams who have invested in the technology. To address this, businesses can ask their provider to offer training to employees which will not only show them how to use it, but will also educate them on the benefits of doing so.”
Why is it important that businesses ensure they have strong communications solutions, especially when employees are splitting their time between the office and home?
“In essence, employees should be able to work efficiently from anywhere and should have access to communications technology to enable this. This will mean that employees can easily switch between the office and home seamlessly, without their communications faltering.
“The days of the desktop telephone are long gone for many, and employees only require one or two devices to work. If an employer needs staff to switch between devices, they should have software in place to ensure both sync up seamlessly so employees have access to everything they need no matter what device they are working from.”
Many businesses and employees working in rural areas are experiencing inadequate internet speeds. Why is this?
“Inadequate internet speeds in rural areas are largely due to population coverage. Providers work on ensuring their internet speed is up to scratch in densely populated areas, meaning many rural locations suffer. This has only been made worse by more businesses opting for inner town or city locations for their premises, adding to the demand for high-speed internet in these areas.
“Internet providers will invest more money and time into the infrastructure that gets the most usage, as more people are impacted should it go down. This puts rural businesses at a disadvantage due to no fault of their own.”
What can be done to improve internet speeds in rural areas?
“Improvements to rural internet speeds need to be Government driven. If the Government wants rural businesses to continue to thrive, especially in the digital age where video call meetings and conference calls are becoming the norm, it needs to call providers into action to ensure rural locations receive adequate internet connection.
“If we look at the physical infrastructure providers can put in place to help solve the issue, where there are no hard lines, mobile data is an obvious option. This is something the UK mobile networks are currently working on and could allow an improvement of rural locations’ internet accessibility. The other option is satellite broadband however this can be very temperamental and costly.
“Openreach has rural connectivity targets that will ensure 25 million homes and businesses have access to Full Fibre technology by 2026. I think, after this target has been met, rural locations will have much better connectivity than they currently do. However, it’s important to note that technological advances, especially in regard to internet usage and connectivity, move quickly, and it may always be the case that towns and cities are prioritised.