Recent date from McKinsey shows that during the pandemic we vaulted five years forward in consumer and business digital adoption in a matter of around eight weeks.
A new reality has emerged as a result of the pandemic, where Zoom calls and hybrid working are becoming the norm and, as a result, businesses have gained a greater understanding of how connectivity solutions can ensure employees have access to everything they need to work, no matter where they are.
We spoke to Oliver Rowe, founder and CEO of Fusion Communications to find out more about the role communications and connectivity solutions will play in changing how organisations operate post-COVID.
Do you think this shift in a greater uptake in technology here to stay?
“I definitely think the shift is here to stay long term, and in parts, it is irreversible.
“When lockdown was announced, businesses were forced into a new digital adoption to allow them to continue trading. Employees had to embrace new ways of working, and I think firms saw many benefits as a result, from reduced overheads to savings on travel costs and increased productivity.
“Therefore, I think most companies will now offer some level of flexibility on how people like to work, but I don’t believe they will all immediately vacate their offices.”
In your opinion, has the UK’s digital infrastructure coped during the pandemic, and how will it have to evolve to cope in the future?
“As a result of the increase in home working, the digital infrastructure would have been under immense pressure in heavily populated areas throughout the pandemic, as well as areas which are more remote. The pressures from using video-calling platforms like Zoom or Teams will also have made the households working from home more data hungry.
“We have all experienced home broadband slowing down a little when children are returning home from school – this is because users are effectively sharing the same capacity with their neighbours, so the data capacity is one to many.
“When working from an office or business premises, however, this is not a problem as they have a leased line with a one-to-one ratio in terms of upload and download speeds.
“Moving forwards, to cope with increased internet usage as more people work from home long term, the UK’s digital infrastructure will need to adapt by moving much faster to roll out next generation infrastructure across the county not forgetting the rural areas who have been largely overlooked with connectivity and move quickly to provide the same quality of connectivity that businesses enjoy in people’s homes”.
How has the coronavirus pandemic changed businesses’ use of connectivity solutions?
“A heavier reliance on video meetings has been one of the main changes in businesses’ use of connectivity solutions. However, it is not just the pandemic that is driving this – businesses are starting to think more and more about their environmental impact and how this can be limited.
“Video meetings are becoming a much-preferred method as not only do they cut emissions caused by travelling, but they also reduce time spent commuting, allowing employees to be more productive.”
With remote working set to be a more permanent arrangement for many organisations, how will their long-term connectivity requirements change?
“Far more businesses plan to adopt a hybrid working model after the pandemic, with time split between the office and remote working. In fact, 43 of the UK’s biggest employers have announced that they don’t plan to bring staff back to the office full-time.
“I think we will see companies take on a ‘work from anywhere’ approach. This will of course change many organisations’ long-term connectivity requirements as they will need to ensure they have the right technology in place to enable employees to work from wherever they are.
“A great example of such technology is the MyPlan platform, which enables users to optimise connectivity and empowers teams with live data and reporting on both mobile and hosted usage and productivity. The platform has been a crucial element for many companies’ ‘work from home’ strategies throughout Covid, and I think the demand will only continue to grow.”
For many employees working from home during the pandemic, working collaboratively on shared projects and communicating with members of their team was a challenge. How can this be addressed moving forwards?
“Personal interaction has been a huge challenge when working from home and is a common complaint in all sectors. It is very hard to read body language via video call and, because people are only catching up for short periods of time, it can often be hard to notice if a colleague is struggling, to ask someone a quick question, or have those regular office chats that build team culture.
“I think it is very hard for technology to fill this void as it can never be as good as in person human interaction, so my advice for businesses is to arrange some physical structured face to face time, or more frequent, shorter video calls purely to check in with one another and offer a time to discuss things.”
With more businesses shifting to mobile-only communications, what do you predict for the future of fixed line telephony?
“Fixed line will become a hybrid situation. There will be less desk phones, and more app usage on mobile phones, or mobile telephony that can be used through an internet connection.
e will also see fewer devices, as employees should be able to do everything with a laptop and a mobile phone. This will further support the ‘work from anywhere’ movement, as well as limit the amount of hardware businesses will need to provide their employees with.”
How can telecom operators help businesses adapt to the ‘new normal’?
“Telecom operators have an important role to play in helping businesses pivot their technology to support flexible working.
“By giving more visibility on the options and products available, as well as providing insight into employee productivity and technology uptake and usage, telecoms operators can help businesses understand and adapt to the new normal by implementing the right hardware and software to suit each individual business’ needs.”