Home Business Homeworking here to stay for four in five UK SMEs as social restrictions tighten

Homeworking here to stay for four in five UK SMEs as social restrictions tighten

by Jackson B
  • Four in five (80%) SMEs surveyed plan to offer more remote working options to their employees
  • The pandemic has accelerated this trend for almost half of SMEs (49%) and large businesses (48%)
  • Alarmingly, one in five (19%) SMEs who plan to expand their remote working operation do not feel prepared
  • Large businesses are even more eager for remote working – with nine in 10 (92%) set to widen their remote offering

 12 November 2020 – Homeworking is set to become a permanent fixture for thousands of UK SMEs as four in five (80%) plan to offer more remote working options to their employees. The new research, commissioned by Zen Internet, found that the drive towards homeworking amongst SMEs has been accelerated by the pandemic – with almost half (49%) saying their plans to expand remote working came as a result of Covid-19.

Those SME businesses looking to offer more remote working options are clamouring to do so with urgency. Three in four (74%) plan to act within the next year and one in five (22%) are looking at between one and two years to implement. This marks a step change in SME attitudes – only one in five (20%) offered and encouraged remote working as an option to their entire workforce pre-March 2020.

The research paints a similar yet even crisper picture for large businesses when it comes to their attitudes towards remote working. Nine in 10 (92%) large businesses say they plan to offer more remote working options to employees in the future. Almost half (48%) say this decision came about as a result of Covid-19, whilst more than two in five (44%) say this was already in the pipeline.

 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

  • 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 (19%) SMEs and 15% of large businesses that plan to offer more flexible working options stating they do not 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 internal and external stakeholders.  Two fifths (40%) of SMEs are already using a cloud-based solution for integrating their communications channels, such as voice and video, compared to six in 10 (60%) large businesses. When it comes to future intentions, over half (53%) of SMEs do not currently use a cloud-based solution but would consider it. This is the case for one third (38%) of large businesses.

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 both SMEs and large businesses say that over the next year they will prioritise investing in unified communications as a whole. Over the same period, a similar number (21% SMEs and 22% large 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, over a third (36%) of large businesses will invest in laptops – compared to two fifths (43%) of SMEs.

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.”

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