It’s not the most pleasant topic, but with many teams now working remotely or in a hybrid model, HR sessions like a disciplinary meeting may have to be held virtually. We take a look at the ways to make meetings like this easier on everyone, and answer questions that both employers and employees might have.
A disciplinary meeting isn’t really the most pleasant part of work even at the best of times, but the shift to home working or hybrid working can make it feel even more difficult. Nevertheless, you’ll have to weigh up what’s more appropriate – conducting a disciplinary meeting virtually, or waiting until you’re in a position to take the meeting face-to-face.
Waiting until offices reopen could be a risky decision – there’s a reason behind the disciplinary meeting, after all, and leaving those issues unaddressed or unchecked could lead to more issues down the line.
If you decide to press ahead, you’ll be running a virtual disciplinary meeting. This might sound daunting, so we’ve put together a few tips on how you can make a disciplinary meeting like this run smoothly and with as little stress for everyone involved as possible.
No-one likes conducting or attending a disciplinary meeting, but unfortunately they’re a necessary part of HR. Make sure that this difficult process is a little bit easier on everyone by following these disciplinary meeting tips.
Before you get started with a disciplinary meeting, you’ll need to double check your HR policies and processes. If your grievance procedure or disciplinary procedure state that the meeting should be face-to-face, you might need to get written consent or approval from the individual.
One of the most important parts of holding a virtual disciplinary meeting is making sure that everyone involved has proper access and the necessary software to make the meeting possible. If the employee is struggling to see or hear the meeting, they’re at a disadvantage, and this could add unnecessary stress and strain. Make sure you use a service that allows for easy video calling and also sharing of relevant documents, like PowWowNow’s video calling software.
An employee can opt to have a relevant person, or ‘companion’ accompany them. You can find out more about this at Acas. If the employee has opted to have a companion present, such as a colleague or trade union representative, make sure everyone has the invitation to the disciplinary meeting, and that everyone is aware when and how the meeting will be taking place. It’s also worth discussing and agreeing ahead of time how the employee can speak with a witness or third party during the meeting, such as a second video call or separate phone call.
Of course, before the hearing, you need to make sure the employee has written notice of the disciplinary action, including:
Make sure everyone has access to an agenda, and any relevant HR documentation by sending them to everyone ahead of time. You can also use in-call document and screen sharing options to make sure everyone is clear on what’s being discussed.
Running a virtual call can be difficult, especially if people talk over one another. Even with good internet connections on both sides, it’s easy to overlap – so take your time on the call. The employee will probably have plenty of disciplinary meeting questions they’d like answered, so take your time in allowing them to ask and answer slowly. If you’re not a natural on video calls, check out our guide on video call confidence to get prepared.
Holding a disciplinary meeting virtually might feel awkward and stilted, but there are some unexpected benefits. If the meeting is strained or if emotions are high, once the meeting is over, both parties can take their time to come around. An upset employee won’t have to face leaving a meeting room in full view of the office – they’ll be in the safer environment of their own home. In fact, you can take advantage of running a disciplinary meeting virtually – add the meeting into your calendar for a little longer than you think the meeting needs to be, so both you and the employee in question can take some time afterwards without being interrupted by other calls.
It’s up to your HR team and policies on recording a disciplinary meeting. If you decide that one or both parties will record the meeting, luckily video conferencing software like PowWowNow allows you to record meetings at the click of a button, and let everyone in the meeting know that you’re recording the disciplinary meeting. After the meeting is concluded, the file can be shared with the employee and other relevant parties.
Conducting a virtual disciplinary meeting can be difficult – but with preparation and the right video calling tools, you can make the process easier for everyone involved. For more tips on how to manage remote workers and handle video calls, check out our smarter working hub.
You may remember a little while ago, we put a call out for all remote workers suffering from some serious lockdown lethargy, to get some much-needed (virtual) puppy love… and it’s safe to say, we got a lot of replies!
We’ve captured some of the funniest and sweetest moments from our virtual office puppy calls for the world to see, with our pup-dates featuring the adorable Coco.
62% of home workers have had their meetings interrupted by dogs
It probably comes as no surprise that nearly two thirds of remote workers have had a furry friend join one of their video calls over lockdown, with 32% saying the interruption had made (or would make) them feel happier.
With more people deciding to adopt a puppy during the pandemic, as we slowly return to the office over the coming months, we’re all starting to think about how our pooches are going to cope without us.
One of the solutions (which we, at PowWowNow are firmly in favour of!), is allowing dogs to come into the office – and lots of you agree, with 45% of remote workers in favour of this.
However, whilst office dogs may help to make some office workers happier, 38% said they didn’t think dogs roaming around their office was a good thing, with 13% saying having a dog interrupting them during work would make them less productive.
Women are more likely to apply for a job that has an office dog policy
According to our survey, 52% of women said they thought having an office dog policy was a good idea, compared to just 37% of men; with 51% of females saying they’d be more likely to apply for a job if the workplace allowed dogs, compared to 37% of men.
There’s also a big divide across professions, with some definitely more pro than others. In fact, these are the top five sectors in favour of office pooches:
In contrast, those working in the legal field were most against having dogs in the office, at 55%, followed by public services and administration, and sales.
Are you in favour of pups roaming around your office, or do you think they’ll stop you from getting your work done? One thing’s for sure: with people slowly returning back to the office, there’s going to be a big increase in dogs being left at home on their own. But equally, as we move towards a more flexible working model, chances are, being interrupted by an overexcited puppy or two on your video calls is likely to continue to be a regular thing!
For more tips and tricks on making your video and conference calls more productive, head on over to our blog.
If you’ve ever checked your webcam reflection and you’ve seen yourself shaded in darkness or appeared obscenely bright then your lighting is off. A crucial element to turning on your webcam is so that people can see you (shock!). You don’t want to be known as the shadow figure or someone who just doesn’t bother to show their face. So, we’re here to offer some very simple tips for proper video call lighting so that you can whip on your webcam with confidence and have more productive video calls.
Starting off simple, but for good lighting for webcam, you’ll need a good light source. The key here is to use a light source that illuminates you from the front, not the back. What we mean is if you have lots of natural light in your home then have it shining in front of your face, not in the background. Light from behind will conceal your face, making you look like some sort of light ghost. It will also put a strain on everyone else, helplessly squinting trying to see your face.
If you don’t have lots of natural light in your room, then you can always use desk lamps for webcam lighting. Just make sure you find a good balance; you don’t want too much light on one area of your face. This will throw off the rest of your face and create unnecessary shadows. We’d recommend using a desk lamp to light your face straight on. Although don’t go overboard, there is such a thing as too much light.
Long story short, make sure your face is evenly lit.
As well as using incorrect lighting, you can also distract from yourself with your background. If you’ve got wacky wallpaper or a brightly lit background in general, then you’re bringing people’s attention away from the forefront (you) to the party going on behind you. Try to choose a location where your background is plain and not littered with distractions.
If you’ve had a few video calls and your lighting is off, don’t just accept this as your fate. Experiment with the light sources and equipment you have. Fortunately finding a decent lighting set up for your home office isn’t rocket science. You don’t have to know all the avant-garde tricks that film directors know, just lighting that lights your whole face evenly. If you find using one method doesn’t create the desired effect, then try another.
If you do a quick Google search for best webcam lighting, you’ll see a host of useful accessories to turn your home office into a mini film studio. As mentioned, if you don’t have somewhere with lots of natural light then accessories like these could be a big help.
If you’re not interested in buying accessories, then you can always upgrade your webcam. A lot of the better external webcams have the tech to help address low light and to balance out light in general. Have a look here for a list of best webcams of 2021.
Hopefully, this has helped you understand that improving your appearance on camera doesn’t require tonnes of effort. With some quick fixes, you can ensure you’ve got fantastic video call lighting and no longer have to worry about how visible you are on camera!
Artificial intelligence, more commonly known as its cool acronym AI has been an exciting and divisive topic for years now. There are fears that it will bring around a Terminator like scenario and on the other side that it will completely transform the world for the better. A rather reductive explanation. There are many more complexities to it that we’re not going to get into. Rather we’re going to focus on AI and meetings, specifically how it can be used to make future meeting easier.
Before we delve any further it makes sense to provide a brief explanation for what artificial intelligence (AI) is. Simply put, AI is intelligence demonstrated by machines. Human intelligence heavily relies on our consciousness and emotions, whereas machines are devoid of this, representing the distinction between human and machine intelligence.
In certain fields of AI, the goal is to mimic if not recreate human consciousness and the ‘human’ way of thinking. Hence the Terminator I, Robot, Ex Machina, Blade Runner, and countless other films where AI takes on human traits and the consequences of this are usually a double-edged sword. But then you’ve also got WALL-E who is just an adorable robot cleaning machine. Swings and roundabouts.
Right, now that you know roughly what AI is, how can it be used in business to make future meetings easier.
One of the biggest ways AI can be used in business, specifically in meetings is to make it much easier to focus on the meeting. It’s already used in video call products for several functions. An example would be producing recordings that you can download after the meeting. This removes some of the pressure to take minutes as you’ll have the recording to fall back on.
As AI becomes further utilised, we’ll see it encourage creativity and productivity.
Ever suggested something and found yourself unsure as to how it went down? Did they like that? Was it awful? Was it the best thing ever? Well, this is where AI can help by recognising non-verbal cues of your fellow meeting Guests. What non-verbal cues does it use to judge whether an idea is bad or not? Well, us humans tend to react to a good idea with positive affirmation such as nodding, laughter and certain facial expressions. AI will be able to take note of these and highlight them post meeting, making it easier for you to identify good ideas.
AI has the potential to recognise important discussion points of the meeting by identifying pre-programmed keywords and develop action items from this. Trying to make sense of what was discussed and outline next steps can be challenging at times. In some meetings, particularly brainstorms where ideas and suggestions are offered up freely, there are no definitive actions. Artificial intelligence software will be able to take care of that for you.
As well as AI being able to identify important action points for the meeting, it will be able produce automated meeting minutes. No need for an assigned minute taker.
Scheduling meetings, especially if you have lots of them can be a pain. Artificial intelligence software will be able to be used for automated meeting scheduling. No more faffing around trying to find a time that suits everyone, or a free meeting room (when we can meet in person). It will automatically find this for you. As well as finding a suitable time and location for your meeting it could also be used to analyse past meetings and offer advice on what docs to bring and how to best prepare. Crazy we know
Current video call software offers meeting analytics and useful analytics to help analyse the meeting. Although as AI develops, it will be able to suggest improvements for future meetings. This will be done by identifying the cause for a good or bad meeting. This would be achieved through emotion recognition, the ability to identify is someone was hesitant or conflicted about an idea. This prompts artificial intelligence software to suggest the Host of the meeting follows up with that person.
Well, the future of meetings anyway. If all these use cases come to fruition then we can look forward to easier meetings with less time wasted and most importantly increased productivity, collaboration and creativity. The holy trinity in the world of meetings.
That’s right ULTIMATE productivity, we’re not playing around here. If you find yourself working at your dining room table in a chair that severely lacks lumber support, a single laptop screen and paper splayed everywhere then it’s time for an upgrade to your home office. You might not be able to create a home office setup that would be featured on the grand designs of home offices (if that were a thing) but there are for sure some small home office design changes you can make that will make a big difference.
We’re starting with an essential item for your home office layout, a desk. If you’ve ever worked in bed resting a laptop on your lap, improvised a desk from some heavy textbooks, a washing basket or even an ironing board then you know it’s not the greatest catalyst for productivity.
The makeshift WFH standing desk of a humanities obsessive: pic.twitter.com/RiQ7XvXUk5
— Pedro (aka Peter) Luis Pérez-Zubizarreta (@wirechairs) March 13, 2020
A desk not only provides a solid resting place for your laptop it also acts as the hub for your home office layout, the main attraction. Your home office layout should revolve around your desk, with everything else serving as useful accessories. You’ll find desks in lots of different sizes and price points. Check out this brilliant list if you do find yourself on a budget.
You’re probably aware of this craze already but we do believe it’s a craze for good reason. Healthline put together a list of 7 science backed benefits of indoor plants. This includes a potential boost in productivity levels, reduced stress, improved indoor air quality and more. Plus, if nothing else they just look pretty and help create a home office layout you’re pleased to be in.
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Look, how pretty!
Building on the theme of being at one with nature, try and find an area for your home office design that gets lots of natural light. Just like indoor plants, natural light has an array of supposed benefits. One that’s particularly relevant to the topic of this post is that it improves our productivity and focus. “Research indicates that the benefits of daylight exposure at work included everything from improved morale to an increased ability to remember numbers backwards.” Remember this the next time you need to remember a sequence of numbers backwards, aye.
If you don’t have an area in your humble abode that receives a lot of natural light, then there are ways you can mimic it. One such example is full-spectrum light bulbs, bulbs that simulate daylight.
You can have the greatest desk, the most beautiful exotic houseplants, plenty of rays on your chops but without some important tech you won’t have a home office. At the very least you will need a laptop that includes a webcam and an internet connection. We’ll look at more tech you can add to boost productivity later. Remote work has brought with it a reliance on video calls to communicate with colleagues, so you need the tech to allow this. If you want to step up your video call game, you could invest in a top-notch webcam. TechRadar have put together a handy list of their top picks.
Back pain is just NOT fun. If you haven’t opted for a standing desk, chances are you’ll be spending most your day sitting, so it’s paramount to get a chair that your buttocks and back are fond of. Just like a desk, there are endless options out there to suit all your home office set up ideas. We’d recommend picking one with a fair amount of lumbar support, promotes good posture and has adequate cushioning.
But beware, don’t choose one that’s too comfy, this could counter productivity when you accidently doze off mid email.
A second monitor is a superpower in terms of home office set up for productivity. When you get a second monitor, you’ll think that you were trapped in the stone age when all you had was your measly laptop screen. Suddenly you’ve got an excel spreadsheet on one screen and you can seamlessly transfer the data into that big presentation you’re working on, without the nuisance of constantly switching tabs.
They don’t have to break the bank either, a quick Google search will provide countless affordable options. An easy way to supercharge your home office design.
Looking for more inspiration? Check out this page dedicated to home office inspiration on Instagram.
A popular medium for digesting news and conversation, podcasts are favoured for their convenience and broad availability. But which podcasts do we really get the most out of? Ranking each ‘productive’ podcast in the iTunes library, we’ve brought you the shows that should be on your radar in 2021.
To create the list, we gave each podcast a score between 0-3, taking number of episodes, overall rating, and number of reviews into account (with each factor equally valued and given a score between 0-1. The overall score is the value of each criteria combined).
Read on to discover the most productive podcasts, whether the longest running series are the best, how ratings are only an initial indication of value, and which shows prompt listener reviews the most.
Revealing the 20 most productive shows, there’s not much between the top two. However, with an index score of 2.23, Entrepreneurs on Fire takes the crown as most productive podcast, closely edging out Mind Pump: Raw Fitness Truth (2.19).
Despite placing first, the business-related podcast is only one of two in the category amongst the overall top 20, with The $100 MBA Show the only other show that offers conversation around professional productivity.
Meanwhile, there’s no podcast category considered more productive than health and fitness. In fact, alongside second placed Mind Pump, the top 20 features four more shows that fall into the bracket. Similarly, mental health podcasts are ranked as equally productive, with five in this grouping also ranking amongst the top 20.
With a clear leaning towards shows aimed at bettering mind and body, it’s little surprise that our index’s 20 most productive podcasts are rounded off with three philosophical series, three around self-improvement, and two centred around spirituality.
Are the longest serving podcasts always the most successful? According to the index, quantity often does mean quality, and those with the most episodes are generally deemed to be the most productive overall. In fact, the podcast series with the most episodes, Entrepreneurs on Fire, also scored highest with all three factors considered.
Additionally, 9 of the 10 longest-running series on the index also rank within the top 20 podcasts overall, demonstrating the productive value of a show listeners can really get stuck into. Notably, the only podcast that doesn’t feature in the overall top 20, Optimal Health Daily, isn’t too far behind either, placed 23rd.
Intriguingly, none of the index’s 253 five-star rated shows feature in the top 20 most productive podcasts, suggesting that, while offering initial value, ratings rarely reveal the full story.
Of the 253 to receive top marks, though, five podcasts (Shawn Ryan Show, New Mindset, Who Dis?, Know Your Aura with Mystic Michaela, The Connected Life, Wine & Spirits with Monica the Medium) have also each impressively received over 2,000 reviews from listeners.
In fact, the only criteria holding these five shows back is the index score for length of series, with each scoring below 0.15/1. So, there’s an indication that, with more episodes under their belt, these could be the podcasts to keep an eye on in 2021.
According to the index, the shows deemed most productive are generally those which impassion fans the most, to the point they leave a review. So, which podcasts get their dedicated listeners talking the most?
Supporting this, 9 of the 10 most reviewed podcasts across the index also feature in the overall top 20 for productivity. Interestingly, the exception to this, the Shawn Ryan Show, sits just shy in 21st position.
It’s never been more important to have a strong bank of productive podcasts to listen to, as we all try to find our way around the new normal. For even more expert advice around maintaining productivity, personally and professionally, explore the latest on our blog.
You’ve done it, you’ve decided to use video calls. You enter your first meeting with video and you’re slightly bemused. How do I turn on my webcam? What is VoIP? What do all the features do? Do I really look like that? Well, we’re here to tell you that you don’t have to be a tech wizard to have productive meeting using video. Whether it be yourself who struggles or a certain family member, here’s a brief guide to video calls for the non-tech savvy.
Right, let’s do this chronologically. The first step is joining the meeting. You’ll be happy to know that this is incredibly straightforward. All you need is a meeting invite, the person holding the meeting will share beforehand. This will include a Guest PIN, which adds an extra layer of security, so you don’t have randomers joining your meeting. Enter this PIN and you’re in. Easy enough right? On top of that, when using our video call product, you won’t need to download any software. You can access it straight from your browser!
Next, you’ll be asked how you’d like to join. You can either dial in using your phone or connect using your webcam and VoIP. Woah there, what is VoIP? VoIP stands for Voice over Internet Protocol. In Lehman’s terms, it means connect your audio through your computer. The most important thing to remember here is that you’ve allowed access to your webcam and computer microphone. If you’ve accidently blocked access, then you will need to enable it in your browser settings. See an explanation here.
You’ve made it into the meeting room. Now it’s time to explain a bit about what the standout features do, how to use them and why you’d use them.
A feature you’re likely to become closely acquainted with is the mute/unmute feature. With our product to mute/unmute yourself all you need to do is hover over your video feed and click the mic icon. Nifty when you’re somewhere with a lot of background noise or when you just don’t have anything to say. Just remember to unmute yourself when you want to speak (easier said than done).
A real crowd pleaser, this is one of the most useful features you can use on a video call. The clue is in the name, but it allows you to share your screen, more specifically your entire screen, an application window, or a browser tab. To initiate a screen share all you need to do is click ‘Share screen’, decide what you want to share and you’re ready to rock. If it’s your first time using the feature you will have to download a small plug in, which doesn’t take long.
Why would you use screen share? This feature comes in handy when you want to visualise your point. If you’re struggling to sum up something using mere words, count on screen share to come in and save the day.
Like screen share this feature allows you to upload and present a document. To use this feature, click ‘Document’, choose the document you’d like to upload and present it to the audience. This makes it much easier to receive instant feedback on a piece of work, rather than having to wait a week for an email response.
Want to make a point but the presenter is on fire and you don’t want to interrupt them? Introducing online chat. It works just like any other chat or text feature you’ve used; simply enter the message you want to share, and press send. This can also be used to share links to websites of interest and to communicate if your internet connection is playing up. Letting the group know why your beautiful face isn’t on camera, why you’ve chosen to dial in etc.
Other features included in our video call product are agenda, sentiment, bookmark and whiteboard but we’ll let you discover those yourself with our 14 day free trial. Hopefully, this post has reassured you that you don’t have to be tech savvy, leave that up to us!
Strap in, we’re about to delve into the history of the video call! When and where did it all start? Who invented it and how have they been developed? Well, you’ll be buzzing to know you’re about to find out all this and then some. Why are we doing this? To show you just how far this piece of tech has come.
You might be surprised to discover that the concept of a video communication was floating around way back in the 1870s. However, actual work on tech began in the 1920s, with video conferencing first making an appearance in 1964. The company who unveiled this technological miracle to the world was AT&T, at the World Fair in New York (a worthy stage for such an invention). In the 1970s they developed a contraption known as the ‘picturephone’.
Check out the video below, highlighting some early picturephone features such as zoom control, height control, mute, document share and more.
Credit: AT&T Tech Channel.
You might also be surprised to find out that Bell’s picturephone wasn’t a roaring success, surely everyone would want to be nabbing this up. There’s no doubt it was technically, an amazing feat but Bell lost half a billion dollars due to extortionate monthly costs for the average consumer. It needed to be developed and be affordable for people to use it.
Even back in the 1970s, many of the core features of the picturephone are the same as what we see today. But, with any piece of tech, the key to improving it is making it more refined and accessible for the people using it. For many years, the tech remained expensive and progressed slowly.
In 1982 a company called Compression Labs introduced the CLI T1, which was coined as the first commercial video conferencing system. Take a guess at how much you had to pay for this system. Well, it certainly still wasn’t what you’d consider affordable. In fact, you’d have to first dish out $250,000 (£187,123 in today’s market) for the tech itself and pay $1000 (£748.62 in today’s market) an hour for using the system.
We have titled this a brief history, so we are cherry picking the highlights here. So, when did video calls start being used on a wider scale? The invention of the webcam in 1991 was pivotal, as it meant that to use the product, you no longer needed to install equipment that occupied an entire room. The next revolutionary moment for the tech happened in 2003 where a Swedish man named Niklas Zennström founded a company you may have heard of called Skype. This was the first video platform that was adopted by your average person and really made them accessible to everyone.
Here at PowWowNow we expanded (blossomed some might say) from the world of conference calling to HD video calling in 2018. We also utilise video in our webinar product.
Today, we see video calls being used by essentially everyone as they’ve become the go to tech to communicate with people when we’re unable to meet them face-to-face. The tech has come an awful long way and the mass adoption of it means we are likely to only see in get better. For now, you can sign up to our 14 day free trial to experience our video call product!
So, you may be wondering what exactly the National Infrastructure Strategy is (we don’t blame you). In the simplest of terms to avoid keeping you till the next millennium, it’s a 30-year plan laid out by the UK Government, including funding projections for transport, local growth and digital infrastructure. We’re keen to look at the last one.
The strategy doc for 2020 is yet to be published, so we can’t offer a definitive take on plans concerning broadband infrastructure. What we do know though, is that the drastic shift to remote working due to the pandemic has highlighted glaring issues with connectivity in the UK. To support UK businesses, employees and the struggling economy improving network reliability and connectivity should be a top priority.
Compared to developed countries around the world, the UK is falling behind. Most of our broadband infrastructure still relies on copper wires, with Ofcom reporting that only 14 per cent of UK homes can access full-fibre broadband. According to an article published by the Guardian in 2019, despite the UK ‘being the world’s fifth-largest economy, it ranks 35th out of 37 countries assessed by the OECD for the proportion of fibre in its total fixed broadband infrastructure’
The Government has pledged to roll out full-fibre broadband across the UK in its National Infrastructure Strategy, but the concern is that it will be too late. The economy is struggling now and to have the best chance of recovering, the UK needs to be able to rely on its broadband infrastructure to work productively, whilst working remotely. Might we add that remote working is here to stay, so the issue will only become more pressing as time goes on, not less.
With 100% of the UK having access to full-fibre broadband, this will ensure no matter the location, all businesses and employees can work effectively and efficiently. People living in rural areas can be just as productive as anyone else and won’t have to constantly worry about connectivity issues getting in the way.
Here are just some of the benefits of full-fibre broadband. Increased speed, more reliable connection, improved cloud access, greater signal strength, better bandwidth, increased security, cost savings and excellent support for HD video calls. From these benefits alone, it’s clear to see how this can benefit businesses and employees across the UK.
You may be thinking, why are we harping on about this? Well, us and other SMEs have decided to take action by writing to the Government, calling on them to accelerate the rollout of full-fibre broadband across the UK in its National Infrastructure Strategy. Good news is you can get involved as well. Don’t worry, you won’t have to write a letter, it’s much simpler than that. To find out how you can show your support, visit here: https://www.powwownow.co.uk/connecting-the-uk.
Let’s make this happen and ensure everyone has fair opportunity to be productive when working remotely!
You’ve hopefully heard whisperings already but in case you haven’t, here it is! We’ve sent a letter to Government, calling on them to accelerate the rollout of full-fibre broadband across the UK in its National Infrastructure Strategy.
To get behind this incredibly important cause and join many other businesses, you can show your support here!
The Coronavirus pandemic has exposed an inadequacy in the UK’s critical national infrastructure. A transition away from office-based working has led to increasing pressure on the way in which businesses and individuals operate and this is only likely to persist. This is why we are writing to you as SME representatives from a number of industries to urge the Government to consider expediting the rollout of full-fibre broadband, in order to ensure the economy can fully recover from the impact of coronavirus.
Full-Fibre connections are the technology of the future and we are pleased to see this as a priority for the Government. However, whilst we welcome the Government’s commitment to the roll-out of full-fibre broadband and investment in critical national infrastructure, we are concerned that this technology may be deployed too late and pledges are not being backed up by action.
The COVID-19 pandemic has already redressed our world to an extent that was once unimaginable. This is a pattern which is likely to continue in the long term, with surveying predicting that the number of employees regularly working from home will double. This will undeniably place pressure on the UK’s copper based broadband network, ultimately resulting in demand outstripping data capacity. In a study of the UK’s network capabilities, OFCOM noted that the crossover point wherein total data demand would exceed the abilities of the network would arrive in the next decade, chiefly due to the proliferation of smarter devices, homes, businesses and infrastructure reliant on an internet connection. This assessment was made prior to the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic and the associated transition to working from home, and this will only bring forward the date on which demand outstrips capacity.
Internet connectivity is a critical utility to almost every sector and industry, enabling workers to access information or work documents, or to keep in contact with their colleagues remotely via videoconferencing solutions like PowWowNow, Zoom or Teams. In fact, research suggests that 60% of SMEs based in the capital value “high broadband speed and quality” as more critical to their business operations than a fully functioning supply chain.
However, the UK’s copper-based network leaves millions at risk of slower connections that are less reliable and have a greater likelihood of network dropout. These inadequacies will also disproportionately impact SMEs, the driving force of our economy with a recent study highlighting that over a third of SMEs are not able to fully transition their business to an online model. We have grave concerns that the lack of provision of FTTP broadband across the UK could disproportionately prevent SME’s from thriving post-Covid.
To prevent this, we are calling on you to commit to ensuring that 100% of the nation has accessibility to full-fibre ultrafast broadband as part of your forthcoming National Infrastructure Strategy. Not only can full-fibre broadband offer speeds hundreds of times faster than the older services with greater capacities, it has five times fewer faults than copper based broadband systems, and has been estimated to save £5bn in operating costs over the next 30 years. Further, rural areas and ‘not-spots’, many of which already suffer in terms of digital connectivity, must not be forgotten about, and the Government must provide funding for infrastructural improvements in areas where a commercial case cannot be found. By doing this, not only will some of the most disproportionately impacted communities be given a digital lifeline but it can play a vital role in delivering the Government’s levelling up agenda.
The UK’s future prosperity will be contingent on fully operational national infrastructure, and we must make investments now to ensure that we do not impede our future. Inaction is not an option.
We look forward to discussing this further with your officials.
If you agree with the cause and would like better connectivity across the UK, show your support here.