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Poor telecoms services prevent four million employees from home working

  • A quarter (25%) UK employees have had issues with their broadband or mobile services when working from home over the last year

  • Half of those (46%) have experienced such severe problems that they have been put off from working from home again

  • Remote workers have spent a combined £190 million finding alternative ways to work over the last year – including heading to a local cafe (16%) or buying a signal booster (16%)

  • Poor telecoms have services resulted in one in five (20%) losing new business and 16% missing a deadline – while 20% were told to stop working from home altogether by their employer 

  • With over half (55%) of UK adults failing to check their level of service before signing up to their supplier, Uswitch.com calls on providers to make coverage maps and minimum guaranteed broadband speeds available at the point of purchase .

The UK’s appetite for remote working is being hampered by prohibitively slow broadband speeds and poor mobile coverage, according to new research from Uswitch.com, the price comparison and switching service. A quarter of employees (25%) have experienced issues with their telecoms services over the last year, resulting in a staggering four million being prevented from working from home .

In the last 12 months, 43% of UK employees have worked from home at least once as people are taking advantage of the increasingly flexible work environments offered by businesses – a figure which rises to 55% amongst 18-34 year olds. Yet six in ten (58%) have fallen foul of sluggish internet speeds and patchy call quality in the last year alone. The problems have been so severe for half (46%) of those with issues that they believe they are no longer able to work from home while these problems persist.

The need for dependable broadband and mobile services is a must-have for a fifth (22%) of those who work from home at least once a fortnight. As a result, workers have spent a combined £190 million over the last year on alternative measures to ensure they have had consistent access to internet and phone services. This has included heading to a local café to access Wi-Fi internet, buying a signal booster to amplify their broadband signal and even switching to a new provider in an attempt to get an improved telecoms service.

The most common complaint amongst home working internet customers was having broadband speeds simply too slow for them to work effectively (32%), while one in five (18%) have suffered from an intermittent connection. A third of mobile users (32%) complained that their reception was patchy, while one in ten (11%) couldn’t get any reception in their home.

Home workers are most likely to use their broadband connection to email colleagues or clients (76%), research and browse the internet (69%), share files via the cloud (39%) and stay in touch via Skype (34%).  For those that have experienced issues, even these most basic tasks have been affected by a sub-standard internet service. Nearly a third (30%) were unable to send a large file to their clients or colleagues and one in ten (9%) were on a conference call when it cut out.

Frustratingly, a quarter (25%) have had to work late to make up for the lost time and one in five (20%) have lost a work opportunity or some business due to a shoddy service. A further one in five (20%) have been stopped from working from home completely by their employer.

Table 1: The impact of poor broadband and mobile services on home workers:

Working from home issues experienced% of those with an issue impacted
I was unable to send a large file to a colleague or client30%
I had to work late to make up the lost time25%
I lost an opportunity or some business20%
I was stopped from working from home20%
I missed a deadline16%
I lost a client13%
I was on a conference call or Skype to a colleague or client and it cut out9%
Source: Uswitch.com research April 2017

Ewan Taylor-Gibson, broadband expert at Uswitch.com, says: “Flexible working is more popular than ever. It’s a fact that employees who can influence their work environment have better overall job satisfaction and improved wellbeing.

“But before committing to remote working, employees should make sure their home office is ready for use. As a first point of call, it’s worth checking to see if you can get a more reliable connection such as fibre, which will give you faster speeds and reduce the risk of services cutting out.

“Next, fine-tune your work environment by making sure your router is away from devices that could interfere with the signal – like your TV – and be aware that working during peak traffic times, such as the evening, could have a notable impact on your internet speeds.

“Home workers plagued by patchy mobile signal might look to an alternative mobile provider that can provide better reception in their area. To avoid ongoing problems associated with poor signal, mobile users should check the coverage maps for where they live before joining another network.”

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Notes to editors

Survey conducted online via Opinium from April 7th to 10th 2017, among 2,006 nationally representative UK adults aged 18+. The results have been weighted to nationally representative criteria.

  1. Respondents who are employed were asked: ‘Have you experienced any problems with your broadband or mobile connection when working from home?’ – the net response for ‘yes’ was 25% of UK workers or 58% of those who have worked from home.

  2. Respondents with issues (309) were asked: ‘Would these issues with your broadband or mobile connection stop you from working from home again?’ – the net response for ‘yes’ was 46%

  3. Respondents that experienced an issue were asked: ‘How much did you spend in total on finding alternative ways to work around poor broadband or mobile reception, when at home over that 12 month period?’ – the mean answer was £24. According to the ONS, there are 51,339,000 adults in the UK. To calculate this figure, we  worked out the amount who had worked from home and experienced an issue (309) by the whole sample 2006 = 15.4%. 15.4% of 51,339,000 = 79,906,206 * £24= £189,748,944

  4. Respondents who experienced poor broadband (269) were asked: ‘How did you deal with the problem of poor broadband speeds?’ – the net response for ‘I bought a signal booster to amplify my broadband signal’ was 16%, for ‘I headed to a local café to get signal’ was 16% and for ‘I switched to a new provider’ was 17%

  5. See Table 1

  6. Respondents were asked: ‘Did you check your network’s coverage map before signing up to their service, to check the indoor signal in your area?’ – the net response for ‘no’ was 55%

  7. To calculate this figure, we took the number who would not work from home again (142) /2006 = 7% of 51,339,000 is 3,634,167.

  8. Respondents who work (1233) were asked: ‘Have you worked from home for at least one day within the last 12 months?’ – the net response for ‘yes’ was 43%.

  9. Respondents who work (1233) were asked: ‘Have you worked from home for at least one day within the last 12 months?’ – the net response for ‘yes’ amongst 18-34 year old’s was 55%.

  10. Respondents who work from home were asked: ‘How often have you worked from home in the last 12 months?’ – the net response for ‘Once a fortnight’ was 5%, ‘Once a week’ was 9%, ‘Twice a week’ was 6%, ‘Three times a week’ was 4%, ‘Four times a week’ was 9% and ‘I always work from home’ was 17%. 5%+9%+6%+4%+9%+17% = 50% or 22% of all workers

  11. Respondents  who work from home (535) were asked: ‘Have you experienced any problems with your broadband connection when working from home?’ – the net response for ‘Yes – my broadband speeds were too slow for me to work effectively’ was 32% and for ‘Yes – my broadband connection cut in and out’ was 18%

  12. Respondents who work from home (535) were asked: ‘Have you had any problems with your mobile reception when working from home?’ – the net response for ‘Yes – my mobile reception was patchy and cut in and out’ was 32% and for ‘Yes – I couldn’t get any reception at all’ was 11%

  13. Respondents who work from home (535) were asked: ‘Do you use a broadband connection for any of the following when working from home?’ – the net response for ‘Emailing colleagues or clients’ was 76%, for ‘Research / browsing’ was ‘69%’, for ‘Sharing or working on online via the cloud (e.g. in The Cloud, over Google Drive)’ was 39% and for ‘Skyping colleagues or clients’ was 34%

  14. Cass Business School and Cranfield School of Management: March 2017

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