The last twelve months have seen an astonishing shift in the working patterns of millions of Brits. At the start of 2020, a mere 6% of UK workers worked from home. Now, it’s the norm for so many of us, regardless of what sector or industry we’re in.
Joint research from the universities of Cardiff and Southampton has found the majority of us (88%) are keen to continue working at home in some capacity, even after the pandemic is over.
Indeed, homeworking offers a host of benefits, but for it to keep benefiting us all long-term, our digital infrastructure needs to be up to the task. This is why CityFibre is investing up to £4billion nationwide by bringing the fastest and most reliable network technology full fibre within reach of up to 8 million homes by 2025.
It’s not hard to see why so many of us want to stick with homeworking after the pandemic. Homeworking can often feature fewer distractions, and it has been shown to reduce work-related stress and boost efficiency, with 70% of home-workers reporting that they’ve been just as, if not more, productive as they were when office-based. For many, it has also unlocked more flexibility to take breaks when needed, leaving us with some much-needed breathing space and balance in our hectic lives. It’s also left many with more money in their pocket.
From an employers’ perspective, offering homeworking solutions can make recruitment easier, while also opening up the job market to those who need more flexibility, including parents, carers or people with disabilities. So, if businesses had a pool of candidates before, now they have an ocean. Skills shortages are already costing UK businesses nearly £7bn a year in recruitment fees alone, so adopting a ‘work anywhere’ model could provide UK businesses with a significant competitive advantage.
Although there are many positives about the shift to homeworking, there are still challenges; the most significant being that many of us are still held hostage by poor connectivity. According to Ofcom, nearly 200,000 households across the UK currently get less than 10Mbps, making even basic services like email a daily frustration.
As you might expect, having poor connectivity can significantly impact efficiency and productivity, creating unnecessary stress and frustration for both workers and employers. What’s worse, it tends to affect entire communities, leaving digital black spots in locations across the UK.
Currently, most UK homes still connect to the internet via networks built for telephones. Full fibre, on the other hand, is designed specifically for the digital age. These networks use 100% fibre optic technology to carry data at light speed all the way from the home to the point of connection – a pristine open highway with no bumps insight.
And the good news is that residents in Portsmouth will soon be able to access full fibre connectivity, enabling true freedom of choice when it comes to all things digital.
In a the past year, the national effort to combat COVID-19 has seen GP practices and hospitals in Portsmouth adapt to provide a wide range of crucial services, from remote diagnosis and treatment to symptom tracking and online test booking. All across the UK, email, telephone and video consultations have replaced face-to-face appointments, the public have flocked online to book testing slots and millions of us have turned to healthcare apps and web platforms to check symptoms and stay informed.
It’s clear that health and wellbeing services have had to evolve rapidly as we all adapt to the new normal. This major shift, which the health service now wants to drive forward, has succeeded in making many services more accessible and more efficient than ever before, even for the most remote or vulnerable of patients.
Full Fibre – a foundation for digital transformation
But, for the digital-first NHS strategy to succeed in the long term and deliver the countless benefits it promises, the nation needs to future-proof the infrastructure that will underpin this revolution.
The UK Government’s current aim is for every NHS hospital, GP practice and community care service to be given access to full fibre broadband, as soon as possible. However, there is little point of super-charging our hospital networks if patients at home cannot access services because of poor connectivity.
Digital services will only reach their full potential to drive efficiency, address health inequality and integrate with wider health and care services once full fibre is within reach of every community.
Building a digital future
As the UK’s third national digital infrastructure platform, CityFibre is one of the companies on the frontline of building full fibre infrastructure across the UK, with construction now live in over 60 towns and cities, and more than new projects coming online soon. As part of this goal, we’re investing £35m in Portsmouth to roll out a city-wide full fibre network that will future-proof its digital infrastructure for decades to come.
Ultimately, we want full fibre to be the standard communications infrastructure across the UK; not just for public services, but for citizens and businesses too. This will be a critical element in ensuring communities across Portsmouth can use online health services effectively and that the shift to digital healthcare means no one is left behind.
Unlocking digital innovation
Of course, in a post COVID-19 world, there will still always be a place for face-to-face interaction with healthcare services. But, the goal with digitisation is not to replace this crucial element; it is to enhance it and create choice for citizens. What’s more, innovation in this space is unlocking new insights into healthcare, making it possible to develop new therapies and approaches that could strengthen health and care services in the face of perhaps more, as yet, unknown challenges.
Harnessing analytics and AI, for example, is already proving invaluable in the diagnosis and treatment of various cancers, while data platforms have allowed for rapid research into the spread and risk factors associated with COVID-19.
Digital transformation takes countless forms and does not always mean remote – its application stretches as far as our imagination can take us. Ultimately, with the right enabling digital
infrastructure, more technology within our healthcare provision will provide a vehicle for a complete re-imagination of health and care services in communities just like Portsmouth. One that reflects the challenges, opportunities and priorities of today and helps ward against future threats as they arise.
To find out more about the work that CityFibre is doing in Portsmouth to provide full fibre, please go to cityfibre.com/your-street.