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Connectivity – the solution to Britain’s productivity challenge?

Jo Bertram, Managing Director, Business at O2

At work or at home, time is arguably our most precious resource. And our constant thirst for more of it has resulted in some fantastic innovations for businesses, such as instant messaging, shared drives and live collaboration apps.

The one thing that underpins these innovations is reliable connectivity. Without it, today’s digitally-enabled workforces would struggle to take advantage of the tools that help make them more efficient, more productive and more responsive to their customers.

Published today, O2 Business’ latest report, Business without Boundaries: The role of connectivity in business growth, found that enhanced connectivity could deliver overall time savings of 3.14 hours per week for each employee in the UK. This equates to a mammoth 18 extra working days a year each. And it doesn’t stop there. Financially, UK businesses stand to gain £34.1 billion in productivity, should their workforces have better access to connectivity.

Working when, where and how we want

These numbers may be hard to digest, but I’d encourage you to pause and think for a second. How many meetings have you had over video conference calls that have spared a 3-hour car journey? Or maybe you’ve completed a big project with your colleagues on the other side of the world, collaborating on digital tools in real-time?

Let’s zoom out further. Think back to your office ten years ago. You were probably on a clunky desktop, saving documents directly to your hard drive from your desk which you’d decorated and equipped like a second home. Now, a growing number of businesses enable their staff to work wherever, whenever and however they want, thanks largely to the digital tools that enable them to work smarter.

Since our first Smarter Working Britain report in 2014, Britain has made good progress in the uptake of tools that enable wider adoption of remote working, with our biggest businesses already benefiting from a productivity boost of up to £10.5 billion as more workers split their time between office locations and working from home.[1] Today, our studies have shown that if all employers embraced these benefits, the UK economy could see an additional £14.7 billion in productivity gains for SMEs, and a further £19.4 billion for large companies.

Cross-sector connectivity

Our research shows that the blighted retail sector would see the greatest increase in productivity as a result of improved connectivity, gaining a potential annual boost of £4.9 billion. This would be driven by the adoption of smart devices for faster customer service or better use of collaboration tools (such as instant messaging) between staff.

Our research also explores how enhanced connectivity will impact the productivity of different types of workers. Mobile customer service workers, such as those in food, leisure and transport, are expected to see the greatest increase in productivity, with an average of £2,211 gross value added per worker.

A connected Britain

The definition of the workplace is changing at an ever-increasing pace. Businesses have already made great strides in using digital tools to help their people work smarter, but our study points to one clear message: it’s time for more of our leaders to embrace the opportunity that improved connectivity presents. Given that the UK is the only major advanced economy that is expected to record slowing productivity growth this year[2], this is an obstacle which we must overcome now.

To view Business without Boundaries: The role of connectivity in business growth in full, please click here.

[1] This figure represents the estimated productivity gains realised by large businesses as a result of an increase in the number of people working remotely, following O2 Business’ 2014 report, Smarter Working Britain.

[2] According to data published by think-tank, The Conference Board.

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