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Re-imagining Britain – Five pillars to build back stronger

Jo Bertram, Managing Director at O2 Business, addressed business leaders at Blue Door Expo on October 14 – sharing her thoughts on five pillars that will support the recovery and re-imagine business in Britain.

Want to hear the full details of Jo’s focus on rebuilding Britain? Listen to episode 2 of our Blue Door Podcast.

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This time last year, I told an audience of business leaders that I had never known the external environment to be tougher. Little did I know that 12 months on, we’d be experiencing the impact and effects of a global pandemic.  

No one doubts that these are extraordinary times. I’ve spoken to customers in our transport and retail sectors, who’ve talked about layoffs and downsizing, as well as to sports and leisure customers, who have had to completely alter their business models at substantial cost. 

But what all our customers have told us is that connectivity has never been more important. At O2, we are more aware than ever that we are at the forefront of one of the UK’s most valued services. It is clear that we have an opportunity to build back stronger and better, and not simply to do things the way they used to be done.  

Despite the current uncertainty, I feel optimistic about the future of British industry. I’ve witnessed courage, optimism and ingenuity from the business leaders I have spoken to, and I believe that getting the UK back on its feet rests on five fundamental pillars: 

1. The acceleration of digital technology 

We’ve all experienced the rapid acceleration of digital technology, and witnessed how it has helped to connect people throughout the current crisis. Whether it’s virtual quizzes with friends and family, delivering remote health care, onboarding new team members at work, or getting your groceries delivered at home – connectivity has ingrained itself in our lives like never before. 

All of these had an unprecedented impact on our network. When lockdown hit, our voice traffic doubled overnight. We saw seven years’ worth of growth in voice traffic in less than a week. Predictable patterns of demand evaporated, and voice and data traffic moved from city centres to be dispersed right around the country. It meant doubling the capacity of some of our voice network elements, and boosting coverage across rural locations in over 91,000 postcode areas.  

At the same time our 5G rollout continues, ahead of target, with our partners Nokia and Ericsson. We are delighted that 5G is now available in more than 100 towns and cities throughout the UK. O2 was also the first to launch an LTE-M Network, which supports Britain’s digital leadership by powering Internet of Things (IoT) technology – and we now have 10,000 LTE-M sites operational in the UK. 

Now, more than ever, we recognise that we have a responsibility to bring fast, reliable connectivity to as many businesses as possible in the UK.  

2. The importance of relationships 

Operating in partnership with our customers and building relationships with them has always been fundamental to O2’s approach. We believe that nurturing business relationships has never been more needed or more valuable.  

Our relationship with the NHS is the perfect example. We have been providing thousands of connected devices to clinicians across the UK, allowing doctors to see patients remotely, and allowing relatives of those with COVID-19 to visit them virtually in hospital. O2 has also handed over the keys to the iconic venue, The O2, to use free of charge as an NHS training facility for Nightingale staff. 

We worked with the government to send out bulk text messages to keep the general public informed. In fact, if you received a message from the government during lock down, there is a high chance that it was our solution used. We’ve provided the connectivity to enable many of our customers to move their call centres to the home. 

3. Redesigning the workplace 

As a team, we’ve been working with our customers to understand what the future looks like, what challenges we will face and what opportunities we need to be ready to grasp. 

Our own research shows that people do not want to go back to how things were. In fact, 45% of the workforce predict a permanent change to their company’s approach to flexible working after lockdown. And if the switch to flexible working becomes more permanent, 63% of us would be willing to live up to an hour away from the office (double the amount that currently do so). 

This has enormous implications for business and workers alike. It gives employees greater flexibility about where they live and work, and so increases competition for businesses to attract talent.  

4. The need for innovation 

I believe that the companies that will thrive in future are ones that prioritise innovation. As the expectations and experiences of our workforce and customers continue to change at an accelerated rate, the need for innovation becomes more and more important.  

Where once we might have discussed, debated and evaluated each new idea before taking action, now we must react to trends and opportunities, try out concepts and adopt new ways of working, faster than we have ever done before.  

At O2, we want to encourage organisations to speak to us about their challenges, as well as to each other, because that is the key to unlocking innovation. 

5.  The goal of Net Zero carbon 

When we talk about helping to rebuild British industry, we’re not talking about short-term fixes. We need to ensure that we are driving sustainable change for future generations. Now is the time to invest in the technologies that will lead to a greener, more connected, more sustainable future. That’s why we were the first UK mobile operator to announce our commitment to cut carbon emissions from our entire business and network by 2025, whilst working with supply chain partners to reduce emissions by 30% in the next five years.  

But if the UK is to reach Net Zero by 2050, we need to play an even greater role. Our recent report ‘How connectivity can enable a resilient economy and a low carbon society’ sets out a vision for how connected solutions, enabled by 4G and 5G, will power a ‘green revolution’ over the next decade and beyond. The use cases outlined paint a really exciting picture of what a prosperous, sustainable Britain could look like if it embraces smart homes and cities, next generation factories, and greener ways of living. 


At O2, we want to work with you to power the country into recovery.   We’re passionate about looking at future ways of working, sharing best practice, and identifying opportunities for long-term sustainable growth.  

We believe that effective partnerships begin with conversations. We’d love to start one with youso book an appointment to speak to us. 

You can watch and listen to Jo’s keynote address on the O2 Business YouTube channel below.

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