All UK businesses, including retailers, stand to benefit from £34.1 billion in productivity gains if their workforces had better access to connectivity, according to research released today by O2 Business.
As the only major advanced economy that is expected to record slowing productivity growth this year – according to data published by think-tank, The Conference Board – investment in connectivity could provide a welcome boost to UK productivity levels, following the Bank of England’s recent warning that Brexit has cut output per worker by up to 5%.
In the second major study of its kind in five years, O2’s report – entitled Business without Boundaries: The role of connectivity in business growth – has found that enhanced connectivity could deliver overall time savings of 3.14 hours per week for each employee – or an extra 18 working days a year, representing a significant advantage for workers and British business. Giving people the ability to work where, when and how they want can reduce time commuting to fixed places of work, enabling a more efficient use of working time.
Since O2’s first Smarter Working Britain report in 2014, good progress has been made in the uptake of tools that enable wider adoption of remote working, with Britain’s 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. However, if all employers embraced the potential benefits of offering a range of connectivity tools and technology – such as video conferencing and real-time collaboration apps – the UK economy could see an additional £14.7 billion in productivity gains for SMEs, and a further £19.4 billion for large companies.
Jo Bertram, Managing Director, Business at O2, explains: “The definition of the workplace is changing at an ever-increasing pace. For many industries, gone are the days when work was a place you go. Now it is a thing you do – wherever, whenever and however you want. Businesses have already made great strides in enabling their people to make the most of the digital tools that can help them work smarter. However, these latest figures show that it’s time for more of our leaders to embrace the opportunity of better connectivity. Not only will it help save time and money and make work more flexible for everyone, it’s also a solution to the UK’s productivity challenge. This is a critical obstacle to overcome if we want to stay a competitive global force in the years ahead.”
Bertram continues: “Modern, digitally-enabled workforces aren’t just convenient and productive. Our research shows that businesses believe that digital connectivity is critical to achieving higher levels of customer satisfaction, thanks to faster response times – which can ultimately help to grow the bottom line of a business. And it’s only set to continue: milestone innovations like the arrival of 5G connectivity will be most transformative in business, redefining the modern workplace and how businesses interact with their customers, employees and suppliers.”
Amidst turbulent times on the high street, the study reveals that the retail sector would see the greatest increase in productivity as a result of improved connectivity, gaining a potential annual boost of £4.9 billion. Efficiencies would be generated in stores from the adoption of smart devices for faster customer service, the use of predictive, data-driven technologies for staff scheduling and better use of collaboration tools (such as instant messaging) between staff.
The study also looked at how enhanced connectivity will impact productivity levels for different types of workers. Despite making up nearly half of the UK workforce, ‘desk huggers’ (those who are required to spend at least 80% of their time at a fixed desk) will see the least productivity gains. However, ‘mobile service workers’, including customer-facing roles in retail, leisure, hospitality, food and transport are expected to gain some of the greatest increases in productivity levels. Similarly, ‘office hoppers’ – those who typically spend their time moving between a number of different offices, as well as working from home – will also see a boost to their output.
This is mirrored in the professional services sector and frontline public services, with ‘mobile knowledge workers’ (staff who spend a high proportion of their time at a client, customer or partner site) also set to see improvements to productivity levels.