If working from home is the future, how will UK technological infrastructure cope? – Liberal Article
The UK has been in and out of lockdown procedures for a long time now. We are finally seeing progress in moving out of the Covid-19 crisis, for example with pubs and restaurants re-opening. However, an area that has gone quiet is the working from home situation.
According to ONS, 30% of adults were working from home at the beginning of July. Although difficult at the start, many in the workforce have now mastered Microsoft Teams and plenty of Netflix suggestions have been passed around. Office workers can go back to the office as of the 1 August. However, 91% would like to work from home at least part-time according to research by Eskenzi. But what does this mean for British technological infrastructure?
If more people than ever are going to be working from home, improvements to British broadband systems will need to be done sooner than later. BT is planning on spending 12 billion pounds to provide 20 million homes with full-fibre broadband by the late 2020s.
However, this is too late. If we see a sudden surge of office workers keeping their position at home, they will struggle to work at their optimum capacity. There is nothing worse than slow internet making you wait 10 minutes for a document to download. A big problem with slow connection speeds is the effectiveness of the workforce. The working hours will be reduced due to slow speeds, meaning less work is done in a day. The economy has already suffered enough because of the virus; it doesn’t need an ineffective workforce slowing it down further.
The government needs to provide a beneficial solution for both employers and employees. If companies like BT are working towards bringing faster broadband to homes, the government should back them. The UK has fallen behind many other developed countries in terms of internet speed and accessibility. We are already playing catchup. Although it would take a dent out of the already empty wallet of the government, spending now would be an investment for the future. If the government commits to improving infrastructure, then the UK will continue to be a competitor in bringing companies to the UK.
South Korea is a perfect example of how government policy on internet infrastructure can boost the economy. South Korea’s policies create competition among private broadband firms to lower the cost and actually improve internet services. This provides a level playing field for all firms, from small start-ups to huge corporations. The ability to provide excellent broadband services to everyone creates economic prosperity, explaining why South Korea’s economy grew 2% in 2019.
Although I can dream of being able to load a YouTube video without it buffering for five minutes first, I don’t see it changing anytime soon. Because the UK is already behind other nations, the government don’t seem interested in making any improvements in the area. It will be up to private firms, which most likely will result in higher, unaffordable prices. If we don’t change anything now, and people continue to work from home, there is a good chance there will be a significant negative impact on the economy. Something we really don’t need right now!
Written by Senior Liberal Writer, Charlie Papamichael
Point of Information
Improvements to technological infrastructure are a necessity, but businesses may take advantage of this – a Labour Response
Charlie has written a very compelling article here. It is vitally important that the UK’s technological infrastructure is improved. Otherwise, we won’t be able to facilitate an increase in the number of people working from home.
Over half of employees polled by 4Com reported a change in their lives for the better since working from home. 75% of managers wish to continue this in some capacity following the pandemic. There appears to be a significant shift on the horizon. In combination with the fact that 50% of UK employees feel more productive at home, perhaps transitioning to working from home more often is a good idea.
But Charlie is right to highlight the fact that the government will not necessarily pioneer this endeavour themselves. Theresa May’s government estimated that the costs to implement nationwide full-fibre broadband would cost around £30 billion, but “private companies would provide most of this cost”. Inevitably, this will result in higher prices for the consumer. Subsequently, better quality broadband that would allow employees to work remotely more easily may still not be available.
Were these changes to take place, however, and remote working to become more common, I would like to see assurances that wages would not be cut, and employees’ rights would not be diminished as a result. Faster broadband may enable remote working, but I fear that companies may seize the opportunity to take advantage of their employees in this way.
Nonetheless, I would welcome these improvements. I just hope that they don’t price consumers out of the market or leave employees worse off afterwards.
Written by Guest Labour Writer, Jack Rolfe
Improving infrastructure is not solely the government’s responsibility – a Conservative Response
Investment into infrastructure has always made economic sense, technological infrastructure is no different. Charlie is right, if UK businesses want to allow more people to work at home, broadband must be better. There is no room for slow internet and downloads. This would lead to is an inefficient workforce.
That being said, expecting the government to fund this investment at the moment, which would cost billions, is wrong.
I believe there are two main reasons why more people are likely to work from home. The first, as Charlie mentioned, is employees want to. Some feel they work better from home, some are enjoying a better quality of life as a result. The second reason is it could result in higher profit. I believe this to be the driving factor of why businesses are considering increased working from home. Without the overheads of a large block of offices, there is more room to maximise profit.
Maximising profit is great, but it’s not solely the government’s job to improve broadband, just so more profit can be made. It is the companies’ job to make sure that their employees have the correct quality of broadband necessary to ensure efficiency. They may have to take on the burden of increasing the technological infrastructure if they want to reap the benefits.
There are many situations where I advocate for the government to invest in technological infrastructure, but this is not one of them. Following Covid-19, we must make more conservative spending decisions; there simply isn’t the money to be investing in this now. The government have rightly supported businesses through this crisis. However, coming out of it we must be careful not to plunge ourselves into more debt than necessary.
Written by Chief Conservative Writer, Fletcher Kipps
I am a second year student currently reading International Relations and Modern Languages at the University of Exeter.
I am a third-year student at the University of Exeter, studying BSc Politics and International Relations. After graduating in the summer of 2020, I will be completing an MSc in Applied Social Data Science. I will also be the Treasurer of the Politics Society, as well as of the Uni Boob Team for the 2020/2021 academic year.
I am an incoming third year undergraduate currently studying Politics, Philosophy and Economics at the University of Exeter. I am socially liberal, fiscally conservative editor here at POI. I have been fascinated by politics for many years, from PMQs to late night election results all which has led to the desire to study this at university.