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Can our infrastructure cope with a population of homeworkers?

Diane Hall


Working switches in data centre with white cables

You may think that, as far as technology goes, the UK is well set up for remote working. However, this isn’t necessarily the case. Some experts think we need much better infrastructure, software and equipment before remote working becomes a solution we can all enjoy.

Connectivity is a big issue. Some parts of the UK are still waiting for fibre to be installed. Working in a shared office space has its drawbacks, but one plus is that most businesses premises have their own dedicated servers that keep multiple employees connected to the internet and each other. If all these employees worked remotely, they would be forced to use their own household internet solutions—which might come with a data cap in place, or which may offer poor connectivity due to where the router is in their household and/or how many other people in their home are accessing the internet at the same time.

Experts also believe that our hardware will need to be better to effectively cope with a country of remote workers. Advanced, faster PCs and laptops, with greater storage, to support a number of applications running at the same time. More advanced headsets and microphones to eliminate background noise and ensure clear communication in video calls via Zoom or Microsoft Teams. Video streaming takes more bandwidth, however, which brings us back to the connectivity issue. How many Teams/Zoom meetings have you been on where someone’s technology/device hasn’t gone down or played up?

Another issue for employers to consider before they send their workforces off to work from home is security. Again, shared workplaces will incorporate cyber-security, but the common-or-garden household router will not have the same levels of protection. Various collaborative tools and project management software solutions are used across the UK, to make participation between remote teams easier; sharing of information, however, could be an issue. Whilst colleagues in the same office may not prove much of a security risk, who knows who’s wandering around individual employees’ homes—e.g. friends, other family members, tradespeople, dog sitters/babysitters…

Man at laptop on a video conference call

Man at laptop on a video conference call

I deliver workshops via both Zoom and Teams, infrequently. The trouble with this is, because they’re infrequent, I forget between one session and the next how to operate the relevant programs. Whilst I am happy to tune into either Zoom or Teams as an attendee, when I’m responsible for sharing my screen to deliver my presentation, there’s always that totally unprofessional couple of minutes where I flounder around as I try and recall which button, tick-box or application I need to address for the audience to see what I’m sharing. If I was delivering the same workshop in person there wouldn’t be this comical sight!

At work in the office, if there’s something I don’t understand, I simply ask one of my learned colleagues…the difference is apparent when I’m left to fend for myself from home.

Collaboration, brainstorming and simply learning from others are natural occurrences in a shared office, yet these things may also hold back our progress if we were to all work individually and remotely. Technology may not be at the level it needs to be in order for all remote workers to be adequately supported, but I don’t think the human infrastructure is there yet, either. I don’t think all managers know how to effectively lead a remote team, and I don’t think every employee would know how to cope with remote working if it became a permanent part of their life. From what I’ve seen, there seems to be two extremes of remote worker: those who aren’t as self-disciplined as they need to be and who waste a lot of time procrastinating or being distracted when working from home, and those at the other end of the scale, who work all hours, as they’re desperate to show they’re pulling their weight, and who often find it difficult to ‘close the door’ on a working day.

There are so many benefits that come with homeworking for many people, and whilst the technology allows us to implement remote working in the short-term, there needs to be technological and cultural changes to be made if our homes are to be the workplaces of the future.

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