Just a few short years ago, working life heavily revolved around the office as the hub of all activity.
The modern employee is no longer based within a fixed location, and instead can work flexibly across multiple locations while utilising their own personal devices. With these savvy workers in mind, offering a good Wi-Fi connection should really seem like a no-brainer for any business.
However, the latest ZyXEL report into connectivity in SME offices discovered a Europe-wide problem in which small and medium businesses are failing to provide Wi-Fi for staff.
With half of businesses in Czech Republic, Germany, Sweden, Netherlands and the UK not providing employees with access to wireless connectivity in the office, it seems businesses are making it increasingly difficult and frustrating for people to work the way they want.
For the UK in particular, this is a truly worrying trend to observe as so many SMEs are lagging behind in a time in which the technology industry continues to innovate at break-neck speed.
Why does it matter for SMEs?
Wherever people are, they want to be able to get online. The effect of this is that it has become commonplace for Wi-Fi to be accessible anywhere and everywhere, including coffee shops, hotels and train stations.
So why is the UK in particular struggling for connectivity in the workplace, with a staggering 63 per cent of UK SMEs operating completely without Wi-Fi?
This is having a negative impact on employees, with productivity levels crashing and a quarter of EU employees missing deadlines as a result of poor connectivity.
Furthermore it is clear how the lack of Wi-Fi has an impact on an employee’s perception of the business, with a huge 86 per cent of UK staff believing the connectivity at home is better than in the office.
As there is such a strong expectation for constant connectivity, it seems misaligned for businesses to be seen offering connectivity levels that are less proficient than an average household.
A barrier for BYOD
Businesses that sacrifice Wi-Fi are also causing an additional issue for staff that wish to adopt a BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) policy.
With Ovum research finding nearly 70 per cent of employees who own a smartphone or tablet choose to use it to access corporate data, it’s clear there is a real desire to use personal devices for work purposes.
However ZyXEL’s research found that just 18 per cent of people in the UK are able to use their own devices in the workplace, with the lack of connectivity creating a clear barrier.
As employees increasingly wish to use devices they feel most comfortable with to carry out work-related tasks, SMEs that do not provide a sufficient connection are missing out on the benefits of increased productivity and a satisfied workforce.
Who is to blame?
Across Europe the majority of employees are placing the blame for this poor connectivity on the equipment, with IT departments following close behind. A small percentage that have are also stating the government as the reason why their office internet connection is either poor or non-existent.
Yet for SMEs, the IT departments in charge of deploying suitable IT equipment are often under the misconception that investing in Wi-Fi is an expensive process for the business, with the assumption that good quality technology is either a ‘luxury’ or a non-essential part of the office environment.
If proper education and research is carried out, the appropriate deployment can be carried out in an extremely cost-effective manner that in turn provides a long-term investment for businesses.
The solution: connecting SMEs
This year we should expect to see a rapid decrease in companies experiencing connection issues, as businesses look to finally provide employees with the connectivity they need to do their jobs properly.
But in order for this to happen SMEs must invest in a wireless solution to ensure workforces are adequately connected. Smaller businesses should not see Wi-Fi as an unnecessary, excessive expense but as an investment that can really help the business.
By allowing staff to connect to a good quality Wi-Fi network and use their own devices within the workplace, businesses will see a strong increase in both productivity and employee satisfaction.
In comparison to the cost of motivating staff or buying new software, this seems like an incredibly simple way for SMEs to deliver more to both their employees and customers.
Lee Marsden is President of Europe at ZyXEL.