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Home Working Prompts UK ISP TalkTalk to Rethink Offices

Monday, September 21st, 2020 (7:46 am) - Score 4,080
talktalk office manchester

The boss of budget broadband ISP TalkTalk, Tristia Harrison, has said that the idea of traditional office working is “over” and “no one believes we’ll return to 100% occupancy, five days a week, nine to five.” Instead the internet provider envisages more home working and, she adds, “all” the other bosses agree.

One of the big changes to come out of the COVID-19 pandemic has been the mass national adoption of home working, which enabled many office workers to continue working even while their usual place of business had to be closed. The move helped to show a lot of businesses just what might be possible, while at the same time also helping to highlight some well-known weak points of existing broadband connectivity.

Admittedly we’re still a long way from returning to whatever will now pass for normal, but in the meantime, companies have taken this learning experience and are now planning for a different future, with a wider adoption of flexible working. TalkTalk is no exception to this. Tristia said there are no plans to move to a fully remote operation and insisted that offices are still vital, but their role will diminish.

Obviously, where this works, it could also present another cost saving opportunity (i.e. smaller offices) for companies and that too is likely to be an attractive consideration.

Tristia Harrison, CEO of TalkTalk, said (PA news agency):

“You can’t imagine anybody returning to that kind of rhythm and I think what we’re also finding is that people are just much more productive. If they can be trusted to be at home, they can be super flexible … As long as the output and efficiency is there and the business is operating well, we won’t change it.

I think telling people they must return is short term. I understand it’s because of the short-term impact on economies and sectors that thrive on office workers. And so, if you’re in hospitality in those areas, it’s tough. That said, you can see retail and hospitality in, you know, more suburban areas thriving.”

So far, we’ve seen a lot of research from the business side of the fence that supports all of this, but what we haven’t yet been able to independently gauge is how all of this impact’s consumers. In an ideal world consumers wouldn’t notice any negative impact, but as companies are still adapting to the pandemic then it’s a little difficult to know.

For example, when recently needing to contact our home insurance company about a policy query my wife found that they were impossible to reach via the phone, did not respond to email and their live chat system was either unavailable or seemingly didn’t function correctly (in an emergency that would have been a big problem). We’ve seen similar gripes about some ISPs, which suggests that some operators still haven’t fully adapted.

One other issue is that of data security because, no matter how you approach it, passing sensitive customer details back and forth to computers in a home environment is always going to be more exposed to abuse than if they were inside an office environment. Not that the latter is perfect either, but it’s still a consideration.

Leave a Comment
7 Responses
  1. Avatar Chris Sayers says:

    To be honest, how do companies ensure GDPR regulations are being met when working at home, working in a walled garden namely the company office where data is naturally well controlled is a fairly easy operation, working on the kitchen table with anyone passing by, with staff potentially talking about customer detail’s, thats not right, all this working from home doesn’t sit well with me.

    The only place of work is the office, how do the regulators satisfy me that companies are going to be compliant.

    1. Avatar Meadmodj says:

      The issue is the definition of home working. It is not sitting on the sofa in front of the TV, on the kitchen table etc. It needs to be a defined space, without interruption/eavesdropping and commercial security. GDPR can addressed by suitable technology (remote desktops or encrypted laptops). Access to data and what is happening to it needs to be considered (restricting/preventing download). Processes should be kept on-line but if printing is allowed then secure storage and shredders required. Then there are of course the ergonomic issues of seating, screen etc.
      Home working is a good, viable and flexible way of working as long as the required criteria is being met. But it needs good processes, mature management and suitable employee only.

    2. Avatar Meadmodj says:

      The privilege of Home working should also not be abused. It does not mean that you can move to Cornwall or the Outer Hebrides. You still need to be in effective distance of the main office on a regular basis.

    3. Avatar Chris Sayers says:

      That’s the crux of the problem, in wholly exceptional cases, very few people will have a free room in a home, and I do speak from experience when working in a customers home, I have overheard confidential conversations that I should have not been party to, some people have voices that carry, an open window etc, i am sorry, but this is no trivial matter.

  2. Avatar Dave says:

    TalkTalk already started the move to homeworking when they consolidated their office space. Probably to save cost. There simply weren’t enough desks to go around so people ended up split home / office working. Will be interesting to see what they decide to do longer term.

  3. Avatar Gary says:

    There’s also the issue raised by some mental heath studies regarding the current problem of people never truly leaving work behind as connectivity and work emails etc follow you on phones and laptops, I’d imagine unless someone is particularly well disciplined and has a suitable space to call ‘the office’ you’re never really leaving work.

    Personally I’m not disciplined enough to work from home, or at least I think not, way too many opportunities to have a coffee or pop out with the dogs etc.

  4. Avatar Ixel says:

    I think this is a great move, as a home worker I like this choice. Some may find it unsuitable and I respect that, personally I think it should be given as a choice to the employee (where possible). I don’t miss the long commutes on packed public transport, expensive snacks or lunch out, or a stuffy office on a hot day.

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