Recent data from the Office of National Statistics (ONS) revealed that the UK is currently in the midst of a productivity crisis, with the country’s output per worker 16.6 percent below the average for the rest of the G7 nations in 2016. While the financial services sector was one of only a few to show any productivity growth, this was still significantly slower that anything prior to the beginning of the economic crisis ten years previously.
New research, however, suggests that the quality of mobile coverage within office buildings is a contributing factor to this fall in productivity and, therefore, needs to be addressed by business owners and their landlords.
Much has been written about the role of superfast broadband as a business enabler, with experts suggesting that it could deliver a 2.5 percent uplift in productivity over five years. In enabling businesses to access, transfer and analyse business data in real time, fibre-optic superfast broadband delivers real efficiency benefits, particularly to financial services providers for whom speed is a crucial factor.
Despite the widespread availability of Wi-Fi broadband connectivity and fixed line or VoIP desktop phones, more than three quarters of office workers considered it important to be able to make calls and access 4G data services from their mobile devices, according to the report. A similar number also claimed that poor mobile connection in their workplace had, at some point, proved a hindrance to their work efficiency. In fact, more than two-fifths claimed that a lack of coverage meant that, on occasion, they have had to step outside the office building just to make a call or access a 4G data service on their mobile device.
Our own research uncovered a significant link between the provision of mobile connectivity and productivity within the workplace, with a quarter of office workers reporting that poor mobile connectivity affected their productivity at least once a week.
What’s more, it also found that, as smart mobile devices become ever more pervasive, around one in three workers used their own personal device to access apps, including online banking services, over 4G connections, with a quarter of them doing so at least once a week. It is unsurprising that prospective employees are more attracted to organisations that are not only forward thinking but are investing in workplace improvements.
Why are organisations struggling with mobile coverage?
A number of factors can influence the quality of mobile coverage within an office. The ‘Faraday Cage’ effect of a building’s physical structure, for example, such as its metal framework or, more recently, the use of reflective energy-saving glass, can create a blocking effect that prevents external signals from reaching the workers inside. This, along with other variables, such as the location of nearby macro base station sites, and the strength of other ‘interference’ can all lead to a significant reduction in the strength of the indoor signal.
When businesses begin to notice the impact of slow, unreliable mobile coverage in their buildings or, in the worst cases, the complete lack thereof, their first point of contact will be the operator. However, while this may be a sensible first step, it’s worth noting that operators are typically more concerned with investing in nearby base stations, which aim to provide coverage to its subscribers in the vicinity. This ‘outside-in’ approach won’t always solve the problem, particularly given the physical limitations outlined above.
As an organisation’s IT team will investigate the best-of-breed technology solutions that will protect their broadband connectivity against downtime or outages, businesses and building-owners should do the same to ensure the provision of reliable and consistent mobile connectivity for their employees, customers and partners where it’s required. For businesses looking at a potential new property, for example, this might mean testing wireless connectivity before signing the lease.
The financial services industry, in common with most others, is undergoing a digital transformation, with new business models being introduced to improve operational efficiency and deliver a better customer experience.
Today, as visits to High Street bank branches continue to decline, so mobile banking services and applications grow in popularity. With high-quality, in-building mobile coverage, a bank’s employees are able to ‘live the customer experience’ prior to the rollout of any new services and apps.
When you consider this improved customer experience, and the impact that mobile connectivity can have on an organisation’s productivity, it’s clear that ensuring the delivery of first-class in-building wireless coverage as part of a business’s digital transformation should now be a priority for businesses in the financial services sector.