by Paolo Sartori
There has been a vast increase in the amount of businesses using coworking spaces in the past few years. In just the past year there has been a 10% increase in flexible office centres in the UK and in the past five years shared work spaces have grown at a rate of 200% globally.
This allows smaller companies to rent relatively inexpensive space that allows them to grow from inception. However, when small businesses grow and subsequently leave these co-working spaces to set up their own office environment, they often overlook essential technological infrastructure which leaves them with slow data transfer speeds and intermittent broadband connections.
Looking for an office space is a pivotal and potentially stressful time in a business’s growth. There are many things to focus on and investigate from the location of the office, to supplies such as stationery and furniture. As well as physical things, such as hardware, many companies spend lots of money on marketing tools such as SEO optimisation and social media maintenance. However, what is often forgotten is a solid technological infrastructure.
If technological infrastructure is not adequately funded it can lead to poor network connections, increased cyber-security vulnerabilities and slow processing speeds. This in turn leads to reduced worker productivity. Any time that an employee is waiting for a file to download, struggling to find a file or sitting in front of a loading computer, they are not working. Hypothetically, if only four hours a day were spent using the internet and 5% of that time was lost due to slow broadband connection speeds then 15 minutes would be lost a day. If that continues for a year then 50 hours of productivity are lost. If you multiply this by the number of employees who regularly use the internet in a company then the number of productive hours lost increases at a dramatic rate.
This time lost is valuable amongst all industries, but it is especially pertinent in financial institutions where every second counts on the trading floor. Small businesses should be wary of stunting their growth by ignoring the need for robust technological infrastructure.
Many start-ups and smaller companies start off with a home office set up and therefore think of network connections in relation to how they normally use the internet at home. In a time where business is increasingly being carried out on a global scale, many people rely on video conferences to get in touch with international business partners or clients. Any problems with network connectivity could mean drop outs in call connections. Not only is this frustrating but can also be seen as unprofessional. It is becoming frequently common for small businesses to encourage employees to bring their own devices, such as laptops and tablets, to work. With a weak technological infrastructure, companies may find that a multitude of devices on one network will simply overload the system and it will therefore not be able to provide adequate internet connection to all employees. A strong internet connection and network structure could remedy both of these issues and ensure that all employees, whether it is one person in his home study or an office full of workers, have a reliable internet connection.
Recent research by Veritas Technologies showed that employees are losing two hours daily due to timely data searches resulting in a workforce efficiency reduction of 16%. This directly shows the result of a cluttered and poorly organised technology system and of poor network connectivity. There is no need for companies to lose valuable time and productivity searching for data. In today’s digital age, data should be readily available when it is needed.
This is a particular issue outside of cities and was highlighted in Philip Hammond’s Spring Statement where he promised a £95 million investment in regional 5G broadband. In today’s entrepreneurial era where businesses can be started by one person on their laptop, the traditional office space is no longer the norm. However, people who work from their home, whether it is for ease or out of necessity, also need to consider their technological infrastructure. It was estimated by Enterprise Nation that 70% of new businesses start from home and that home businesses contribute £243 billion in turnover to the economy. It is therefore essential that these businesses continue to thrive and are not halted by poor network connections or slow data speeds.
TransWorldCom notices that SMEs often cap their long-term growth by overlooking operating costs and instead invest in promoting sales, search engine optimisation and marketing. It is imperative that companies do not neglect their technological infrastructure, as slow connection speeds can take a huge toll on work productivity. If an employee is spending twice as long they need to waiting for data to upload or reconfiguring an outdated printer each time they need to print then it could be wasting the company vast sums of money. I would urge companies of all sizes to consider technology investments as productivity boosters and to invest in infrastructure that is relative to their goals, not their current business position.