As the world moves past COVID-19, U.S. businesses continue to process and assess the impacts of the pandemic. While the need for more and faster internet connectivity took the spotlight, businesses of all sizes made more subtle and impactful changes to their operations and practices due to the emergence of work-from-home as a new standard.
“Over 80% of respondents said if they lost internet, productivity would shut down,” said Matt Davis, founder and principal analyst at Independence Research LLC. “A theme that stood out was businesses paying for employee home internet costs. Surveys fielded before and during the early stages of COVID showed less than 10 percent of businesses paid for all or a portion of employee home internet costs. Now it’s at 38 percent, indicating this was a significant change. There’s a different mindset where businesses start to think about their overall network extending to the home and you want to have rock solid connectivity for your employees.”
Independence Research conducted a national survey in mid-February 2022 of over 1000 IT professionals who participate in their company's spending decisions. Among the many concerns these decision makers had during the pandemic, technology issues came up third at 39%, behind staffing (50%), supply chain (43%), and handily exceeding pre-COVID concerns such as financing, regulation, taxes, and healthcare.
Businesses spent more on employee connectivity because of the obvious fact people weren’t going into the office due to pandemic restrictions., Further data showed businesses were also making larger investments in internet backup services, with 28% of respondents indicating they had made or planned to make major changes to add the service.
“There's a big opportunity for service providers to bundle in internet backup with internet connectivity,” said Davis. “If you think of a combination with internet backup and Wi-Fi with internet connectivity for businesses, it means maybe you’re moving to fiber.”
COVID also provided the impetus for communications upgrades on a minor scale with higher-quality videoconferencing services driving adjustments, along with adding subscribers to existing services and upgrading to the next service level. Around 61% of respondents said better picture and sound quality were an issue that needed to be addressed while 36% said they migrated from an older system onto a new voice platform during the pandemic.
But more supportive work-from-home policies and communications upgrades didn’t result in an overall plus up of the IT budget. “There’s a fair amount of reduced spending in mobile voice and data,” said Davis. “Between 12% to 15% of businesses indicated they reduced spending in telecom services throughout the pandemic.” With more people staying at home and businesses subsidizing home connections, paying for mobile usage became less important since employees were traveling substantially less.
Listen to the latest Fiber for Breakfast podcast with Matt Davis to learn more on how the pandemic shifted business IT priorities.