Category Archives: Gadget Man

New tech solution will address the ‘cocktail party problem’ 

  • Leading listening tech provider, Nuance Hearing, has launched a state-of-the-art directional microphone to help address the ‘cocktail party problem’. 
  • The ‘cocktail party problem’ – an inability to understand speech in a noisy environment – can affect up to 41 per cent of adults, according to research. 
  • The Voice Selector Converse uses built-in microphones and an advanced algorithm to track the source of sounds, allowing the user to easily focus on a conversation and tune out background noise. 
  • In tests, users were able to understand speech on average three times better than without the product. 
Nuance Hearing - New tech solution will address the 'cocktail party problem' 
Nuance Hearing – New tech solution will address the ‘cocktail party problem’

Nuance Hearing, a leading global provider of focused listening technology, has launched a new device that provides powerful relief from auditory distraction and background noise. 

The Voice Selector Converse helps overcome challenging hearing situations for those who struggle with the ‘cocktail party problem’, offering a tech solution to understand conversations in a crowded room, without the need for hearing aids. 

Using cutting-edge beamforming technology, eight built-in microphones track the source of sounds, reducing the level of background noise and enabling the user to focus on the dominant voice. The result is a world-leading directivity index (the relative reduction of overall noise in relation to the target sound) of 15dB in real-time performance, which compares to an industry-standard of 4-5dB. This improvement helps the listener to focus, effortlessly tuning out the sounds that do not matter and tuning into the ones that do. 

In audiology testing, users were able to understand speech on average three times better than without the product. 

Ori Goren, CEO of Nuance Hearing, said: “Since 2015, we have been delivering powerful and advanced hearing solutions that deliver optimum performance. We know that many people in the UK are suffering in silence, unable to feel comfortable or enjoy conversing in busy environments, and are proud to have launched an innovative tech solution to help combat this. Through innovative technological solutions, we are passionate about improving the quality of life for a diverse group of people, making every environment more accessible and helping ensure personal success and empowerment.” 

New research* suggests that 41 percent of all UK adults admit to having the ‘cocktail party problem’ where they struggle to understand speech in a noisy environment. Over a third (36 percent) said noisy environments caused them stress and anxiety and 60 percent of those with hearing problems said they would be open to trying out tech to help them hear in a busy environment.

The Voice Selector Converse has unique auto-steering technology which picks up the dominant speaker, even when they are moving about. Alternatively, the user can manually switch between speakers when conversing a group. 

It also captures, processes, and plays audio at a record speed of six milliseconds (0.006 seconds). It’s a multifunctional device and can be used as a table microphone or remote microphone – ideal for most scenarios where background noise can be an issue. 

Hearing loss currently affects 12 million people in the UK. The World Health Organisation estimates that 1 in 5 people worldwide live with hearing loss, expected to rise to 1 in 4 by 2050. Unaddressed hearing loss can have a devastating impact on people’s ability to communicate, study and earn a living. It can also impact on people’s mental health and their ability to sustain relationships1 and has recently been associated with a faster degree of cognitive decline. On average, people wait ten years before getting help for hearing loss. The ‘cocktail party problem’ where people have difficulty understanding speech in noisy situations can often be the first sign of a hearing loss.                                                                          

Franki Oliver, audiology specialist, RNID, said:“While it might not seem obvious at first, having difficulty understanding speech in background noise is usually one of the early signs of hearing loss. The ‘cocktail party problem’ is the name used to describe the brain’s inability to filter out background noise and tune into what someone is saying in a busy environment. Most people with hearing loss experience difficulty in these situations. 

“It’s important to check your hearing if you start to notice difficulty in background noise, feel that people mumble, or you ask people to repeat themselves. It’s second nature for people to have their eyes checked regularly but we don’t have the same attitude towards getting our hearing checked yet. The sooner hearing loss is identified, the earlier someone can start benefiting from life-changing hearing devices. Hearing loss can also be linked to conditions such as dementia so early intervention is vital.”

Gadget Man – Episode 173 – Repair your own Apple devices?

I’m back again for a new episode of the podcast which features me chatting to Lesley Dolphin at BBC Radio Suffolk about Apples plans to allow their devices to be repaired.

Pretty much everyone is in shock at this decision, which isn’t quite as welcome as it could be.

Listen in to the stream to find out more!

 

HTC Vive Flow – Virtual Reality that put Wellbeing at the Forefront

As a person with an avid interest in technology, getting the chance to review a new piece of Virtual Reality kit was very exciting, so when I was invited to review the new HTC Vive Flow a week before their official launch on October 14th, I jumped at the chance!

So on the morning of October 8th, I set off to Dingley Place in London to find out more.

Dingley Place near Old Street
Dingley Place near Old Street

The preview event was hosted at a modern shoot location near Old Street, and it presented as a modern apartment and outside space, which turned out to be an ideal place to experience this new tech.

The location in Dingley Place
The location in Dingley Place

HTC now have been producing cutting edge ‘room scale’ virtual reality headsets since 2015 and have both consumer and professional solutions available in the marketplace.

Vive Flow uses an Android smartphone as the pointer
Vive Flow uses an Android smartphone as the pointer

Typically, VR headsets are quite large and cumbersome and work in conjunction with hand controllers and connect to a reasonably powerful  PC or dedicated console which does most of the legwork, with mainly immersive virtual reality action games. Not something you can readily carry around with you.

Vive Flow - Image Credit: HTC Vive
Vive Flow – Image Credit: HTC Vive

With the launch of the Vive Flow, HTC has turned this whole idea on its head. Rather than focus on 3D action games, instead, HTC has positioned the device primarily in the mindfulness and wellbeing space, with lightweight ‘glasses’ that connect to your Android smartphone (which doubles up as the hand controller).

Vive Flow
Vive Flow

The glasses themselves are very light, coming in at 180g which I was told was the weight of a bar of chocolate. The front of Vive Flow’s lenses has a  mirror finish with a camera hidden behind each lens for motion tracking and a ‘pass-through’ view.

VIVE Flow - image credit HTC Vive
VIVE Flow – image credit HTC Vive

Rather than using a full wraparound design, the Flow fit like standard glasses with speakers built into each arm. The goggles fit very comfortably over the eyes using a soft material, there is also an active cooling system that blows cool air onto your skin when it detects heat increasing.

The Vive Flow uses a very advanced lens system which is one of the reasons why the device is so like, this also allows for diopter adjustment which means many glasses users will be able to use the device without wearing them.

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Each lens has a high-resolution display at 3.2k combined (2x 2.1” LCD 1600 x1600 per eye). The displays refresh at 75mhz and have a field of view of 100 degrees. Onboard storage is 4GB RAM + 64GB ROM.

The glasses are designed to be powered via an adapter, they do contain a battery for management purposes rather than completely wire-free use.

I tried 5 different modes of use.

  1. Mindfulness and Chillout Area – I experience the mindfulness side of this technology where I was transported to a beach someone exotic and watch the sunrise, whilst I was gently coached on my breathing and reached a really nice calm place!
  2. Disney+ – Here I was able to experience the full cinematic version of the Disney+ streaming platform and had a chance to watch a segment of Free Guy starring Ryan Reynolds. The video quality was exceptional as was the surround sound. It was very impressive!
  3. Pirates – This was a VR pirate game where I had to shoot cannonballs at pirate ships – Lots of fun!
  4. V&A Curious Alice – This was an interactive experience in conjunction with the Victoria and Albert Museum. It was really good fun again, you can find out more here.
  5. Lo-Fi Cafe – I really liked this experience, it was an incredibly immersive and calming experience. I was sitting in a Cafe with a steaming coffee in front of me, music playing on a record player, an open book on the table and a laptop. There were empty tables which I was able to transport over to. I could also surf the internet in a VR browser. I could also draw and write in thin air. Most importantly, I found it really relaxing. Living in a house that can be very very noisy, I really felt I could actually take myself away from the hustle and bustle of life into that virtual cafe and watch the rain running down the window and just relax.

I realised more than anything was that VR has indeed reached a point when the brain can be fooled enough to be calmed into a sense of relaxation wherever you might be. In a workplace, busy home or even on a transatlantic flight. I was very, very impressed.

HTC Vive Flow Working in LoFi
HTC Vive Flow Working in LoFi – Image Credit HTC Vive

The Vive Flow is priced at £499, which is no small amount of money, but comparable with other headsets on the market.

I have a set arriving soon, so expect an in-depth look very shortly!

More information can be found  HERE

 

Cashing In: First Look at the EV Charger that gives you Rewards and Puts Your on the Road to Net Zero, Simply by Plugging In

The demand for convenient, intelligent, and incentivised electric vehicle charging has been met with the launch of the INDRA Smart Pioneer.

Unveiled to drivers for the first time at Fully Charged OUTSIDE 2021, INDRA’s Smart Pioneer signals a new standard for electric car charging. With a simple plugin and go message for users, the charger is an intuitively smart piece of kit, making it easy for drivers to shift their charging patterns to off-peak times, save money and earn rewards.

Indra Smart PRO at Fully Charged OUTSIDE
Indra Smart PRO at Fully Charged OUTSIDE

Coupling leading technology with reliability, the Smart Pioneer helps drivers to reduce their environmental impact. By managing their charging schedule and shifting up to 80% of energy use to off-peak tariffs, it can lessen the demand on the grid and see customer carbon emissions fall by an average of 20%.

Working in tandem with the ev.energy companion app, the rewards platform automatically taps into the times when energy is at its cheapest, and offers rewards back, meaning drivers can claim over £250* per year in energy savings, retail incentives and get involved in projects like local tree planting to help offset their carbon emissions.

Ben Kelsey, Chief Operating Officer at Indra, chatting to Matt Porter at Fully Charged OUTSIDE
Ben Kelsey, Chief Operating Officer at Indra, chatting to Matt Porter at Fully Charged OUTSIDE

Commenting on the benefits of smart charging sessions Indra’s founder and chief technology officer, Mike Schooling, comments:

“Households that drive a lot of miles on electricity, and charge mostly on electricity, need smart charging to avoid putting more demand on the UK’s power supply. We know that drivers are happy to shift their charging patterns to off-peak times, but they need peace of mind that it will be simple to do and reliable so that when they get in their car at 6 am for work they can get straight on the road.”

Continuing to break down charging barriers, INDRA’s latest product builds on the initial success of its Smart PRO. With an extended 5-year warranty, the Smart Pioneer also offers all the same benefits as the INDRA Smart PRO, including smart-scheduling, house-fuse protection, solar panel integration and advanced safety features – meaning EV drivers can guarantee safety and ultimate utilisation of renewable energy.

INDRA Founder and CTO Mike Schooling, ev energy and Robert Llewellyn with the INDRA Smart Pioneer
INDRA Founder and CTO Mike Schooling, ev energy and Robert Llewellyn with the INDRA Smart Pioneer

Schooling, further adds: “Electric car sales have surged to 17% market share and innovative, smart charging is key to greater uptake of electric cars so that number keeps rising. The launch of our Smart Pioneer is a step-change in the smart optimisation of EV chargers and will be the world’s first commercially available V1G product that rewards customers for being flexible with when they charge their EV at home.”

The Smart Pioneer collaboration between INDRA and ev.energy sees drivers getting rewards passed on from the V1G smart charging technology, something which is a world-first proposition from a charge point company.

V1G charging varies the time and rate at which an electric vehicle is charged to respond to surges in power demand. This type of smart charging can harness extra revenue, above a driver’s tariff savings, by accessing flexibility services across the distribution operator and National Grid.

The Smart Pioneer uses leading technology to aggregate thousands of devices to provide a local or national response to grid events and when revenue is generated, shares those back with drivers.

Nick Wooley, CEO at ev.energy, concludes: “We’ve admired INDRA for a really long time, they have a fantastic history of building great products so we’re really excited to be partnering to bring even more drivers cheaper, greener charging.”

For more information about the Indra Smart Pioneer, visit: https://www.indra.co.uk/smart-pioneer-ev-charger

Essential Tips For Buying Auto Parts Online

Since 2017, online purchases of auto parts in the UK shot up to £21.6 billion, and the numbers are expected to increase even more by the close of 2021. Online shopping has become more popular, and for this reason, more customers are resorting to this convenient means to purchase items. This is even more critical in the car sector due to the influx of scammers lurking on virtual portals to outwit buyers. How can you make your online auto part purchase as hassle-free as possible? Here are a few essential things to know when buying auto parts online.

  • Know the differences in car parts

Auto parts differ in categories. Some specific technical terms associated with these parts that are worthy of note are: 

  • Used car parts
  • Genuine/OE/OEM (Original Equipment Manufacturer)
  • Aftermarket

The used car parts refer to auto parts that are salvaged from scrap vehicles. Sometimes, they’re sourced from wrecked or accident vehicles. Although these types may come cheap, they could pose problems later as the risk of compromised quality is high and may not be worth buying for long-term usage. 

On the other hand, the aftermarket parts refer to auto spare parts designed by another company different from your car manufacturer. This option can also save you money but could pose some challenges when getting the right specification to suit your automobile is concerned.

Lastly, the OEM and genuine parts are the most ideal, as there’s the assurance of the auto part coming from a trusted manufacturing brand. Moreover, they’re reliable and safe to use. Although they’re typically pricier than the other types on the market, it’s worth going for them.

  • Opt to have the parts shipped

There are varied forms of auto parts delivery after purchasing them online. Usually, this is where the confusion starts. While some online stores offer to deliver them to a central location for pickup, others prefer the buyer to ship the items themselves. However, you can rely on Shiply to ship the parts you buy online and subsequently have them delivered to you. It’s a hassle-free system that allows buyers to enjoy the convenience of online shopping for auto-parts.

  • Purchase from a secure online marketplace

Due to the influx of e-commerce, especially in the auto sector, it can be tough to detect credible ones from fake establishments. Who can you trust in such a ‘noisy’ marketplace? Fortunately, there are tips to help you make that decision. First of all, focus only on trusted names and known online stores that many people buy from. Avoid falling into the traps of online shops that promise huge discounts and too-good-to-be-true offers. More so, when there appear to be no contact details on the website, that’s another red flag.

Be wary of those because many scammers prey on unsuspecting buyers with these tactics. To be on the safer side, focus your attention on online retailers with secure checkout mechanisms. Secondly, look up their return policy indicated on the said website. Moreover, if the online shop offers monthly instalment plans, you can be assured of their authenticity. For example, splitit.com is one such online retailer that offers this option for its buyers.

Buying auto parts online can be risky when you lack the requisite insight on how you should do it. Your focal point must be getting your money’s worth, avoiding scammers, and opting for easy delivery methods.

Gadgets to Make Your Day to Day Life Easier

Photo by Oleg Magni from Pexels
Photo by Oleg Magni from Pexels

Life can feel tough at the moment. We’re all trying to make our way, day by day, through a global pandemic where we face constant uncertainty, struggles and difficulties. Government restrictions to slow the spread of the virus have resulted in countless changes to our routines and many of us are still growing used to spending more time alone and away from those we love. Many of us are also facing financial difficulties, as we experience job loss, redundancy, reduced hours or reduced pay. It’s not all too surprising, then, that many of us are feeling tired of constant stress and are looking for any and every way to make our lives a little easier on ourselves. Of course, where there is demand, someone will supply. So, it’s not all too surprising that there are increasing numbers of gadgets entering the marketplace that has been specifically designed to ease up your life in some way or another. Here are a few that you might want to consider!

Button Pushers

Many of us have routines that involve pressing certain switches at certain times throughout the day. Perhaps you want your lights to turn on at a certain time to alert others that you’re home. You might turn your heating on at a certain time each morning or evening to make sure your home is the right temperature. Perhaps you turn your hot water on at a particular time to ensure you have enough water for showers, washing up, baths or anything else at a set time of day. Sure, this is a small task, but often, we forget to press the switches and this can throw a spanner in the works of our day. Instead, why not consider automatic button pushers? These are devices that will press a switch or button at a time that you set and choose. Research different models to make sure that they press firmly enough to do their job in your home!

Liquid Level Sensors

Do you find yourself regularly having to top up liquid levels in your home? Is there a certain tank that needs to be refilled at a certain point? Rather than constantly having to check, you could use a liquid level sensor that will alert you when you need to top fluid or liquid levels up.

Noise Cancelling Headphones

Many of us are coping with the switch to working from home. This can, for those of us who don’t live alone or those of us who have noisy neighbours, can entail dealing with trying to work in noisy environments. This is less than ideal and can negatively impact productivity. So, why not invest in noise-cancelling headphones? These can provide you with the silence you want to work in!

These are just a few different gadgets that are available on the market and that could make all the difference to your daily routine. Each has its own uses and benefits and will likely prove more than worth the investment in saved time and increased productivity!

How to Choose Cloud Storage for Your Photos

The cloud is the most practical and secure way to store your photos. You’ll have continual access to a digital backup of your memories. You also won’t have to worry about overloading your hard disk or your smartphone. With cloud storage, you can share your photos as well, but providers also give the option to set privacy restrictions. They have state-of-the-art resources to keep them encrypted for you. There are certain features you need to look for in a cloud storage provider. Here are some of the top ones reviewed, both paid and free.

Tips for choosing cloud storage

Cloud storage is great for those working from home and sharing documents. It’s also ideal for backing up your photos. There are several key cloud storage features to look for when choosing a cloud storage provider. Cloud services come with an app so ensure this is compatible with your brand of smartphone or tablet. Not all providers are free, but they will offer a certain amount of space before you need to sign up for a subscription. 

Generally, all providers accept JPEG files Certain providers will allow you to upload different types of files including TIFFS, RAW, and video or music files. Before signing up with a provider, it’s a good idea to calculate how much space you’re realistically going to need and for what type of files. This way, you can work out whether it’s worth paying for a subscription or not. If storage is becoming an issue for you, you also have the option to delete duplicate photos from your smartphone, this article explains how to do it, https://backlightblog.com/delete-iphone-duplicate-photos. It’s up to you whether you decide to move your photos to the cloud.

Top cloud storage providers

There are several big names in cloud storage and Google, Microsoft and Adobe all have their own version. Other top cloud storage providers include IDrive and pCloud. Here is a quick review of each. 

IDrive

IDrive is great for photographers who use multiple devices and are concerned about security. It’s a very reliable cloud storage provider and has an excellent security rating. Your photos are protected by biometrics and you can set up face recognition for accessibility across all devices. The free plan allows a maximum of 5GB which can fill up quite quickly, depending on the number of photos and other files you have. If you need more space, you can upgrade to a yearly subscription. IDrive is user-friendly and fast. It also has features such as syncing photos and robust reporting tools.

pCloud

pCloud is ideal if you want to store files of various types. It’s not free but the provider offers a unique lifetime subscription for a one-off payment of £159 for 500GB or £309 for 2TB. There are also monthly plans available. pCloud provides state-of-the-art encryption and only the user will have access to their accounts, not even the company’s administrators. You can store any type of video or image file including RAW files, and you can share your files with up to four family members or your business. You can essentially send and receive large files to and from anyone. pCloud is a Swiss company and follows Swiss data laws, they also use first-class safety measures.

Google Photos

Google Photos offers storage for photos and videos and each Google account comes with up to 15GB for free. Google Drive is set up for file sharing and it’s easy for multiple users to access and edit files. It couldn’t be simpler to use although it isn’t the most stylish of platforms. It is, however, fully compatible with other apps as part of G Suite and can be synced with any devices and cameras with WiFi access. You can also top up your storage for as little as £1.59 per month for 100GB. The great thing about Google is that it also uses machine learning technology to label and archive photos, and makes suggestions to you based on your history and preferences. It uses metadata which allows you to find pictures easily based on date and place, and in general it’s very quick and convenient to use. 

Microsoft OneDrive

Microsoft OneDrive provides a similar cloud storage service to Google, but is an integrated part of the Microsoft Office package. It is possible to use Microsoft OneDrive as a standalone deal, however, which is free up to 5GB and then £1.99 per month for up to 100GB. The other Microsoft Office apps aren’t included in these packages, so it depends on if you need them or not. The full Microsoft Office 365 starts at £5.99 a month. Microsoft OneDrive is easy to use and can be accessed on unlimited devices. While it’s not solely designed for photographers, it’s still a safe and convenient place to store your pictures. 

Adobe Creative Cloud

Adobe Creative Cloud is more specifically aimed at photographers, professional and amateur alike. This does, however, mean it’s a little bit more expensive than other more basic cloud storage providers, but there are more advanced photography-based features such as stylish image libraries and editing options. Adobe offers a free trial for those interested and the basic photography app starts at just £9.98 a month. You can upgrade this to include all the Adobe apps for £49.94, which is a good deal for those with a passion for photography. Adobe Creative Cloud is compatible with Windows, MAC, Android, and iOS and you can upload all types of files from any device. 

The cloud storage provider you choose depends on what you’re going to use it for, how many files you have, and which type. If you’re an experienced photographer or you want to develop your skills, Adobe Creative Cloud has more photography-based features. If you’re on more of a budget and simply want a backup of a few family photos, then a basic free cloud storage option is probably more suited to you. Upload and protect your memories on the cloud today.

McLEAR Launches RingPay With New Features, Rewards And Exclusive Membership Club Benefits

On a continued mission to make life more convenient, McLEAR has been quietly enhancing the world’s most frictionless way to pay.

Smart Ring pioneers McLEAR launches RingPay to market. The payment wearable is packed with new features and exclusive benefits; RingPay Rewards, RingPay+ and RingPay Giving.

RingPay Transport
RingPay by McLEAR

RingPay by McLEAR makes payments fast, secure, and invisible. Users can make contactless payments of up to £45, and top up their ring by simply adding their preferred credit or debit card onto the RingPay app. The app allows users to track their spending in real-time, control their budgets, set automatic top-ups, respect physical distancing guidelines, and in case of loss, instantly freeze their Ring.

RingPay POS
RingPay POS

Making payments rewarding, McLEAR’s partnership with parsnip also allows users to earn in-store cash back at the growing number of selected retailers in the RingPay Rewards Programme, such as Nike, Foot Locker, Gap and River Island. A wearable so smart it pays for itself.

Ringholders can save significant amounts on everyday purchases by subscribing to RingPay+, premium members’ club to gain access to fantastic discounts and cashback, generated through hundreds of merchants across numerous categories including entertainment ticket bookings, cinema trips, restaurant offers, hotel discounts and holiday travel deals.

In addition, the RingPay Giving feature, let’s Ringholders choose to automatically send a micro-sized donation to their chosen charity when they make a purchase using their Ring. Ringholders control how much they give using monthly donation caps, and charities benefit from free Gift Aid reports allowing them to claim an extra 25% on all donations given. This social impact service is turning every contactless payment reader into a charity collection bucket!

The discreet and premium RingPay design is scratch-resistant, stress-tested, waterproof and requires no battery. Simply use McLEAR patented fist bump technology at any contactless reader for ‘blink and you’ll miss it’ payments. Forget the days of unlocking your phone or emptying your pockets. It’s always there on your finger, ready to go.

Daniel Blondell, Chief Operating Officer said: “The mission with RingPay is to improve the payment experience; making it faster, effortless and more rewarding. Whether commuting to work, picking up some essentials or off on your travels, RingPay by McLEAR gives you peace of mind knowing your finances are safely in-hand. Just kick back and fist pump your way to better spending and awesome rewards.”

We are reviewing the RingPay, so stay tuned for our thoughts!

For more info or to purchase your RingPay, visit www.mclear.com and get a Black Friday discount of 30% off when you use the code BF2020

Gadget Man – Episode 172 – Cat S42 Smartphone

Yesterday, I had the pleasure of talking to Tim Shepherd, Senior Director of Bullitt Group. Bullitt is the sole manufacturer and license holder of CAT Smartphones and Feature-phones.

You can also read the announcement of the CAT S42 Smartphone

The S42 can be cleaned with soap and water
The S42 can be cleaned with soap and water

During the interview, Tim talks in-depth about the ‘Anti-Microbial’ CAT S42 Smartphone which is the world’s first Anti-Bacterial Phone.

You can listen in to the interview in full and if you would like to read about the new device, read out blog-post here.

The CAT S42 Smartphone is currently available to purchase for £228 from Rugged Mobiles the new Anti-Microbial version will be available in early 2021.

 

Managers More Positive about Flexible Working and Working from Home – New Study.

Managers are much more positive about flexible working and staff working from home since the pandemic – says new study.

Managers are much more positive about their staff working from home and working flexibly since lockdown says a new study undertaken jointly by the Equal Parenting Project at the University of Birmingham and the Work Autonomy, Flexibility and Work-Life Balance at the University of Kent.

The report titled ‘Managing Employees during the COVID-19 Pandemic: Flexible working and the future of work’ is based on a UK wide survey with managers which aimed to understand the organisational perspective on managing homeworking since the UK COVID-19 lockdown. During the COVID-19 lockdown, many organisations have been forced to move the majority of their workforce to remote working, often at very short notice. In many cases, these businesses had previously discouraged flexible working and had ‘very little infrastructure in place to support these new ways of working. The question arises, what impact did this shift to homeworking have and what does this mean for the future of work?

To answer this question, the research team undertook a survey of managers between the 24th July to 11th August 2020. The sample consisted of managers from across the UK, an array of industries and all levels of management. In total, 742 managers completed the survey which involved questions around norms for working from home, attitudes toward working from home, trust, key learning experience what tools the organisation supplied to employees to enable them to work from home and what support was made available to the employees.

As the first academic piece of research exploring managerial experiences during the COVID-19 pandemic in the UK, this research discovered that 54.7% of managers reported over 80% of their employees have been working from home since lockdown. As a result of their management experiences during lockdown, fewer managers now believe that presenteeism and long working hours are essential to career progression within organisations. Many managers also reported that working from home increases productivity, concentration, and motivation due to their experiences in lockdown. 58.6% of managers surveyed said that working from home increases productivity whereas only 44.1% agreed with this statement before lockdown.

However, managers also saw some drawbacks, with 58.7% of all those surveyed saying that working from home lead to isolation, and other citing issues around blurring of boundaries as key negative outcomes. Regardless, most managers now believe working from home will become much more commonplace in the future, with more jobs, including senior roles, being advertised as being available for flexible working and more support being made available for home working.

Commenting on the report Dr Holly Birkett, Co-Director of the Equal Parenting Project at the University of Birmingham said:

“The report shows managers are much more positive about working from home and flexible working than they were before the pandemic.  Managers say their organisations are going to be more supportive of homeworking and flexible working in the future, including more likely to support working from home, job shares and part-time working even for Senior roles. This change along with the breakdown of the presenteeism culture and the removal of a flexibility stigma, which existed before COVID -19, could help improve employee wellbeing, help to support people to take on caring roles and break down many of the barriers women face to balancing career and family, with the potential to improve female representation on Boards and close the gender pay gap.”

Overall, the data included in the report has shown that working from home has been commonplace since the initial lockdown and managers have faced a steep learning curve regarding how to manage remote teams often with very little support or guidance.

Despite this, managers have been pleasantly surprised about the results with their teams generally performing really well during this time. While there have been some performance issues these were generally where this was already an issue prior to lockdown.

Dr Sarah Forbes, Co-Director of the Equal Parenting Project said: “Due to positive experiences of working from home and with flexible working patterns amongst their staff, managers are keen to support more working from home and flexible working in the future. This could take the form of better flexible working policies and tools to facilitate this as well as training being readily available for managers to learn how to better support remote workers in their team. However, we also need to understand working remotely over long periods of time can also be very isolating and that some people much prefer working in an office environment.”

Dr Heejung Chung, Principal Investigator of the Work Autonomy, Flexibility and Work-Life Balance Project at the University of Kent said: “As we have also seen in our previous employee survey, the flexible working genie is out of the bottle – more workers want to work flexibly in the future, and as this report has shown, managers now see how flexible working can benefit companies. However, that shift will not be the same for all companies and for all workers. Government policies to help make that cultural shift, by introducing stronger rights to flexible working and better protection against discrimination for flexible workers may help this transition go smoothly after the COVID-19 lockdown measures end.

The full findings and wider recommendation of the report will be announced by Dr Sarah Forbes, Dr Holly Birkett and Dr Heejung Chung at a webinar on 26th November 2020 which has been organised by the Lloyds Banking Group Centre for Responsible Business at the University of Birmingham.

The webinar will also have presentations by Lauren Adams, HR Director at CBI, Daisy Hooper, Head of Policy and Public Affairs at CMI, and Anthony Fitzpatrick, Employee Relations and Global Employment Policy Lead at Aviva will deliver organisational and managers’ perspectives on experiences of remote working during the pandemic and how these experiences are likely to change the future of work.