DUDLEY is among market towns with access to countryside or the coast that have seen some of the biggest increases in network data across the UK since the start of 2020, according to research.

The town has seen a 49 per cent increase according to the research and analysis of broadband usage during the pandemic by connectivity provider TalkTalk.

Kingston saw the biggest increase in data usage on TalkTalk's network with a 52 per cent rise, followed by Guildford (50 per cent) and Enfield (50 per cent) - with Dudley seeing the fourth largest increase in the UK.

The research carried out by TalkTalk shows market towns with access to scenic countryside and coastal areas are thriving as hybrid working hotspots and that 40 per cent of office workers have moved home or considered moving during the pandemic.

Of those, nearly a quarter (22 per cent) said they would live more than hour away from their office as daily commutes have become a thing of the past.

Living closer to family (27 per cent), finding a more suitable home working space (22 per cent) and living somewhere greener (18 per cent) were the most popular reasons for wanting to move - and 85 per cent of people said they’d be willing to pay more for a home with access to full fibre, high speed broadband for a faster internet connection.

James Suzman, anthropologist and author of Work: A History of How We Spend Our Time, said: “The pandemic has forced employers to conduct a home working experiment they were never willing to take, with spectacularly positive results. And in-home connectivity has played a big role in its success. It’s as if we’ve had a sports car in the garage and have only driven it in traffic up until now.

“Hybrid working is regenerating rural communities, as demonstrated by TalkTalk’s network data. People are looking out for neighbours, shopping locally and spending less time commuting, all of which has obvious environmental, mental health and societal benefits. This is only made possible by fast, reliable connectivity that allows people to work productively and efficiently no matter where they are based.”

Despite past aversions to remote working, business leaders say the hybrid model is here to stay - according to the research.

More than eight in 10 (86 per cent) said their employees were for flexible working policies, while 80 per cent agreed it’s a good idea for the business and employees; and 85 per cent expect to operate some form of hybrid working system moving forward.

Meanwhile 80 per cent of office workers said hybrid working was an important employment benefit, while 86 per cent said a flexible working policy would be key to accepting a new job. Both business leaders and employees expect workers to be in the office two to three days a week.

Employers (92 per cent) and employees (94 per cent) unanimously agreed the new working week would not be possible without employees having access to fast reliable internet in their homes.

Jonathan Kini, managing director of TalkTalk Consumer and Business, said: “We’re proud to play our part in helping people work from home during the pandemic, not just as an employer, but as a provider of the fast, reliable connectivity needed to embrace this shift. With hybrid working set to continue, we’re investing more in keeping our network resilient to meet increased demand. And as part of our commitment to helping Britain build back, we’re rolling out full fibre plans to homes and businesses across the UK at pace- powering this new era of hybrid working.”

The analysis also revealed a broad consensus that employers should subsidise their employees’ home broadband.

Three quarters (75 per cent) of business leaders said they should contribute financially, while nearly half of employees (46 per cent) said the same.