Market towns 'being regenerated' by UK's hybrid working boom


  • New network data from TalkTalk shows market towns such as Guildford, Dorchester and Halifax have seen significant rises in internet usage during the pandemic
  • Rise of home and hybrid working a major contributor to this increase
  • Research shows less time in the office is allowing employees to consider new places to live
  • Leading anthropologist James Suzman says home working experiment has recharged rural life and forced employers into an unexpectedly successful ‘social experiment’

Wednesday 9th June - Market towns across the UK are thriving as hybrid working hotspots according to new research and analysis of broadband usage* during the pandemic, by connectivity provider TalkTalk.

New network data reveals that market towns such as Kingston (52%), Guildford (52%) and Dudley (49%) have seen some of the largest increases of network data usage in the country since the start of 2020. Reigate & Redhill (48%), Chelmsford (48%) and Dorchester (45%) have also experienced significant growth.

As multiple lockdowns have signalled the end of the traditional five-day office week, research from TalkTalk** shows 40% of office workers have moved home or considered moving during the pandemic. Of these, nearly a quarter (22%) would live more than hour away from their office as daily commutes become a thing of the past.

Living closer to family (27%), finding a more suitable home working space (22%) and living somewhere greener (18%) were the most popular reasons for moving. A fast reliable internet connection is also essential, with 85% saying they’d be willing to pay more for a home with access to full fibre, high speed broadband.

Top market towns identified by increases in data usage on TalkTalk’s network:  


  1. Kingston (52%)
  2. Guildford (50%)
  3. Enfield (50%)
  4. Dudley (49%)
  5. Bromley (48%)
  6. Reigate & Redhill (48%)
  7. Chelmsford (48%)
  8. Dorchester (45%)
  9. Tonbridge (45%)
  10. Shrewsbury (45%)
  11. Huddersfield (44%)
  12. Harrogate (44%)
  13. Colchester (44%)
  14. Halifax (43%)
  15. Taunton (42%)
  16. Darlington (41%)


An experiment no one was willing to take          

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 previous aversions to remote working, business leaders*** say the hybrid model is here to stay. More than eight in 10 (86%) said their employees were for flexible working policies, while 80% agree it’s a good idea for the business and employees. 85% expect to operate some form of hybrid working system moving forward.

This aligns with the wishes of office workers, 80% of which say hybrid working is an important employment benefit, while 86% 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 2-3 days a week.

What the future of Hybrid working looks like

Employers (92%) and employees (94%) unanimously agreed that the new working week would not be possible without employees having access to fast reliable internet in their homes. There is also a broad consensus that employers should subsidise their employees’ home broadband. Three quarters (75%) of business leaders said they should contribute financially, while nearly half of employees (46%) said the same.

The changing face of the office is inevitable, with many employees now seeing it predominately as a space to collaborate on tasks (28%) or as a space to hold important business meetings (20%).  

As business presence spreads into the UK’s Hybrid Working Hotspots, three quarters (74%) of employers said that with formalised working from home arrangements, they now view an employee’s at-home work space as an extension of their office. This means an extension of traditional office etiquette, with many planning to formalise video call rules, such as requesting professional backgrounds (55%), keeping family members off camera (40%) and wearing smart clothes (33%).

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.”

Explaining TalkTalk’s own approach to hybrid working, Kini continues: “We’ve long been advocates of hybrid working, what we refer to internally as ‘dynamic working’. We work with our teams to empower them and agree flexible conditions so they can work in the way that best serves them – and the business. We’re adapting to our colleagues’ needs, from flexing core working hours in the day to remodelling our Salford HQ to make it a more collaborative space.”

Hybrid Working Hotspots Across The UK

With the advantages of living and working from suburban and rural locations clear to see, TalkTalk’s network data shows that the South East and East of England have been the biggest beneficiaries of office workers leaving cities, with an increased internet usage of 46%.  

Meanwhile internet usage in the West Midlands grew by 43%, with the North East, South West and East Midlands all increasing their data usage by 42%.

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* Increase in data usage on TalkTalk’s network between January 2020 and April 2021

** Poll of 2,000 office workers undertaken by Mortar Research in May 2021

*** Poll of 500 business leaders undertaken by Mortar Research in May 2021