A third of serving RAF personnel can now benefit from free communal wi-fi provided by the RAF Association. The charity has made a £1.2million investment to keep serving airmen and women connected to their friends and loved ones and it is proving a huge success. Studies show that workplace loneliness leads to poorer performances in tasks and lesser contributions to team roles. The ability to stay connected digitally helps to avoid some of those issues for people stationed away from home.
16 RAF stations and more than 11,000 personnel can now benefit from the free wi-fi. The project came about when the Association was told of the social isolation that many new recruits feel on commencing their service life. Security considerations often prevent access to military wi-fi for personal use and the cost of extra infrastructure to reach the more remote RAF bases is usually prohibitive.
For those housed in single person accommodation, the opportunities to socialise and engage with peers are reduced. Parents are also affected if they are working away from their families. Now the Association’s wi-fi hotspots are set up in communal areas on station to encourage new bonds and to build up relationships that are key for the working environment. The wi-fi also helps personnel to stay in contact with their existing support networks – family, friends, partners and children at home.
Rory O’Connor, Director of Welfare and Policy, RAF Association says: “In this age, we are reliant on digital technology to stay in touch with friends and family, but also to manage our online presence and daily tasks. This is particularly true when it comes to the armed forces community, who are often away from loved ones and pressured to find time within the working day to manage personal affairs. It is vital that when personnel are away from home that they are able to stay connected and alleviate isolation.
“We are dedicated to providing a programme of digital support to all serving personnel, whether they are newly arrived in the service or they are a seasoned professional away from their friends and family on another tour. The free communal wi-fi project allows us to continue to be there for the serving RAF community.”
The Association is also working to connect RAF welfare contact houses to this free wi-fi. The charity has so far refurbished 73 contact houses on 32 stations, ensuring that separated families are able to have somewhere on station where they can reunite in a homely environment. These facilities will be enhanced by the addition of free wi-fi to more than 70 of these houses.
Wing Commander Karen Moran, Officer Commanding Operations and Plans, RAF Halton said: “The project has significantly improved the welfare package and enables our whole force to stay in touch with families and friends.”
 Work loneliness and employee performance, Barsade and Ozcelik, 2011