What We’ve Learned About Telework at Cisco

January 3, 2011 - 4 Comments

In late September 2010, a Cisco employee somewhere in the world became the 20,000th to begin using Cisco Virtual Office at home.  Cisco Virtual Office, which combines a small business router and IP phone, extends the enterprise wired and wireless network right into our homes. Telework is optional in most cases at Cisco, so the 20,000 milestone underscores the fact that our workforce and the company see the value of telework, and that we have the tools to make it work.

Today, 70% of Cisco employees work from home at least 1 day a week.  Forty percent of Cisco employees don’t work in the same location as their manager.   It’s also easy for our clients to obtain better internet access today.  Over half our employees get upload speeds of over 768 Kbps; about a quarter of them get upload speeds of over 2 Mbps; and download speeds are far faster.

Rewards: Greener Business, Continuity, and General Happiness

When Cisco first adopted telework in 2005, our main motivation was going green by reducing commuting. That’s still true and Cisco employees who telework avoid over 100 million commuting miles per year.  But other benefits have appeared:   we now also consider telework an important strategy for business continuity, office consolidation, and employee recruitment and retention.

For example, when the H1N1 outbreak struck Mexico City in April 2009, a good portion of the local Cisco workforce continued to be productive because, coincidentally, they had just received their Cisco Virtual Office setups. Same thing during the snowstorms in London in February 2010. In both these cases, we didn’t react to an event by shipping out telework gear. (By the time we did, the need would have been over.) Instead, it was the fact that employees already had the tools and experience using them that made telework an effective business continuity strategy.

Telework is also an enabler for real estate savings through office consolidation. When we recently closed our office in Petaluma, California, for instance, most employees decided to telework using Cisco Virtual Office instead of going to work every day in another office, saving real estate costs.

Finally, telework improves work-life balance. To put that in very personal terms, last week I had an 8:00 p.m. conference with team members in India and another one early the next morning with coworkers in Europe. I really, really appreciated not having to drive to the office to take these calls.  That’s one reason that 70 percent of Cisco employees work at least one day a week from home. We also like saving gas money and travel time. The average Teleworker is happy to avoid 95 minutes of commuting each day  ( Interestingly, internal surveys indicate that for every 60 minutes employees save on commuting, they work an extra 40 minutes.) Cisco Virtual Office teleworkers also estimated that they work an additional 8 hours per week, before and after normal working hours.

We’re looking forward to updating these findings inside Cisco, and anticipate that these savings will be even greater as more of our team members continue to sign up for Cisco Virtual Office.

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  1. Gerry, thanks for your reply.

    Yes, in my experience, home broadband access/speed is very good in Tokyo and Japan’s giving S.Korea a good run for their infrastructure money!

    Just to qualify my initial comments a little. There are many small to medium sized businesses here that use flexible working arrangements and want to keep their rental footprint to a minimum.

    btw, I’ve visited Cisco Japan’s HQ in Akasaka and was impressed with the ‘mobile office’ approach within the building. Since road warriors don’t need an office desk most of the time, many fixed costs associated with an employee’s office footprint can be reduced or eliminated. Interesting times we’re living in.

  2. 70% is an impressive number for CVO adoption within Cisco.

    Of course, the US seems very suited to telecommuting because of journey times and a flexible approach to working outside of a company’s premises.

    It would be interesting to see a breakdown by region or even country. It may take longer (if ever…) for the same to catch on in countries like Japan, where housing space is generally much smaller and the “social contract” at many companies has employees grafting away in full view of their managers.

    What % of Cisco Japan staff telecommute one day a week?

    • Hello Mark. I agree, there are definite cultural differences that influence the degree to which a given workforce teleworks. Just to clarify, while around 70% of Cisco employees telecommute at least part time, our CVO adoption (the service is targeted towards hard core teleworkers) is now around 22,000 seats, about 20% of our extended workforce.

      In Japan we have a little over 300 CVO clients, about 16% of the Cisco workforce there. This doesn’t however indicate the number of people there who telecommute at least some of the time since clients there can also use software VPN for occasional remote access.

      This is especially interesting because Japan also has the fastest ISP connections I am aware of; just about anyone there could run high-def video over IP from a home office!

      In a future post I will see if I can provide a workforce breakdown by country as you suggested.


  3. The recent snowstorm made the roads in Raleigh, NC terrible. CVO allowed me to work from home, stay off the roads, and be as productive as if I was in the office. I hit the limits my ISP enforces (15/2), even through CVO.