Place-ism is the bias that “knowledge work” should happen in a specific place in a particular way. A common example of place-ism is the belief that when it comes to multi-person activities like meetings, these should happen in meeting rooms.

It is easy to see where such an attitude came from. Up until the current age of mobile technologies, the office meeting room really was the only way to share information and collaborate with a group of people. Even the advent of laptops couldn’t change this. Laptops, and later, tablets, gave people the freedom to work – from home, in coffee shops and in airports – but not really work together.

And there’s no question, meeting rooms still provide a valuable service in terms of communicating and collaborating, and they will always remain a central component of any workplace.

But they are no longer the only collaborative option.

We have moved into a more versatile, borderless age in which we are now able to both work and collaborate from anywhere. That’s a big leap forward. Cisco’s industry-leading tools like Webex Teams and Webex Meetings connected to Webex Devices allow teams to plug in easily, hold a meeting, have a conference, work on documents, and see and hear everything, securely and clearly, from wherever everyone happens to be. That’s what we have always worked toward: continually being advanced in the space to improve the overall meeting experience – no matter where you and your people are.

The Number One Challenge Organizations Face Today is Diminishing Employee Satisfaction

With the technology in place and operational, the next challenge is for an organization to transform its culture to fully enjoy the benefits that come with it, and to fully leverage and support the talent and drive of its workforce. And that may be a more pressing issue than many decision-makers realize.

We ran a survey recently on the Future of Work. The results show that the three most significant challenges for organizations today relate to people:

  • diminishing employee satisfaction (34%)
  • an inability to retain top talent (32%)
  • slow decision making (32%)

It’s a people issue. Look at those three items again. The first focuses on dissatisfaction in the quality of life at work. A lot of that has to do with place-ism and a rigid approach to work and process. That’s so sad, given the type of talent that is at stake. Talented people cannot wait for the place-ist mindset.

Our study revealed high expectations from workers. They’re already looking to “accomplish their tasks anywhere they choose, with the ability to focus, meet, collaborate, and share information in the most effective ways possible, along with the flexibility to better control their work-life balance in a diverse, trusting environment.” They want a dynamic, stimulating work experience that fits them, rather than being forced to accommodate a one-size-fits-all modality.

That leads to the second item: the inability to retain top talent. Unhappy employees tend to leave. Regardless of the ups and downs of the economy, people are always looking for the best quality of life possible, and so many of them, young and young at heart, are very aware of their own self-directed career mobility. If the job isn’t fulfilling, many will just leave. The stats bear it out: one-third of millennials will quit and move on if the technology they have to use is outdated.

Thirdly, there’s stodginess within a team’s workstyle. Slow decision-making inevitably happens when you don’t have the right people in a meeting room – those who can see and comment on the content presented. This is typical of most organizations. Traditionally, meetings operate according to hierarchies and an established culture. They are further confounded by jammed schedules that prevent the right people from ever getting together, even if just for a few minutes. That’s so analog. It’s so place-ist.

Breaking Down the Barriers to Productivity and Innovation with Flexibility and Security

Companies that provide a dynamic workplace receive in return the best of peoples’ energy, creativity, and innovation. This is because the tools fit them, and the culture supports them. As the authors of our study point out, “savvy companies focus on creating a work environment – physical and digital – where employees spend more time working effectively.” This means more time spent leveraging their creativity and enthusiasm, and less on rote tasks that can be easily automated.

This, to me, is what borderless is about. It’s more than simply removing the borders around workspaces. It confirms the notion that people should be able to work in different places or modes without compromise. This means making the best use of traditional meeting rooms and newer huddle spaces by ensuring seamless, dynamic access to collaboration technology. It also means clearing away the preconception that mobile users are in some way second-class citizens because they cannot share content, start, or host a meeting. That might have been the case once, but it is no longer. Collaboration tools support individual workstyles and make every person productive in all the places they work, and in all the circumstances in which they interact with others.

It is vital, of course, that such connectivity and interactivity be achieved without compromising security. Cisco takes security extremely seriously across the full stack, which includes the underlying network and the collaboration tools themselves and extends into an organization’s content management policies.

When you have a “borderless” workstyle that doesn’t compromise security, this allows you to involve the right team members, including your extended team, wherever work happens.

So, in meeting rooms, huddle spaces, on the road, at home, in the coffee shop, or at your desk, regardless of the actual place you are in, full collaboration and communication is just a button-push away. That’s a vision I can truly stand behind.

Do you want to learn more? Check out our upcoming webinar, Unpacking the Power Behind Huddle Spaces, here, happening Thursday February 14, 2019, and available on demand afterward.


Aruna Ravichandran

Vice President & Chief Marketing Officer

Webex Collaboration