As small businesses start unearthing themselves from the rubble of the COVID-19 pandemic, one positive outcome they are likely to carry over is letting their employees to continue to work remotely. This trend is part of a larger movement called hybrid work or hybrid office that promises to transform the “how” of work forever. The Cisco 2020 Global Workforce Survey revealed how significant this transformation might be with nearly 60 percent of the survey reporting that they expect to work from home at least eight days every month.
Small businesses are no exception to this rule. If anything, they plan to move toward hybrid work even more aggressively. We learned this from a survey of 600 small businesses showing that almost 85 percent had plans to adopt a “Work from Anywhere” policy for their companies. But implementing a policy without understanding all its ramifications may be counterproductive. Small businesses would be then well-advised to factor in the shared experiences from the last 12 to 18 months from their workers around the world before implementing their policies.
Avanti’s ‘Work from Anywhere’ Journey
The experiences of Avanti Lakshmi Kesavan, a product marketing manager in the Cisco Small Business Marketing organization is such a proof point.
Like many workers during the pandemic, Avanti took advantage of her mandatory remote work situation to expand her workspace beyond her home office. In fact, she took her work roadshow half way around the world, first to Dubai and then to Bangalore during a four-month sojourn through the hospitality of her family and in-laws, from November 2020 to early March 2021.
What did not change was her job, meaning that Avanti was still mostly working with teams in the Pacific Time Zone. Dubai is now 11 hours ahead of San Jose, Calif. while Bangalore is 12 and a half hours ahead. This required Avanti often to be in meetings with team members in the middle of the night or very early in the morning as she committed that her working from these cities would not be disruptive to others.
“I tried diligently to work during ‘San Jose hours’ at both locations,” Avanti said. “But what I learned that it was hard to work just eight hours. I found myself often working much longer to meet with San Jose teams but then also catching up on the work afterwards.”
Avanti enjoying the sights and the company of her family during her four-month ‘Work from Anywhere’ journey through Dubai and Bangalore
Avanti’s extended hours is similar to what remote workers everywhere are reporting. According to the Society for Human Resource Management, almost half of the workforce they surveyed said that they are working longer each week compared to a traditional office setting. Avanti describes this phenomenon as working just “rolling on” as there are little to no cues to stop, such as the need to hit the road to avoid rush hour traffic or to pick up kids from school or daycare.
On a far more positive front, Avanti said the support she received from her team and from Cisco throughout her journey
was exceptional.Cisco provided her all the necessary technologies any knowledge worker needs to work anywhere including
a portable computer (laptop), collaboration tools (Webex), and security (Umbrella cloud security, Duo multi-factor authentication, and AnyConnect virtual private network encryption). Her team members and management also made
every effort to be accommodating, giving her as much flexibility to do her job as possible.
Avanti’s Advice for Small Businesses
All in all, Avanti said she will always look back at her “Work from Anywhere” experiences fondly. It was a refreshing diversion from home office working while she strengthened her bonds with friends, family and even her teammates. Still, she has some advice for the small businesses who are looking to extend or expand their “Work from Anywhere” policies.
One, try to maintain a healthy rhythm of the work day as possible. Small business owners are notorious for working nonstop. Likewise, some of their most diligent workers may also lose themselves in their jobs and not establish the necessary boundaries between on and off work hours. This can lead to burnout. Small business owners should be extra mindful in encouraging workers to keep this boundary intact, even if it must be mandated.
Two, support employees with all the necessary tools to be as productive as they would be in an office. This is especially true for network and device security as “Work from Anywhere” may expose employees and their devices to more security threats than usual. Fortunately, this is something many small businesses already acknowledge as an issue. In the same small business survey referenced earlier, some 70 percent of small businesses reported that security was their top concern in going to a hybrid work model.
Three, invest for the future by accelerating their digital maturity. If “Work from Anywhere” is truly going to be de facto, small businesses may have to upgrade their technology infrastructure and update their business operations processes. This may entail reducing spending on office space, which they can reinvest in optimizing the working experience for their employees. For example, one tool Avanti would have loved to have is a portable, high-def collaboration screen to make Webex sessions that much better.
What’s the next adventure for Avanti? That’s TBD. For now, she’s just enjoying being back in the same time zone with her team and has a good perspective on what it takes to work from anywhere.
For more info
Want to get started in enabling your small business employees to “Work from Anywhere”? Please visit Cisco Secure Remote Work for Small Businesses