Hybrid work has become a popular topic with the slow recovery from a global pandemic that suddenly threw many people into virtual working and left companies unprepared for the change. Unfortunately for some organizations, many of these newly minted remote workers came to like it and aren’t in any hurry to return to an office setting for 40-plus hours per week. That’s where hybrid work comes in, offering both employers and employees the best of both worlds.
Companies are looking for ways to gradually bring employees back without using heavy-handed tactics that might negatively affect employee retention. But as you’ll see from the statistics below, work location preference is very important to employees, and it’s growing in importance. Let’s take a closer look at what this means moving forward.
Hybrid work by the numbers
There’s every indication that distributed working scenarios are poised to become the worldwide norm, and many businesses will now need to support three physical locations: the corporate office, the home office, and remote/mobile settings. According to the NTT Ltd. Intelligent Workplace Report, before the pandemic, about 30 percent of employees were working remotely, and that number rose to 50 percent who were teleworking at least some of the time.
And it doesn’t look like there will be a mass re-arrival to the office, either. When asked in our 2021 Future of Technology survey, 64 percent of employees agree that working from anywhere versus coming into the office directly affects whether they stay or leave a job.
Additionally, Cisco’s Return to Office surveys from February and August 2021 show that prior to the pandemic, an average of 63 percent of global employees were working in the office at least three days per week. That number has since dropped to just 19 percent as of August. Because this affects employee retention, we recommend paying close attention to your employees’ needs and design hybrid workspaces that address their preferences, play to their strengths, and ensure that work gets done in a safe, secure, and flexible way.
Providing a seamless experience in hybrid workspaces
Now that we’re seeing work preferences shifting from a pre-pandemic mindset, we’re helping businesses transform their physical workspaces so they’re better designed for collaboration and connection. There should be a purpose for employees to come into the office that transcends sitting in a cubicle, so we feel physical and virtual offices should work together to provide engaging and inclusive experiences for everyone.
It’s important that home use remains seamless and offers the same wireless network quality and reliability as found in the office. This lowers the complexity and improves the overall experience. Network resiliency and uptime are paramount, so users with home routers should have access to a cellular backup to ensure critical work remains uninterrupted.
Cisco’s Hybrid Work model provides flexibility, meaning it allows everyone to “show up” in the best way for them so that all participants can attend regardless of where they are, be that a physical/home office or on the move. This pandemic has presented us with the opportunity to rethink how we collaborate and innovate and leverage the power of technology to be purposeful in creating a culture of inclusion.
In this new normal, it’s important to understand employee preference and combine that with actual business needs. The work location should no longer determine access to an organization’s opportunity and talent acquisition strategy. Bringing people together even when not physically present should be the long-term goal, and many companies already successfully employ the powerful Webex platform. This effort should include managing proximity for better inclusivity, improving workplace design to support all employees (whether remote on on-prem), making a team’s hybrid work strategy clear to align common goals, and focusing on the individual’s wellbeing.
On this last point, for a better employee experience, you might consider leveraging Webex People Insights. People Insights is a great example of how technology can aid our wellbeing strategies, such as:
- Ensuring we aren’t “always-on”
- Setting appropriate boundaries
- Putting in place tools and methods to manage Return to Office (RTO) anxiety
- Re-establishing the human connection
- Understanding what “normal” looks like at an individual level
- Acknowledging what’s going on with each other’s personal and professional priorities
Other challenges to consider
Just like we’ve experienced at Cisco, there are many hurdles our customers are or will be facing in the coming months as they move to a hybrid work model. These challenges include:
- Leveling the playing field so the home is just as connected as the office
- Ensuring everyone has the right level of connectivity – there’s greater demand for stable, fast, and secure networks and this must be affordable for all. Cisco Silicon One is an example of how our technology makes these networks much more power-efficient in the move toward sustainable, lower-cost power sources. By lowering the cost point of the infrastructure delivering the services, we can better focus on connecting the unconnected.
- Rural broadband is another real challenge and in response we’ve created the Rural Broadband Customer advisory council as a forum to bring together service providers and our own experts, enabling solutions that will change lives for the better.
- Secure networks – collaboration solutions need to be secure since participants and devices need to be anywhere, moving in and out of company networks. Cisco Zero Trust security protects against active and passive attacks by requiring certification from every meeting participant before they gain access.
- New demands for IT organizations, such as the need to empower IT administrators to support end-users, devices, and environments, and to troubleshoot on the fly — all from a single pane of glass.
- Reporting on the quality of the home-user experience using software like ThousandEyes
- Navigating fixed, wireless, and fixed wireless access
- Training – Overcoming barriers on adopting new technologies and skills
- Ensuring hybrid work really is hybrid, not just a continuation of working from home
We’re here to help
Obviously, a hybrid work model will present just as many challenges to business as the remote work paradigm did during the height of the pandemic. That’s why we’re here to help. We encourage you to speak with a sales specialist to learn more about what we can do to improve your hybrid work model and make it successful for both your organization and your employees.
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