I can’t because of work.” How many times have you heard someone say that, or even worse, uttered that phrase yourself? I’m betting it’s been far too many times, and it is soul crushing when you miss out on something that has personal meaning to you “because of work”. At Cisco, it’s different.

Chris working outside with a laptop at a soccer event.

I’ve experienced a very different phenomenon in my 11 years at Cisco where I’m able to do all the things that have meaning to me – the volunteer activities, community events, and being there for my family – BECAUSE of work. Thanks to the flexibility that Cisco offers and how they actively support volunteerism and work-life balance; if it’s important to you – it’s important to Cisco. And that makes all the difference to me.

So, what have I been able to do because of that flexibility from Cisco? I have four kids (ages 4-14) and I decided early on that I wanted to take an active role in whatever activities and events they were involved in – whether it be school or sports or whatever else.

On the school side, I’ve chaperoned just about every class trip my kids have been on – from pumpkin patches and museums to the Statue of Liberty and overnight camping. My personal favorite is that I’ve been the “house DJ” for our local elementary school the past few years, overseeing the music & emceeing for all their dances and formals throughout the year!

On the youth sports side, I’ve coached baseball, basketball, and soccer – basically every sport my kids have done. And with soccer, I also served as president of our local non-profit youth sports organization that provides year-round soccer for hundreds of boys & girls in New Jersey. As it’s an entirely volunteer run organization, as president, I was responsible for pretty much everything from financials, marketing & PR to player/parent issues, painting field lines, coaching, and chairing our board meetings – which of course ran on Webex!

You’re probably reading all this and wondering two things…

1. How many hours do you spend on these activities? I honestly couldn’t even tell you how many hours I’ve volunteered across these many activities but it’s like having a second job.

2. How do you balance it with work? Cisco allows me to do all this with a few key benefits:

  • This year, Cisco has given employees a whopping EIGHTY hours that we can use for volunteer work at nonprofits and around our community. We’re told – “It’s Your Time. Your Cause. Your Passion.” I have made great use of those hours over the years – especially for events & activities that are held during the weekday or that I couldn’t do after normal work hours like chaperoning field trips.

Chris and his family picking pumpkins.

  • Cisco’s Work/Life Integration. I’m sure you’ve heard people say the 9-5 job is dead, and it’s been replaced by something much more balanced – something that works best (and uniquely) for each employee. I love that I’m not confined to working during a specific window as some of my most productive working time is after 10pm when my kids are in bed. I may be on calls with customers and colleagues from APJC when no one else in my house is awake or I may step out during lunch in between calls to paint the lines on a soccer field for the games the upcoming weekend. (Which is a great way to not only volunteer but also to mentally decompress and get a few extra steps in!)

Plus, with tools like messaging in the Webex app and asynchronous video with VidCast, we have lots of collaboration options that are not just synchronous/real time.

  • Being a remote worker. I’ve worked from home for the past 11 years – since my first day at Cisco. When I’m not traveling (which seems like a distant memory at this point!), my commute is walking down a flight of stairs to my basement office. The amount of time I save not having to commute adds up fast – and those are hours that I use much more productively (like spending time with my family) than sitting in horrendous New Jersey traffic!

 This is one reason we’re seeing such a great rise in hybrid work. Many workers who left the office and finally got to experience this flexibility over the past year and half fell in love with it, and they’re not eager to give it up and return to the office.

  • Support from my management chain. Having the policies is one thing. Having management that actively supports those policies is another. I have had a great experience at Cisco where my management chain has fully supported me in my various volunteer areas. There’s a reason Cisco is always at the top of the Best Places to Work surveys – and it’s not just because of our policies; it’s because our people up and down the hierarchy live and breathe our culture of flexibility.

It takes A LOT of time and dedication to volunteer this much and be this involved. ALL these activities are important to me and provide me with a deep sense of fulfillment in life. But NONE of this would have been possible without the flexibility and support from Cisco. It’s what makes me proud and thankful that Cisco has not only led in technology but focuses on their people and leads in work/life balance, flexibility, and remote/hybrid work.


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Chris Palermo

Team Collaboration GTM Lead