Flexibility at the heart of Cisco’s vision for hybrid working

Flexibility at the heart of Cisco’s vision for hybrid working

Flexibility at the heart of Cisco’s vision for hybrid working

At its Cisco Live conference this week in Las Vegas, Cisco showcased new products and innovations in its networking, security and collaboration offerings. A theme evident in all the offerings was the intention to provide flexibility and simplicity to customers. From a collaboration perspective, the focus was very much on hybrid work and allowing customers to embrace the flexibility of where and how work takes place. Knowledge workers will spend part of their time in the office, part at home and part on the go and this is a reality most companies will face.

There’s the office, where it’s all about delivering an experience with purpose. It’s not about making the office attractive, it’s about adjusting it to different needs than it was before the pandemic, both from an employee and business perspective. Health and wellness has become a priority as employees are still nervous about returning to the office. Monitoring density and access location analysis to maximize occupancy and keep employees safe can help create a reliable workplace. All companies have sustainability goals to achieve and enable carbon neutral facility operations with eco-friendly lighting and sensors that drive heating and cooling efficiency. Buildings can also rely on technology and automation to reduce costs with physical personnel and utilities. As much as some leaders still worry about productivity in the context of remote work, it is actually the return to the office that can negatively impact productivity.

There’s the house, where it’s all about managing your screen time, especially for video conferences. While many remote workers complain about video fatigue, lockdown has forever changed the way we collaborate, and video will continue to play a significant role in our daily lives. The “could have been an email” meme highlights the real issue, which is power when a meeting of any kind is needed via email or chat. With written communication, we’ve gone from asynchronous with email to synchronous with chat and messaging. In addition to strong personal preferences, we seem to be able to differentiate between what requires an immediate response and what does not.

Interestingly, with the video, we are still learning that some exchanges can be asynchronous. A video message recorded for later consumption can be highly effective and time-efficient. Vidcast, part of the Webex Suite, allows users to record, edit, and share within and outside an organization. At the conference, Cisco previewed a really impressive artificial intelligence feature that allows users to create much more sophisticated video. The feature allows users to use transcription to crop/edit the video, remove filler words, and soon, leverage custom text-to-speech templates for inserts or overdubbing. In the demo I tried, a speaker forgot to add a product name to his video. They inserted it into the script, used a computer-generated voice that matched their own, adjusted the ambient sound to match the initial recording, and switched the segment in a few clicks.

And, of course, there is displacement. In the last two years, most knowledge workers have freed themselves from commuting time. While that time might have served as a buffer to catch up on emails in the morning and relax after leaving the office at night, no one is really looking forward to wasting precious time while driving in traffic. So WebEx’s newly announced ability to integrate with Apple CarPlay might not have come as a surprise. The new feature lets you start a WebEx meeting on your Mac or iPad and move it to your phone by scanning a QR code. Once you get to your car, you connect to CarPlay and the call will be transferred to your car console. When your call ends, you can view your upcoming meetings and join CarPlay directly as an audio-only call. Cisco also announced an agreement with Ford for in-car integration of Webex Meetings.

I have underlined how the core of hybrid work is really how we work and not where we work. Whether working from home, in a different office, or just three desks down the hall, workflows incorporate chats, video calls, shared documents stored in the cloud, digital whiteboards, and more. This underlines a reality that most knowledge workers live with on a daily basis – workflows are very diverse. Let’s recognize that the way we work has changed forever.

Most organizations are thinking about keeping their employees happy and engaged and rethinking their office spaces. But the impact of hybrid work and the geographic redistribution of talent will affect entire cities and regions.

Last April, Cisco launched a research project involving 16 early-career Cisco employees from Italy, Spain, France and Greece who moved to Venice for three months. The Venywhere “work anywhere” project is run in collaboration with Fondazione di Venezia and Ca’ Foscari University and focuses on how people’s expectations of work have changed, ways in which people, teams and organizations can work better. together, attract new talent and connect with the communities in which they live. In addition to its regular jobs in virtual sales, the group is also conducting in-depth research and interviews about their experiences and helping to co-design new practices and solutions for hybrid workers.

A crucial part of the research is recognizing the importance of belonging and connection – for remote workers and the communities they live in. Participants volunteer their time to local organizations and projects focusing on climate change, economic growth through hybrid work and recycling. Their experiences will help shape a new model of ‘digital citizenship’. Cisco’s People & Communities organization is actively engaged and will share its findings at the end of the three months.

Venice has been attracting people from different backgrounds, religions and cultures for centuries. This inclusive culture makes it the perfect place to experience new ways of working, living and collaborating, powered by the latest digital technologies. Gianpaolo Barozzi, Senior Director of HR at Cisco, explains: “Technology allows us to take a call or join a meeting virtually anywhere. This capability has the potential to redefine spaces within the city. What if my day office is a park in the middle of the city and a bench becomes my desk?” Barozzi argues that while we often talk about smart cities in terms of connected infrastructure, the real potential that smart, connected cities have is to redesign themselves to better meet the needs of those who live and work in them.

Nearly 5 million Americans have moved since 2020 because of remote work opportunities. According to the Economic Innovation Group, a think tank in Washington, D.C., and others are likely to follow, as large companies struggle to force people back into the office. In the same way, we are redefining the office and our home, we must not miss the opportunity to redefine our cities, not to attract people to return but so that the people who are still there and those who visit have a better quality of life. .

Disclosure: The Heart of Tech is a research and consulting firm that engages or has engaged in research, analysis and consulting services with many technology companies, including those mentioned in this column. The author does not hold equity positions in any of the companies mentioned in this column.

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