How to create a culture of choice – without descending into chaos

Like daredevil jugglers, IT leaders deftly keep a growing list of priorities in the air — from employee experience, sustainability and budgets to technology objectives like security, networks and upgrades.

They must accomplish this in a sometimes unsettled environment that can seemingly change overnight based on all sorts of pressures typically outside CIOs’ perview (interest rates, global supply chains, consumer indices, or the impact of lipstick and boxer-short sales) that can quickly turn. Flexibility, therefore, is key.

Some signals, however, are quite easy to decipher. One such sign is the positive reception many employees continue to give hybrid work and flexible workplace solutions — and the many benefits this approach delivers to employees and employers. Companies’ adoption of hybrid work is equivalent to an 8% pay increase in most industries. It’s even more in technology and finance. Plus, 61% of employees believe their quality of work has improved, a recent 2022 Cisco study found.

Perhaps one reason so many employees have embraced hybrid work is because the strategy recognizes employees’ autonomy and demonstrates ongoing recognition that people can be productive and successful, regardless of whether or not they’re under a manager’s watch. Hybrid work gives individuals choice and more organizations are equipping staff with the tools they need to help them make even more informed decisions, including whether or not to head into a corporate office on a given day.

That said, succeeding at hybrid work is not easy. In particular, IT leaders and their teams must enable employees to securely collaborate and work from anywhere and deliver seamless experiences, regardless of device. Simultaneously, IT often partners with operations, facilities and building management to create safer, more secure physical surroundings that integrate IoT and IT for enhanced environments.

But unlike juggling, which has been around for centuries, most organizations are pretty new at developing strategies and technologies for hybrid work. In some cases, businesses are going to extraordinary lengths to encourage staff to revisit the return-to-office (RTO) concept; in others, it’s business as usual — without the cubicles.

Here’s a look.

Be our guest

Google attempted to lure employees back to its corporate headquarters by scheduling a live Lizzo concert. Although it was a one-time show, the technology giant hoped the performance would be so “Good as Hell”That employees would want to spend time at the office to share dance moves by the latte machines.

After all, many employers offer free food and drink. Others cite their urban locations and reimbursed parking garages as reasons employees should occasionally commute to the office.

To your health

Many on-premises benefits focus on health and wellness. In addition to gyms and fitness centers, multiple businesses and building owners offer on-site clinics, nutritionists, jogging and biking paths and other amenities.

Recognizing the disparity in RTO enthusiasm among different groups — such as parents with children — some organizations now offer day care, areas for pregnant people and other amenities targeted at parents and those with children.

Businesses may also address four-legged family members by subsidizing pet insurance, installing a dog park, or welcoming friendly pets into offices.

Lounging around

Businesses are replacing outdated (and long-maligned) cubicles and open-plan worrk areas with lounge-style seating arrangements designed to encourage collaboration, learning, creativity and comfort.

They’re also addressing organizations’ historic underuse of office space by adopting desk-sharing and activity-based workplaces in North America and Europe, according to CBRE.

There is also a growing interest in flexible spaces, such as on-demand meeting areas and customized private suites. Turning outside, one Canadian company is providing outdoor Wi-Fi and a walking path so employees can hold active meetings.

A tech backbone

Most amenities demand secure, robust Wi-Fi. Without it, people wouldn’t have the freedom to move from desk to café to landscaped grounds to ergonomic workspaces without losing their Webex connection or access to collaborative documents. Empowering people or teams to meet where they prefer, rather than mandating all confabs occur in conference rooms, can certainly enhance results and moods. Surely everyone’s been stuck working inside on a beautiful day?

Cloud-gazing is good for sparking creativity; cloud-managed infrastructure is great for empowering hybrid work. IT leaders are deploying the cloud to support hybrid work solutions, as well as digital transformation (and operational business) initiatives. Because the cloud powers these technologies, IT professionals — themselves a group of increasingly dispersed employees — can seamlessly monitor and support these devices and applications via a centralized online dashboard. This eliminates time-consuming manual processes, automates software updates and patches and improves the IT team’s experience, capabilities and productivity.

More data, more knowledge

Employees are using cloud-managed IT and IoT devices — smart cameras, sensors and buttons — combined with video conferencing equipment and high-speed connectivity within smart spaces. These spaces give insight into important data such as air temperature, head count and room availability so employees can personalize their room usage and booking experiences.

Likewise, staff can use hot-desking applications to reserve specific workstations before they ever leave home. Or, if they determine one part of the office is too busy or quiet, they can select another section or floor based on personal preferences and health needs.

Integrated apps notify cleaning staff when areas like restrooms and hallways are busy to keep them sparkling, further enhancing the comfort level of employees and guests.

All in this together

Collaboration and relationships are a vital part of life, regardless of whether people are in the same room or thousands of miles apart. In one IDG study, 46% of enterprises are prioritizing updates to collaboration tools to support hybrid work; other top priorities include application modernization and security improvements.

“Whether they’re gathering real-time intelligence for IT or ensuring an organization remains secure, companies should not force employees to use different processes in different locations or go through numerous, complex steps to securely access apps or data,” said Ryan Ansley, Senior Director of Digital Workplace and Information Technology at Cisco Meraki, in a recent episode of the Meraki Unboxed podcast.

The key is to find and deploy technologies that are seamless and unobtrusive to users and support employees’ choice of work location and style.

Hybrid work, which once may have been all about whether people showed up at an office or checked in remotely, has expanded far beyond that definition. Powered by secure, cloud-based collaboration, smart spaces and other digital workspace technologies, hybrid work is now about flexibility and empowerment — qualities IT professionals are adept at harnessing for the ongoing success of themselves and their organizations.

Ready to turbo-charge your hybrid workforce? Power up with Cisco Meraki.

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