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How technology can power the hybrid workforce of the future

Cisco collaboration and security solutions empower businesses to cater to remote and in-office work flexibly and securely

Over the past year, the pandemic has forced businesses all over the world to send their employees to work from their homes. As we settle into a steady rhythm of remote work, a new experiment has begun – the hybrid work model.

Consistent with global trends, a Cisco study found that 92 per cent of employees in Singapore favour a combination of office-based and remote work. With the hybrid workplaces of the future now becoming a part of our present, businesses need to invest in the right solutions and tools that will enable high levels of productivity, inclusivity and team collaboration even as employees work from anywhere.  

But shifting to a hybrid workplace can be even more challenging than when companies first moved to full remote work, as it means having to cater to two groups of employees concurrently. 

If not done well, this mixed mode of work could create a divide between in-office and remote workers, adversely impacting company culture instead of boosting morale and productivity.

Mr Naveen Menon, president, Asean, Cisco, explains: “When everyone was working from either the office or from home, the playing field was level. But a hybrid workplace would require different methods to keep all employees healthy and engaged.

“To succeed and thrive in the new normal, organisations need to adopt a proactive and integrated approach that has technology at its core.”

An inclusive organisational culture 

It is estimated that 98 per cent of future meetings will include at least one remote participant. Such remote participants have reported feeling left out when side conversations happen among those in the office. More than ever, technology plays a critical role in driving inclusivity and ensuring all voices are heard. 

Global marketing intelligence firm IDC predicts that there will be a push for “technological parity” for remote workers, which might require upgrading the audio-visual experience of both remote and office work, so that experiences can be consistent no matter where an employee is working.

Ms Tinku Gupta, chief technology officer, Singapore Exchange (SGX), says that Webex, a Cisco collaboration video conferencing technology, enabled employees to collaborate seamlessly and securely across different teams and departments, as well as with external stakeholders. 

“By harnessing collaboration technology across our organisation, we have been able to strengthen support for our customers anytime, anywhere, while also enhancing employee engagement,” she says.

Singapore Exchange’s (SGX) chief technology officer Tinku Gupta says employees at SGX used technology effectively to collaborate securely across various teams and departments. Photo: Singapore Exchange

In the past year, SGX successfully replicated critical IT capabilities such as incident and crisis recovery on Webex. Its employees also used Webex to set up incident and crisis management rooms to ensure business continuity. 

“Webex is an important part of our digital toolset at SGX now,” she adds.

Since September, Cisco has added more than 800 features and devices to Webex, its enterprise solution for video conferencing, online meetings, screen share and webinars, to help support hybrid work.

One of the features, People Focus, uses advanced Webex camera intelligence and facial recognition to individually re-frame meeting participants who are spread across a meeting room, whether they are joining from home or in a meeting room with others. This allows everyone in the meeting to feel more connected as body language and facial expressions are easily visible.

“As human beings, when we work, we tend to naturally collaborate. But the pandemic entirely disrupted all previous notions of how we interact with others in the physical world,” says Mr Menon. 

“At Cisco, we aim to not only drive effective collaboration in today’s digital era through new innovations and solutions, but also strive to cultivate a diverse, robust organisational culture that prioritises employee well-being and enables equal opportunities for all.”

Support your employees’ psychological needs

After more than a year of remote work, virtual fatigue is setting in. According to a Gartner study, 93 per cent of human resources leaders report being increasingly concerned about employee burnout, especially with the rise in digital distractions, virtual overload and an always-on mindset amid remote working. 

Designed for the hybrid workplace, Cisco’s solutions also put people first by integrating applications to help combat burnout. Photo: Caroline Chia

Another factor that can lead to burnout is the number of unnecessary meetings that employees are invited to. People Insights, an analytics tool in Webex, provides real-time data to help individuals have an overview of how their time is spent. For example, these insights can help the employee decide if he or she should reschedule or decline a meeting to focus on other urgent tasks. 

“Mental wellness will be a high priority in the hybrid workplaces of the future, and leaders need to ensure employees feel heard and supported as they navigate uncertainties in a post-pandemic world,” notes Mr Menon.

“One way is to make use of virtual collaboration tools to conduct regular check-ins on employee well-being, or create new team rituals that enable everyone to feel supported, heard and appreciated.”

Keeping your organisation secure

In a hybrid model, the workplace is no longer confined to the office or the home. To cater to a distributed workforce, businesses need to create a flexible work environment that allows employees to join and leave the company network seamlessly and securely.

In the new era of hybrid work, it’s more crucial than ever to ensure that your networks are secure, enabling you to work from anywhere with peace of mind. Photo: Cisco

In tandem with the shift to remote work, hackers have been trying to gain access to corporate networks by compromising employee devices. According to a Cisco study, 64 per cent of organisations in Singapore have experienced a 25 per cent or more jump in cyber threats or alerts since the start of Covid-19.

Amid this evolving cyber threat landscape, organisations need to invest in a robust cyber security infrastructure that protects the network from the endpoint to the cloud. This includes taking a Zero Trust approach, whereby trust needs to be verified before any employee or device is granted access to the company’s network.

Often, companies add a new cyber security solution whenever they discover a new vulnerability. But such piecemeal approaches can lead to security loopholes when individual solutions do not integrate well with one another.

In the hybrid future of work, security needs to be the foundation of any digitalisation effort. Given the security complexities of a hybrid workforce, an integrated security platform like Cisco SecureX provides visibility across a company’s entire security infrastructure, enabling the organisation to respond faster to threats.

Despite some potential hurdles with a hybrid workplace, the future of work holds a win-win outcome for both employers and employees.

“Covid-19 has upended the old way of doing things, and we now have the opportunity to create a new normal that is better than before,” says Mr Menon. 

“At Cisco, our technologies and innovative solutions continue to empower businesses to innovate and reinvent the workplace into one that is inclusive, supportive, flexible and digital-first.”

More access. More opportunity.

Cisco has pledged to positively impact 1 billion people by the year 2025. We’re committed to powering a world where everyone has access to information and education. To contribute. To be bold. To participate.

It’s called the Inclusive Future. When everyone and everything is connected, anything is possible.

Discover how you can be a part of this future here.

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