Feature Story

Cisco opts out of return to office in favor of individuals and teams choosing how Cisco works

Cisco has years of experience in building a culture around hybrid work—here are the company's five characteristics for hybrid work success.
Aug 03, 2021

By Denise Lee, Vice President and Executive Leader, Cisco Customer Solutions Marketing 

Millions of employees around the world are returning to work after a long stretch of working from their homes. To ease this transition, businesses of all sizes are considering new Hybrid Work rules, guidelines, and policies. The problem is that the hybrid workplace is a new concept, and identifying this journey’s starting point is not always clear.

Here’s the good news. Cisco has years of experience in building a culture around Hybrid Work. It's supported by our technology (networking, security, collaboration, and applications), which gives us a unique position from which to offer guidance on the “what/why/when/how” of Powering Hybrid Work.

But Hybrid Work is more than where work is done – it’s about who is doing the work as well. This means businesses must consider both technology and cultural aspects to the solutions, policies, and guidelines they implement. Cisco believes Hybrid Work successes are grounded in five characteristics spanning technologies and organizational culture.

Hybrid Work is:

  • Inclusive: offering an inclusive experience for everyone
  • Flexible: adapting to any work style, role, environment
  • Supportive: focusing on safety, empathy, and well-being
  • Secure: being secure by design, private by default
  • Managed: delivering modern infrastructure, frictionless administration

Create inclusive experiences for everyone

Cisco research revealed that 98 percent of meetings now have at least one employee attending remotely from home. Ensuring that every remote participant gets a "seat at the table" is significant. It’s equally important to know that the goal is less about creating identical remote and in-office work experiences and more about cultivating complementary experiences that connect and engage remote workers. 

Considerations for a more inclusive environment:

  • How do you assess whether remote meeting participants enjoy an inclusive experience relative to their in-office counterparts?
  • Do your employees have secure network access and a full collaboration suite to work anywhere?  

Practice flexibility and adapt to any workstyle, role, environment

A critical component to executing Hybrid Work is giving employees the flexibility to work from home. This begins with policies that can be adapted to any work style, role and/or environment where leadership empowers managers and employees to decide the best way to work. In fact, 64 percent of employees we surveyed said they expect that level of flexibility at work. Flexibility is likely to create happier and more productive employees, which generates better business results and talent retention. 

SOURCE: Cisco Secure Networking (Cisco, April 2021)

There must be ground rules, of course. Providing flexibility comes with the implicit understanding that the work is getting done and done well. Some businesses may not be able to provide as much flexibility due to compliance and rules governing certain industries. Establishing clear expectations can help ensure that flexibility is used to create productive, inclusive, and safe Hybrid Work environments.

Key questions:

  •  What is your leadership team’s view on remote work? 
  •  Do your employees have the latest ‘work from anywhere’ technologies including collaboration, security, mobile data?

Supportive through focus on security, empathy, and well-being

As more companies ask employees to come back to the office, many are voicing their concerns about safety in the workplace. Some 97 percent of employees surveyed for the Cisco “Rise of the Hybrid Workplace” report said they wanted “changes to make work environments safer.” Businesses must adopt a culture that reinforces the benefits of technology to work from anywhere and support employee well-being.

Key questions:

  • How are your leadership teams fostering empathy and support for your employees’ well-being including addressing Unconscious Bias in the workplace? 
  • Are you maximizing the use of collaboration tools to create a trusted workplace?

Secure by design, private by default

It’s not surprising that more distributed workers expose a business to more security threats. The volume of security attacks skyrocketed during the pandemic including ransomware attacks every 14 seconds according to the Wall Street Journal. In certain industries, these costly attacks average $4.6M per incident, according to the Washington Post. To create a Hybrid Work environment that is secure by design and private by default involves deploying the right tools and technologies in a culture that enforces a trusted environment through education/training and sensible security/privacy policies to protect people, devices, data, and networks.

Key questions:

  • Have you provided education to your employees about how to securely work from locations away from the office?
  • Do your employees know how to identify and report potential cyberthreats? 
  • What measures have you taken to protect your people and devices, while on and off the network?

Managed delivery of modern infrastructure with frictionless administration

Cisco CEO Chuck Robbins said in a recent interview with the Washington Post that “… most of the customers are making longer-term, strategic architectural decisions about hybrid work.” For many companies, this will include investments in a modern, automated, secure, and easier-to-manage technology infrastructure. Your technology teams are adapting to the realities of a hybrid workforce that can connect from anywhere, on any device, and at any time. Empowering these teams with automated and prioritized alerts along with other tools for “frictionless” administration is another Hybrid Work success factor and a key step in your digital transformation journey.

Key questions:

  • How adaptive is your workforce to new technologies and processes?
  • Are you able to monitor networking and application performance with end-to-end visibility from user to application anywhere?
  • How do you align the right technology solutions by role or persona across your business? 


In implementing a move to a successful Hybrid Work model, it’s crucial to keep in mind the two components of Hybrid Work – enabling the workforce and transforming the workspace. While Adapting to these changes may be challenging for you and your employees, the benefits of creating a more inclusive, flexible, and empowered work environment is a generational opportunity that's well worth the effort.

Read more of Denise's blogs here