What makes a Great Place to Work in a hybrid world?

Navigating change, prioritizing employee wellbeing, and embracing flexibility lead as differentiators.

Big celebrations are in order for Cisco, as the company was named the No. 1 Best Place to Work across multiple countries by Fortune’s 100 Best Companies to Work For 2022! As an industry leader in both innovative technology and employee wellbeing, Cisco nabbed the No. 1 spot for the Best Place to Work in Australia, Costa Rica, Egypt, France, Germany, Hong Kong, Ireland, Italy, Norway, Philippines, Portugal, Saudi Arabia, Switzerland, and the United States.

This year, Fortune and global authority Great Place to Work ranked the winners on their adaptability to change. This was especially relevant given the upheaval of a global pandemic as well as massive shifts to a culture committed to supporting hybrid work, inclusion, and the overall employee experience.

Cisco’s unique conscious culture has built a foundation of inclusion and connection across the workplace, enabling employees to prioritize their physical and mental wellbeing over the past year, through times of imaginable change.

Kylie Owen, Cisco Global Great Place to Work leader, shares that this conscious culture has been at the heart of Cisco’s success.

“Cisco has consistently put focus on our conscious culture,” Owen says, “We recognized that we needed to choose elements of our culture in order to get where we needed to be as a company. We put an enormous amount of thought into putting our people and leadership first, and I think that's made a big difference specifically with helping leaders understand expectations and helping them to support their teams.”

In today’s world, organizations must support a hybrid work world; it’s a way of working that is part of Cisco’s DNA. And we’ve learned what that looks like, by recognizing and understanding what employees need both from a people and a technology perspective.

A hybrid world

The Great Resignation presents businesses with a new challenge. But more organisations are beginning to understand that today’s workforces demand a hybrid culture - and there’s no turning back. Cisco’s 2022 Hybrid Work Index revealed that 64 percent of survey respondents agree that the ability to work remotely directly affects whether they stay or leave a job, and an overwhelming majority believe that personal health and wellness, along with flexible work arrangements, are non-negotiables.

And while a hybrid work world allows for increased access to diverse talent and the ability to connect to more people around the world, employees also need the tools to connect, engage, and stay secure.

The Index found that collaboration apps are now the most monitored application type globally, and home networks are now one of the most critical parts of an enterprise network. During the pandemic, there was a 2.4x increase of malicious remote access attempts, and more than 100 million email threats targeted the hybrid workforce daily. Cisco’s wireless and routed networking solutions, its collaboration platforms across the Webex ecosystem, and Cisco Secure products like Firewall, MFA, and endpoint protection have provided a safe and seamless work environment wherever the employees may be.

And as more people begin to split their time between working remotely and going into the office, Cisco is transforming the workplace of the future as well. The company’s smart building solutions include DNA Spaces, which provide a transparent view of data in the office’s physical space. This allows for safe practices like density monitoring, room occupancies, and contactless experiences.

Cisco’s offices also take into account the company’s commitment to achieve Net Zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2040. The brand-new Cisco office at One Penn Plaza in New York City has the ability to automatically adjust blinds, lighting, and HVAC settings, which reduces both energy costs and waste. This revolutionary building at 1 Penn was designed with technology and outcomes first, which ultimately created a space that is safe and sustainable, with digital transformation and user experience in mind.

Keys to success for the future workforce

Reimagining leadership culture and the employee experience are critical to success in the next phase of hybrid work. Cisco Global Hybrid Work Study 2022 has found that three quarters of employees say their company needs to rethink its culture and mindset to make hybrid work truly inclusive. The study surveyed 28,000 full-time employees across 27 markets to understand their changing definitions of wellbeing, work-life balance, relationships, and even personal confidence.

For organizations to thrive, they must understand what makes their employees happy and successful, while also navigating the nuances of wellbeing across various verticals. The study found that 77.9 percent of respondents believe that remote and hybrid working has improved their overall wellbeing, with 68.3 percent who said their mental wellbeing has improved, but their social wellbeing had improved the least.

Leaders should note that a balance of work collaboration and social connection should be prioritized. Trust and leadership culture were key factors that respondents stated were critical for an inclusive remote working experience. 70.5 percent of survey-takers believe their manager trusts them to be productive when working remotely, but 55.3 percent saw micromanaging behaviors increase with hybrid and remote working.

Owen suggests that fostering personal relationships between leaders and employees can build a strong level of trust.

“Leaders should be prepared to be authentic to their workforce and to say, we're going to listen and work out what best fits us. We're not just going to implement a one size fits all approach,” says Owen, “Having leaders lightly check in can create a level of comfort and an authentic personal connection. It’s a totally different feeling when your boss says, “what's going on in your life?” as opposed to it always being a conversation about dates and deadlines. It forges a different relationship where people can feel more comfortable to do their best work.”

Where we go from here

Main takeaways from the Hybrid Work Study found that flexibility, a reduced commute, and collaborative technology were the most critical to the improvement of an employee’s wellbeing:

  • For 65.6% of employees, a flexible work schedule is most important.
  • Increased use of technology is a critical factor for 53.4% of people.
  • Reduced or no commuting time is a factor for 52.8%.
  • A greater use of virtual meeting and collaboration tools is critical for 50.4%.

“Prior to 2020 when I spoke to customers and partners, I noticed that their questions about hybrid work would always be about the technology,” says Owen, “I would tell them that yes, that's the mechanism we use and yes, our tools are fantastic, but successful hybrid working has to come from a culture of trust. I think that's why we were in such a great position at Cisco when the pandemic did hit—we already were using the technologies and we were able to work from anywhere. Now, in this next phase of work we will continue to focus on flexibility, understanding, and getting the work done together.”

Cisco understands that change is inevitable, and the company is embracing hybrid work from both a technological and cultural lens. As innovation continues and factors for wellbeing shift, the adaptability to these changing dynamics have the potential to create significant opportunities for growth and success – for organizations and employees alike.


Related content: