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Building on a revolution in work

Two Cisco studies shed light on hybrid work — where organizations stand today and what needs to be done for the future.

In recent years, pretty much every assumption about how, where, and when we work has been upended. But I believe we are still at just the beginning of a revolution in hybrid work.

Today, there’s a clear opportunity for organizations to step into the next wave of working, supported by even better technology and workplace cultures that nurture work/life balance and creative collaboration. Along the way, we can create new opportunities and expand inclusivity as we dissolve the traditional barriers of geography, language and culture.

Yet there’s also a risk: Those organizations that fail to learn the lessons of the past two years and try to return to a 100 percent office-based work strategy, will fall short in productivity, talent retention, and so much more.

As I speak to our global customers, all are laser-focused on hybrid work as one of the most critical — and challenging — business transitions of our time.

So, it’s important to know just where we stand with hybrid work today and what needs to be done for the future — in terms of technology adoption, culture change, leadership, and beyond. To that end, Cisco led two comprehensive studies over the last year: the recently updated Global Hybrid Work Index and the newly released Hybrid Work Maturity Model.

That’s why I’m so excited about these studies. They shed light on how work cultures need to evolve. Because there’s no going back. As the results show, we are entering a world in which flexibility is demanded and inclusivity is the norm.

The Hybrid Work Maturity Model

Leaders need to know just where their organizations stand on the hybrid-work maturity curve. So, Cisco commissioned IDC to create the Hybrid Work Maturity Model, a framework from which to benchmark their journeys (the InfoBrief can be viewed here[1]).

Their research featured survey respondents from thousands of organizations of all sizes across 20 industries around the world, and the study defined four distinct levels of hybrid-work maturity:

  • Hybrid Work Observers (7 percent): These organizations are beginning to explore different hybrid-work models but are predominantly working within the office during regular business hours. 
  • Hybrid Work Adopters (47 percent): Experimenting with hybrid-work models and beginning to invest in technology to enable them. 
  • Hybrid Work Champions (38 percent): Seeing success and improved business outcomes with hybrid work models in separate silos but have yet to adopt them throughout the organization.
  • Hybrid Work Innovators (8 percent): These organizations feature well-established, company-wide hybrid-policies and have invested the technologies that support a hybrid-first strategy.

Survey respondents were also asked to rate their organizations’ maturity across four key dimensions. Fifty-one percent cited technology as the key focus, followed by culture (33 percent), policies (12 percent), and facilities (4 percent).

In my mind, all four of these categories are critical to hybrid work success. But the study revealed other ways in which organizations are lagging in these categories. For example, only 9 percent of organizations have declared and deployed a long-term, company-wide hybrid-work policy, and 62 percent of organizations are still at the earliest stages of transforming their people and culture for hybrid work.

But what of the benefits? For our survey respondents, improving productivity (48 percent) was viewed as the top concern. This was followed by business agility (39 percent), improved partner and customer engagement (39 percent) and improved employee engagement (36 percent). As organizations progress along the maturity curve, the benefits only increase. For example, Hybrid Work Innovators reported that their ability to attract and retain top talent and improve regulatory compliance also improved. 

Global Hybrid Work Index

We launched our first-ever Global Hybrid Work Index last year and today we’re unveiling new findings. Our methodology taps into our core platforms, analyzing millions of anonymized customer data points from collaboration (Webex), networking (Meraki), internet visibility (ThousandEyes), and security (Talos, Duo, Umbrella). These datapoints were combined with third-party research from double-blind surveys of more than 39,000 respondents across 34 countries, including CIOs, IT decision makers, and employees. Cisco’s own workforce data rounded out a far-reaching study.

What did we find? For starters, it revealed much about what I strongly believe should be a core concern for every organization: the well-being of employees. Seventy-three percent of global hybrid workers are happier and more motivated in their roles though the ability to work wherever they choose, and 61 percent said their relationships with teammates have become stronger. Can’t say I’m surprised to share there was also strong evidence supporting the connection between hybrid work and talent retention.

I have long argued that great technology can support a work environment and culture in which there is no divide between in-office or remote workers. So, I was excited to see that a clear majority of respondents agreed.  Seventy-eight percent of executives and 66 percent of workers overall believed that with the right technology, work could be done virtually without any loss of productivity. Another 61 percent of hybrid workers across the globe and across generations have seen improvement in the quality of their work.

Of course, the hybrid work environment has introduced myriad, far-flung endpoints. So, it’s no surprise that security is a top concern. The good news is that organizations are responding. Both the number of actively protected remote devices and the count of daily authentications to apps have increased 2x since the world first began its shift to hybrid work as the norm.

While these studies show that organizations are beginning to make progress in the hybrid-work revolution, they also underscore that for many there is a long way to go. As an industry we cannot be complacent and must break down the barriers of hybrid work across technology, culture, and physical spaces. Only then will we unlock the true potential of hybrid work, for a future in which flexibility and inclusivity are the norm.


[1] IDC InfoBrief, sponsored by Cisco, How Ready Is YOUR Organization for Hybrid Work?, IDC Doc. #US49155022, June 2022