The Future of Hybrid Work

As we begin to emerge from the global pandemic, one thing is for certain – the future of work will be forever changed. 

Throughout 2020, we clearly saw which companies thrived and which ones struggled to pivot to remote work reality. Companies that had already invested in cloud technology and collaboration tools didn’t miss a beat. Those who did not have to figure out what they needed and implement those tools in real-time which, in some cases, meant pausing certain parts of the organization. We recognize that every organization in every industry is facing both extraordinary challenges and exciting opportunities as a result of the pandemic. 


The past 12 months taught us a lot.

  1. Remote work created haves and have nots. Society changed and a new digital divide has emerged. Some may have designed remote offices, while others worked from a kid's bedroom or noisy kitchen.
  2. Meeting fatigue is real, as is burnout. Back-to-back online meetings staring at a laptop are becoming too regular. There are very few breaks in the monotony with the constant pressure to multitask during these meetings. Constant mode shifting is harder than ever before. You may be leading a team one minute, then running kids to practice the next.
  3. Securing a distributed workforce is a huge challenge. The threat vectors for vulnerability and security posture assessment are wider than ever before.
  4. IT admin jobs have gotten much harder. The cost to serve and manage user expectations is at an all-time high.


As we emerge from a disruptive year, organizations are now looking to pivot out of remote work as a necessity, and move to a world of hybrid work by design.


Wave 1: Pre-pandemic

Work was a place you went to physically. Collaboration tools were not mainstream in all work environments. Only 8% of all meetings included remote participants (2020 Dimensional Research). Townhalls, training, and events were all in-person. And while we saw more users embracing video conferencing and remote work, it was still not mainstream. So offices and technology could never adapt to provide truly inclusive experiences for remote workstyles.


Wave 2: During the pandemic

When COVID hit, we focused on business continuity. Remote work become the norm nearly overnight. Townhall, training, events, and team meetings were all virtual. It became clear employees could be just as, or even more, productive remotely than when they were in the office. But it came at a cost, video fatigue and burnout crept in quickly. Working in our new environments with some good enough tools helped us get through it, but it proved to be a choppy experience.

Wave 3: Post-pandemic

Research now identifies 98% of all meetings have at least one remote participant (2020 Dimensional Research). This means that companies can't afford for any employee to feel excluded and not have an equal voice. Office spaces and tools will need to be approached in a completely different way. Companies must provide flexibility to work from home, the office, or anywhere in between. Safety in the office, and collaboration technology in every office space, must become the norm. Being able to successfully run hybrid events to reach your employees, customers and prospects will be paramount. And in this new wave, it all needs to focus on well-being and security.


Through recent independent research, we are seeing important trends emerge:

  • 81% of people either do not want to go back to the office at all or would prefer a hybrid schedule (2021 The Harvard Gazette, Research)
  • 58% of those who have been working from home recently say they are now using workplace collaboration tools more than they were a year ago (Forbes, 2021)
  • 25% By 2024, in-person meetings will account for just 25% of enterprise meetings, a drop from 60% prior to the pandemic (Gartner, 2020)
  • 87% of executives expect to make changes to their real estate strategy in the next 12 months (PWC, 2021)
  • 97% of the workforce wants changes to make work environments safer (2020 Dimensional Research)


Strategic investment in the future of hybrid work is a must.

But what does it mean? Hybrid work isn’t just about location. It’s also about people, culture, safety, security, and unlocking new opportunities.

When you work in a mixed-mode – you need technology to be adaptable and flexible for any role, working style, device, and geography. You need solutions that bring the best of remote work and in-person work together so everyone has an equal voice.

We are now at an inflection point in the next phase of work, where critical decisions must be made. And while settling for “good enough” collaboration solutions might have helped you deal with remote work before 2021, you can’t settle for lower quality, fragmented, insecure collaboration experience in this hybrid world. The time act is now.


Good enough simply isn’t enough

With a more dispersed workforce, questions arise for various teams around how to enable this new world of work:

Company and team leaders are asking “How do I enable my remote workers to do secure hybrid work while feeling like they are treated the same?”

The tools employees have access to need to sustain and build culture, create team engagement, broaden talent acquisition, and enable employee well-being.

Corporate real estate or facility teams are trying to quickly answer and execute on “How do I enable a safe return to the office and create workspaces for all types of workers?”

Solving for this means using your office spaces to support a mix of hot-desk, huddle, and meeting rooms while ensuring safety and cleanliness in the office. They also need to understand space utilization to make effective decisions now and in the future.

For people managers and HR, the main question is “How do I lead with empathy and care for my employees?”

They need to enable flexibility, ensure everyone feels included, create easy connections, and remove the video and work fatigue so employees can be at their best.

IT professionals are wondering: “How can I manage and troubleshoot my hybrid work environments while ensuring security and privacy?

The tools they deploy need to be easy to scale and must manage collaboration needs while providing real-time insights to quickly solve issues.


So how do we draw from the lessons the pandemic taught us about the critical needs of employee experience and well-being to successfully embrace hybrid work?

To truly deliver on this, your collaboration solutions must be:


Hybrid work solutions need the adaptability to accommodate every collaboration use case and communication mode. For both internal and external participants, including guests and customers. And it should integrate with any application.


Your solution should provide equal experiences for everyone. That means it should allow people to communicate regardless of their native language or location. It should also allow people to easily communicate in non-verbal ways. And it should allow everyone in a hybrid meeting to feel like an equal participant – so when you’re remote you don’t feel left out of the discussion just because you’re not there.


Organizations need to show empathy for their employees that may be fatigued by working virtually but are understandably anxious about returning to the office. Individuals and teams need to set and achieve goals for their meetings, understand work-life integration, and manage their most precious asset – time.


With hybrid work, your risk surface expands – more work locations and connections, more devices, more communications, more content. You need the utmost security and privacy, without compromising simplicity and employee efficiency.


It should be easy to provision users and devices, monitor, and observe insights to help you ensure the best experience for your users – wherever they are working from.


Exploring the Five Essential Elements of Hybrid Work

How does Webex solve for hybrid work?

This unprecedented shift in the way we work requires new types of hybrid work solutions. We’ve identified five solution characteristics that will be critical for organizations to consider as they venture into this uncharted territory of hybrid work.


Hybrid work must be flexible

Your solution should adapt to any work style, role, and environment.

For example, your solution should support any kind of communication – from a phone call to the largest meeting. It should work well for any role or function in your company. It should let you work with people inside and outside your company, seamlessly. And it should let you work within the tools you want to use.


The Webex Advantage

  • A single, integrated app for calling, meetings, and messaging
  • Industry-first integrated end-to-end event experience at scale supporting physical, virtual, and hybrid events for up to 100K attendees
  • Seamless transition between the office and remote work
  • Easily escalate calls to full-fledged meetings
  • Solutions for desk and field workers
  • Planned and spontaneous for sync and a sync communication
  • Integrated with all your apps
  • Open ecosystem to interop with other collaboration services with bi-directional integration, so you can continue to leverage the tools you love


Hybrid work must be inclusive

Inclusivity is a core value for Cisco – our mission is to Power an Inclusive Future for All.

We want to make sure that everyone is engaged and no one feels left out. Your solution should provide equal experiences for everyone. That means it should allow people to communicate regardless of their native language or location. It should allow people to easily communicate in non-verbal ways. And it should allow everyone in a hybrid meeting to feel like an equal participant – so when you’re remote you don’t feel left out of the discussion just because you’re not there.


The Webex Advantage

Everyone has a voice and language should never be a barrier to

  • Webex enables real-time translation for English and 11 languages to over 100+ languages (at an additional cost)
  • Gesture recognition makes you an active participant without speaking a word. Webex captures your physical gestures to provide feedback immediately during live meetings without interrupting the speaker


Professional quality creates a first-class participant experience for everyone

  • Eliminate distractions with Webex background noise removal and speech enhancement. My Voice Only is a Webex feature that eliminates not only various background noises (anything from lawnmowers to blenders and vacuum cleaners), but also eliminates background talkers and enhances your voice. That way you can always be heard, even if you are in an open or noisy place
  • Be seen and heard (not just an avatar) even when joining from a poor network. With Webex AVI intelligent frame rate adaption, even remote participants with poor networks will benefit from the best quality experience so they can be fully seen and heard


Engaging and immersive experiences at home or the office

  • The Integrated audience engagement platform works across all collaboration experiences with Slido. Create conversations, not lectures. Interact and engage your audience dynamic with integrated polling/ Q&A, quizzes, word clouds, and more.
  • Choose what you see on the screen with custom layouts and more options to focus on the people or content that matter most to you.
  • Background blur or replacement works across any device or operating system to enable privacy
  • Create more engaging presentations, just like you do in person. Webex immersive share allows you to place yourself in front of any content that you share, bringing you closer to your audience
  • See how Webex delivers inclusive experiences so everyone can have a voice video


Hybrid work must be supportive

Your solution should support your employees’ health and well-being.

Because, if we learned one thing over this last year, it’s that employees need empathy. That means your solution should provide capabilities and insights to help reduce employee fatigue and aid more focus time, while also ensuring a clean and healthy workplace.


The Webex Advantage

Promote empathic experiences and enable your people to thrive!

  • People Insights by Webex provides detailed, private insights to individuals, teams, and organizations to help combat common workforce fatigue and empower personal well-being, team impact, and inclusive collaboration
  • Webex and Thrive Global have announced a new partnership to bring research-backed science into practice. This incorporates well-being into systems and tools to better enable the practices of organizations as they move to support a hybrid workforce. Having Thrive Resets as part of Webex allows individuals to course-correct and lower stress in just 60 seconds before, during, or after a meeting so we can prevent stress from becoming cumulative and leading to burnout. The integration into Webex also means a bot can send a direct message to workers to check if they’d like to take a short break. Cisco is also a founding partner for Thrive Calls. Similar to Thrive Reset in Webex meetings and messaging, Thrive Calls applies the same concept — but via voice — to contact center agents.


Enhance office safety

  • Touchless meeting experience (joining, sharing, calling, intelligent room booking)
  • Virtual reception check-in
  • Cleaning notifications
  • People count alerts
  • Wayfinding
  • Hot-desking
  • Digital signage
  • Occupancy rate
  • Smart collaboration devices are designed for every workspace and work style to include remote participants in every space.


It’s not just about driving productivity. Productivity is a derived outcome of health and well-being. They’re two sides of the same coin.

  • Eliminate meeting and video fatigue with purpose-built devices and camera intelligence. See the Webex devices designed for engaging home office experiences
  • Integrated with other Cisco solutions for safety
    • Monitor people density throughout the building - Leveraging Cisco DNA Spaces and Meraki let you offer rich location-based services that you can integrate with any custom HR approach you want to establish


Promotes empathetic experiences in a hybrid culture

  • People Insights: personal, team, and organizational insights support the well-being


Hybrid work must be secure

Secure by design. Private by default.

With people working from everywhere, your risk surface has expanded, and threats everywhere are increasing. That means your solution should have security built-in, not bolted on. It can’t be an afterthought. Cisco has always been known for security and your solution should honor an individual’s privacy by default.


The Webex Advantage

Cisco has always been known for security. Your solution should also be private by default. At Webex, we believe privacy is a basic human right. Systems that honor an individual’s privacy is what actually build trust in the system.

  • Zero trust security authenticates users, room devices, and compliance. Our approach is based on standards that not only encrypt meeting content end-to-end but also verify the identities of each participant. We are also extending it to cover all devices, conference rooms, or apps on mobile phones or laptops 
  • End to End identify (E2E) keeps your conversations confidential. This is crucial because you need to have confidence that whom you are talking to is who they say they are and that no one has tampered with that identity or is an impersonator. This is done thru a trusted certificate authority similar to how eCommerce and secure content is served via browsers. Attendees will get verified. In addition, validating this security code also provides non-repudiation because it is based on the MLS cryptographic state of the meeting with keys and certificates to match identity
  • Real-time data loss prevention (DLP) for collaboration is an industry first. With Real-Time DLP, you can prohibit classified content from being stored in the cloud rather than redacting or deleting content after it is posted. We not only built this feature for security administrators but also use it to guide users in best practices by providing in-app messaging if their content violates company policies.
  • Data sovereignty and compliance for our global network and data centers are designed for real-time media, with the scale and reach needed for all organizations large and small. Webex supports localization to meet with


Hybrid work must be managed

With hybrid work, IT needs to manage performance and quality for people working from anywhere.

Expectations have never been higher because the video is now required for every meeting. That means your solution should enable frictionless administration of the entire environment – software, hardware, and facilities. It should provide real-time insights to help you ensure the best user experience no matter where your users are. Your solution should be built on a modern cloud infrastructure that’s optimized for the media and bandwidth demands of hybrid work.


The Webex Advantage

  • Single pane of glass for administration
    • Manage all your collaboration software and devices directly from the Control Hub with real-time experience management and historical data for facilities and experience management
  • Ease of provisioning and deployment
  • Media-optimized cloud with global reach
    • Global Web Cloud optimizes real-time media access in 23 data centers. Including new locations in Mumbai, Frankfurt, and Montreal and over 100 peering connections globally
  • Real-time analytics and end-to-end troubleshooting capabilities supported across calling, meeting, and devices
  • One collaboration tool to manage calling, meeting, messaging, devices
  • Integrated calling plan services on webex.com with the easy provision and buy PSTN
  • Webex devices, which are designed for where your employees work and how they like to collaborate, are easy to deploy and manage at scale. Take a look at our comprehensive and award-wining devices to decide which is right for your organization.


Cisco Webex: leading the way for hybrid work innovation

Getting hybrid work right will require leadership, culture, a people-first mindset, and the right technology to make the experience seamless.

There’s simply no one better equipped to do this than Cisco.

Webex offers the industry’s most complete solution for hybrid work. We have the vision and technology containing each key attribute that hybrid work requires–flexibility, inclusivity, support, security, and management.

We’re committed to innovation velocity. Over the past nine months, we’ve brought 800+ new innovations to market and acquired three companies to help elevate our customers’ experiences. Most recently, we announced our intent to acquire the event platform Socio, as the future of events is going hybrid too. We’ve even invested over $1B in artificial intelligence technology acquisitions and organic innovations over the past several years.

Our customers are recognizing our commitment to innovation and quality. For example, we prioritized audio and video quality. Our background noise removal feature has now eliminated over 30 billion minutes of low-quality background noise from meetings. And our Net Promoter Score (NPS) has increased by 14 points, now at an all-time high.

But we are not done yet...


The Webex Suite

The first best-of-breed suite for integrated hybrid work experiences.

To help build this hybrid work framework, Cisco Webex is bringing to market the Webex Suite. This comprehensive offering brings together all your communication and collaboration needs.

It’s so much more than just online meetings. Webex suite combines meetings, calling, messaging, events, polling and Q&A, all alongside the market-leading AI-based Webex Assistant, as a single cloud-based solution designed for hybrid work. If that wasn’t good enough, organizations can qualify for up to a 53% discount on many Webex devices when combined with the Webex Suite. With this platform, you get a single place to manage and secure hybrid workplaces with real-time analytics and insight. See which devices are right for you here.

The completeness of the Webex Suite and its best-of-breed capabilities mean that you won’t need as many point solutions for particular functions, therefore reducing your costs. And as we continue our relentless innovation, those advancements will also be added to the Suite.


Why choose the Webex Suite?

  1. Why choose the Webex Suite?
  2. Take away costs from your existing IT investments. You no longer need all the point solutions for each type of function; like meetings from one vendor, events from another, messaging or calling or polling from another. Instead, you get one suite that meets all your collaboration needs at one low price, giving you more value for your money.
  3. As we continue our relentless innovation, these new capabilities and features, along with future collaboration apps, will also be added to the Suite

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