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Hybrid workplace is the future

The way we work has fundamentally changed and a growing number of companies are considering implementing new technologies and flexible working arrangements.

Johannesburg, 20 Jul 2021
Read time 4min 10sec
Garsen Naidu, GM, Cisco Sub-Saharan Africa.
Garsen Naidu, GM, Cisco Sub-Saharan Africa.

There can be little doubt that the global workforce’s view about the future of work is significantly different now to what it was just two years ago. We are now entering a new era of work, defined by the shift to remote working. This has led us to re-imagine how businesses and teams operate when in-person meetings aren’t possible.

Organisations are now examining how to move forward in this new world – from establishing flexible working arrangements to ensuring a safe return to the office. Despite the challenges, suggests Garsen Naidu, GM, Cisco Sub-Saharan Africa, we now have a unique opportunity to fundamentally improve how people work, wherever they are.

“The path forward is the hybrid workplace. Many trends support this growing demand for a work environment that is a blend of in-office and remote workers, one that provides people with the flexibility to choose where and how they’ll work,” he says.

“Flexibility is king for the foreseeable future. Our research indicates that only 9% of the global workforce expects to fully return to the office after offices reopen. Moreover, virtual collaboration is vital. Some 98% believe that going forward, they will have meetings with participants joining from home.”

Naidu believes that intelligent workplaces are necessary, based on research which suggests that 96% want to improve their work environments with intelligent workplace technology. He adds that office footprints will be optimised, with 53% of enterprises noting that they are planning to reduce their office footprint.

“The benefits of a hybrid workplace are numerous, but such a shift requires a change in the experience people have when working from home or in the office. A foundational requirement for the hybrid workplace is to provide employees with feature-rich, intuitive collaboration tools to message, meet, call, share content and collaborate from any space.

“It should also be understood that in the hybrid workplace, it’s more important than ever that people can work from anywhere with access to tools that support productivity and collaboration. Employees who work remotely, or switch between home and the office, need to be enabled with collaboration software and purpose-built devices to ensure high-quality teamwork and a seamless experience wherever they are.”

While an enterprise may seek to reduce its footprint, the office is here to stay, he says. It serves as the central hub for people to participate in rich collaboration experiences, build rapport with colleagues and connect to the work culture and community. With a hybrid workplace model, insists Naidu, you can expect a rotating cast of office workers. Technology will be needed to assist them in finding available spaces from which to work and collaborate.

“As companies take a hard look at how to modify their environments to support employees as they return to work, video conferencing devices play a large role in connecting distributed teams. Furthermore, they also provide intelligent capabilities that can help inform workers of guidelines, provide alerts when the capacity of a room is exceeded, and even notify workers of the last time the room was cleaned.

“AI-powered experiences – like those from enterprise-grade digital assistants – are in demand to deliver zero-touch experiences in meeting rooms and common areas. Sensors, AI and advanced analytics can be leveraged to create a safer and healthier work environment as well. Intelligent screen messaging helps direct foot traffic, thus avoiding overcrowding and contamination risks. In addition, these capabilities provide valuable usage insights for IT, HR and facility managers, helping drive workplace optimisation,” he points out.

“The organisations that emerge stronger from the pandemic will be the ones that are thinking strategically, with a long-term vision for the future of work. Building the foundation for the hybrid workplace in the first phases will ensure that your business is well positioned to adjust and excel in the years to come. Intelligent workplace solutions are vital to provide support to the modern workforce. From the home office to the boardroom, displays, sensors, AI and automation will deliver technology-driven experiences and accelerate transformation to keep workers safe and productive.

“Ultimately, people want technology to help them throughout their day. They want to connect to the company and the culture, and they want flexibility. The hybrid workplace is the answer to organisations committed to extending the workplace to wherever its people are and giving them the flexibility to choose where and how they want to work,” says Naidu.

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