Employees prefer hybrid work, but business isn’t ready

Johannesburg, 16 May 2022
Read time 4min 10sec
Conrad Steyn, CTO & Leader Systems Engineering at Cisco Sub-Saharan Africa
Conrad Steyn, CTO & Leader Systems Engineering at Cisco Sub-Saharan Africa

The latest Cisco Global Hybrid Work Study shows the majority of employees believe remote and hybrid work makes them happier, healthier and more productive. However, many organisations are not ready to make hybrid work a permanent model.

This emerged during a webinar on "Powering Hybrid Work", hosted by Cisco in partnership with ITWeb.

Unpacking the Cisco Global Hybrid Work Study 2022, Brendan Cuthbertson, Head of Private Sector Sales South Africa at Cisco, said it was clear there would be no going back to the ‘old way of doing things’.

The study polled over 28 000 people around the world and found 61.4% said hybrid work improved the quality of work, 60.4% believed their productivity improved, 58.7% said they had improved their job knowledge and skills, and 50.7% said workplace relations and attitude had improved as a result of hybrid work. In terms of well-being, 82.2% are happier and 78.9% are enjoying improved work-life balance. Key drivers for these improvements have been more flexible work schedules (62%) and reduced commuting time (52.9%).

Getting back more time has had a huge impact on employees around the globe, and in South Africa, Cuthbertson said 64.2% said they saved over four hours a week by not commuting, and as many as 25.8% save over eight hours a week. Social, emotional and mental well-being have improved thanks to hybrid work, with 68.3% enjoying improved mental well-being and 56.9% reporting improved emotional well-being, while 54.7% saying stress levels have decreased. Also, 73% report improved relationships with family and 50.7% have improved relationships with friends, while 61.8% say hybrid working has improved their physical well-being, due to eating healthier and exercising more thanks to time freed up from commuting. Hybrid working has positively impacted the workplace, with 61.9% saying they are less likely to look for work elsewhere when working in a hybrid environment.

Cuthbertson said: “We are confident that hybrid work is here to stay; 71.2% want to continue working in a hybrid working environment and 20.2% want to be fully remote. Very few – only 8.6% – would prefer to be fully in the office. All the data we have gathered is that employees want a hybrid work environment. Clearly, companies that are able to offer this will be able to source and retain the best talent.

However, as much as these surveys give us valuable insights, it should be noted this is an ever-evolving environment. In South Africa, the state of disaster has just been lifted, and we are starting to see some organisations wanting more face time with their employees. Our survey found that only one in four employers are ‘very prepared’ to offer hybrid work across areas such as technology, cyber security and data privacy, company culture, employee support and HR processes and policies.”

Conrad Steyn, CTO and Leader Systems Engineering at Cisco Sub-Saharan Africa, said technology alone could not transition companies to hybrid models: “It’s also driven by factors like company culture and HR policies and processes. We saw a big need for employee support, IT processes and business support. Many companies are not prepared. For example, the study found 73.2% of people believed companies needed to rethink culture and mindset to make hybrid work truly inclusive. Trust is another major issue – 70.5% believe their manager trusts them to be fully productive when working remotely. But only 58.9% believe their colleagues can be trusted to work remotely.”

Steyn noted that technology underpins hybrid work success. “We have to invest in technology. During the pandemic, 53.4% increased their use of technology, and 51.6% said collaboration platforms made it easier to speak and be heard in meetings. The virtual environment appears to have driven confidence, and many people have become more vocal in virtual environments than they were in-person. On the other hand, there have been technology risks – 61.6% of people felt that suffering connectivity issues regularly was career limiting for remote workers and 84.3% felt networking infrastructure is essential for seamless working from home experiences. Cyber security has also become crucial for enabling hybrid work, with organisations re-looking at their security strategies and security moving closer to the end-user.”

Steyn outlined how Cisco makes hybrid work, work better, to enable working from anywhere with flexible and secure access and collaboration; working from home with secure and collaborative work experiences; and working in the office with transformed and managed workspaces that connect people in new ways while also supporting their health and well-being. He highlighted how Cisco Webex powers the hybrid work experience, powering the new way of collaborating both in-person and remotely.