This Week in Hybrid & Remote Work – June 25th Edition

Welcome back to this week’s installment of This Week in Hybrid & Remote Work. As you’ll see in the headlines from this week’s stories, the overall conversation continues to shift from “remote work” to “hybrid work” as the world begins to open back up. It’s worth noting that the increase in hybrid work articles and headlines does not mean that all of the companies who made commitments to permanently support remote work have abandoned those commitments – it simply means that a lot more companies are not openly committing to the more flexible long-term work environment their people demand. 

Let’s take a look:

1) The move to hybrid work, permanently (TechRepublic) 

This is a really interesting article based on a recent presentation given by Cisco’s CIO Jacqui Guichelaar. The article recognizes upfront that Cisco – as a huge global technology company with a fair amount of remote work-friendly technology – started with a leg up on most companies when it came to making the shift to remote work. But even with that advantage, it was still complicated and they faced their fair share of challenges.

Within 10 days, the company had a remote workforce, she said. “We’re lucky in many ways, but one of the really great things was we had a killer network and we’re a big, collaborative company and had many of the programs already in place to help us to trigger things like VPNs and split-tunneling to manage traffic as the volume increased during remote work.”

But the quote above begs the question – what about the majority of companies that are NOT global networking technology giants, and don’t have all that technology and expertise in place? Also – it’s somewhat baffling that a company the size of Cisco turned to VPNs as part of their remote work solution. Sure, Cisco has a vested interest in promoting the use of VPNs. But we’ve seen time and again from the past year that VPNs simply do not scale, and they introduce a host of security issues

The article then dives into Cisco’s vision for permanent hybrid work moving forward. 

Now, Guichelaar is focusing on the move to a hybrid workforce. “We’ve all learned work is not where you are, it’s what you do. We will not be going back to the office.” Everyone should have the right to make the personal choice about what works best for them–within the guidelines of the company, she said.

Surveys Cisco has done have revealed that 83% of employees want a hybrid model and that 98% of future meetings are expected to include at least one remote participant. Those who worked in a hybrid fashion during the pandemic had better mental health, Guichelaar said. This means having to “level the playing field” to make sure everyone feels included and has the same level of technology in their homes.

This is exactly where Virtual Application Delivery comes in. By giving every employee access to all of the business-critical applications they need to be productive, organizations can help level the playing field. They can also ultra-securely support the overwhelming demand from a majority of their people to work remotely or in a hybrid model.  

Read the full article on TechRepublic here

2) Videoconferencing challenge looming (TECHnalysis Research)

Speaking of Cisco (which owns WebEx), this article from analyst Bob O’Donnell at TECHnalysis discuss the various issues that organizations may face when trying to utilize videoconferencing for the newly-hybrid workplace. 

A big part of the challenge stems from the fact that a hybrid work model—in which time is regularly split between the office and home (or other remote locations)—is going to be the future for most organizations, at least for the next several years. What that means—as Cisco wisely pointed out at its recent Webex Suite launch (see “Cisco Extends Webex to Suite of Offerings”) is that roughly 98% of future meetings will include at least one participant that’s not located in the room. That, in turn, implies that 100% of potential meeting rooms need to be equipped to handle those remote members.

Some may argue that we’ve all grown accustomed to looking at our own individual screens during meetings, so it’s not really a requirement that every meeting room have a full videoconferencing unit built in. But O’Donnell points out the the videoconferencing hardware is only one of the potential issues. He goes on to discusss the high cost of videoconferencing and the difficulty of standarizing on one platform when we’ve grown accustomed to having to use multiple platforms depending on who scheduled the meeting. And finally, he brings up the issue of being prepared for the massive increase in video traffic on your organization’s networks. 

O’Donnell is an incredibly well-respected tech analyst who shoots straight and doesn’t over-hype things. This is a really straight-forward and clear breakdown of the issues that most organizations need to think about and prepare for, regardless of what their hybrid strategy looks like. 

Read the complete article on eWeek here

3) Lessons from One Law Firm’s Pre-Pandemic Shift to Hybrid Work (Harvard Business Review)

Before you think to yourself that the lessons from a law firm don’t apply to your organization, take a look at this article. Yes, the focus is a Califronia law firm (Hanson Bridgett) that started their move to a hybrid workplace before the pandemic – but the lessons are universal. 

Hanson Bridgett’s leadership didn’t foresee the crisis, but they had been looking to reduce fixed costs and spend the savings in creative ways to become more competitive. Now that people are putting their masks aside, the firm already has answers to many of the questions businesses are confronting.

In January 2018, Hanson Bridgett’s San Francisco headquarters occupied three floors at 425 Market Street. The lease on that space cost the firm $1.6 million per floor per year. Looking to free up budget, David Longinotti, then head of the firm’s real estate and construction section, began examining triggers in the company’s lease, including a negotiated option to give up one of the firm’s three floors. He formed a working group that called themselves “the breakout artists,” a cross-section of senior partners, new associates, and everyone in between in the firm’s real estate practice, to pilot various working modalities. Some lawyers would share offices with others, rotating office time with work-from-home time. Others would work mainly from home, reserving desks at the office (hoteling) when they felt they needed them.

The article highlights that, despite significant cultural resistance to the hybrid work experiment, productivity rose. But people’s perceptions of the hybrid model were still somewhat negative. They did an internal survey to see how people were feeling:

The responses to that survey showed the discomfort some employees felt at the idea of not having a desk to call their own, as well as their anxiety that by not being physically present in the office, their influence might wane and their careers might suffer. There was also some suspicion that people working from home would not be pulling their weight. Yet the consensus was ultimately that this was the right thing to do for most employees and the firm. To mitigate any discomfort, leaders held regular town hall meetings and provided clear and transparent communication.

From here, the article goes into a more in-depth breakdown of the steps the organization took throughout the remainder of the experiment, and how the experiment ultimately landed them in a place where they could increase productivity while saving an incredible amount of money. Unlike so many articles that pontificate on whether or not a hybrid workplace is a good idea or not – this article gets into the specific tests and steps that were taken to get from point A to point B successfully. There is a lot that can be translated to ANY organization, and I highly recommend the read. 

Read the full HBR article here

4) Hybrid work doesn’t have to destroy productivity. Here are 3 ways to make it work (Fast Company)

You’ve got to love an article that comes right out the gate with a super clear overview and premise:

The majority of the workforce has been working remotely for almost two years. Not only have they figured out how to make it work, but many of them also want it to stay that way. The reasons are wide-ranging, but typically include fewer distractions, saving time, and enhanced well-being.

The article then goes into three areas that every organization needs to address to help make hybrid work as successful as possible:

  1. Address incorrect assumptions about organizational dynamics
  2. Employee engagement means committing to new norms
  3. Worker engagement tips

The last section has a handful of really simple, easy-to-implement tips that can help increase employee engagement in a hybrid model. Things like:

Have a daily (or weekly), 15-minute virtual “stand up” meeting. Everyone joins a virtual meeting where a manager or team leader gives important updates and team members ask pressing questions. The goal is to get everyone on the same page and prioritize tasks, but then let everyone get back to work. 

This is a quick read with some easy to follow advice, which is definitely worth 8 minutes of your time.

Read the Fast Company article here

5) The 3 Hybrid Work Challenges Driving Employee Fatigue (Gartner)

I’m mixing it up with this last one and instead of highlighting an article and it’s learnings, I thought I’d bring attention to a webinar I came across that I thought would be beneficial. Only July 20th Gartner is hosting this webinar to help organizations address the issue of employee fatigue:

Discussion Topics:
  • Determine if your current strategies exacerbate the 3 key employee fatigue drivers
  • Empower employees and managers to co-create new patterns of flexible work
  • Safeguard employees’ mental health and well-being by reducing the risks of overwork

One thing that stood out to me about this webinar is that it’s not just about the technology and how we can enable hybrid work – it’s also about the human aspect of hwlping to make sure your employees are adapting to this new normal in a healthy way. I’m looking forward to joining the webinar to learn more about what the world’s largest analyst firm has to say on the topic.

Register for this free webinar here. 

Thanks for joining us, and we’ll see you aback here again next Friday.