How can your team thrive 10x better in the new hybrid workplace? Cisco offers some meaningful insights
The global pandemic has dramatically changed how we work and how we feel about going back to our offices. Working from home may have been an adjustment at the start of the lockdown, but according to Cisco’s Workforce of the Future survey (conducted with 10,000 respondents across 12 markets in Europe, the Middle East and Russia), employees want to keep hold of the many positives that have emerged in our new way of working.
Increased autonomy (63 per cent) and working well as a dispersed team (66 per cent) are two main benefits; in addition, 61 per cent want to keep hold of faster decision-making. Results show that employees see this as a watershed moment that challenges cultural norms around the workplace. They believe that the hybrid workplace is here, and it’s here to stay.
But it’s clear that there is a lot to do before employers and employees feel confident about this new hybrid work environment. And one size will not fit all: 87 per cent want greater ownership of defining how and when they use office space – enabling them to blend between being office based and working remotely. Take a look at a snapshot of the survey results.
So, how will companies be able to create this ideal work environment? A vast majority of companies say they could improve work environments with intelligent technology. And, having introduced some very exciting Artificial Intelligence (AI) innovations to help employees be more productive from anywhere and to help companies plan for a safe return to the office, Cisco Webex seems to be leading the transformation to the hybrid workplace with the goal of creating a 10x better meeting experience.
With video conferencing now a part of daily work life for most, it’s critical that companies nail the video meeting experience. Webex is full of features to help users before, during and after meetings. It delivers seamless collaboration with built-in AI technology that overcomes common friction points and it works in sync with the apps you love.
We’ve picked a few innovations and features that truly impressed us from their recent October launch, features that we think will become the necessities of tomorrow.
Show up the way you want
Cisco have enlarged the view so you can clearly see how you and your background will appear prior to joining a meeting, so you can personalise your appearance; and there are plenty of zippy virtual backgrounds to choose from.
Stop searching for how to ____ (fill in the blank)
Cisco’s new, intuitive and elegant design puts controls in the most logical place without covering shared content or your video, and it even adapts to your screen size. Want to chat with someone? Hover over them. Need to change your audio? Hover over yourself. Simple.
Make it yours
Hate it when your screen fills with a big grey box because the person who is talking isn’t sharing video? Now you can tell Webex to hide non-video participants. This is just one of many new customisable options. Customise once, enjoy every meeting.
End the background noise
Distracting noise is a thing of the past when you use Webex meetings. By the end of this month, technology from their recent BabbleLabs acquisition will both quash the whirr of the vacuum and enhance the speaker’s voice so you can hear clearly.
Technology to help workers return to the office safely —when it’s time
Whether they think a return to the office is 3, 6 or even 12 months away, companies know they must prepare now: far-reaching changes are needed. Companies need to optimise their space, address worker concerns about sanitation and social distancing, and plan how to communicate policies and information clearly. Cisco is giving customers the data and tools to make this journey back to the office, with some impressive enhancements and upgrades to their collaboration devices.
Even more environmental sensors in Webex devices
Cisco has pioneered the use of sensors in collaboration gear to provide important environmental datapoints to users, IT and employee experience experts so that they can ensure a safe and comfortable workplace. Previously they announced sensors that detect ambient noise levels and count the number of people in a space. These existing sensors—and the data they collect—become even more important now as they can identify underutilised or overcrowded spaces.
Additional sensors will also collect data on room temperature, humidity, air quality and light levels. And they’ve made their people-counting capabilities smarter. Thanks to machine learning, Webex will help ensure compliance with room capacity limits, counting people whether they are wearing face masks or not —no matter where they are in the room. Quickly identifying workspaces with environmental roadblocks lets companies take action to improve productivity and the quality of the meeting experience, for both in-office and remote participants.
Webex Room Navigator: new devices for inside and outside meeting rooms
Companies need a new approach to the meeting space to ensure safety and optimise use. Cisco has launched two versions of the new Webex Room Navigator. These are purpose-built devices that contain all the sensors mentioned above. They sit either inside or outside the meeting room to provide intelligent, safe room-booking for users and deep data for IT and facilities managers.
The out-of-room model makes it simple to find and book a space to meet: it clearly shows when the room is free and changes the status to booked when you enter. Activate it with touch or—to avoid touching a possibly contaminated surface—just use your voice. The in-room model provides alerts for social distancing, cleaning schedules and more, and allows you to book from inside the space, too.
Both versions have a digital signage mode, so companies can use the screens to convey important information. Even better: built-in “no-show” technology automatically senses if no one shows up for a scheduled meeting and frees up the room for another team’s use.
Webex Control Hub: deep, actionable workplace analytics
Cisco’s global workforce survey highlighted that fewer than half of all companies could measure room utilisation. This means they lacked the visibility needed to set proper cleaning schedules—a top concern of employees as they contemplate returning to the office. Webex Control Hub provides this much-needed visibility. It provides historical insights into both room utilisation and room environment metrics such as rooms booked but not used, median occupancy across all spaces, and ambient noise levels. These insights provide actionable information for workplace decision makers to optimise real estate utilisation.
If we’ve learned anything over the past few months, it’s that businesses need to be as resilient as possible. From a global health crisis to bad weather, being prepared for the unexpected is what can assure the survival of a business.
The future of work is simply about replicating, as closely as possible, the experience of physically being in a traditional workplace while eliminating dependency on a single location. It’s about having the ability to access and interact with everything we need: applications, data, storage (whether on-premise or in the cloud). Most importantly, it’s about retaining interpersonal relationships with our colleagues, business partners and customers, and doing so in the most efficient, integrated and secure way possible. This combination will make the workforce of the future ready —and successful.