By Denise Lee, Vice President and Executive Leader, Cisco Customer Solutions Marketing \nMillions of employees around the world are returning to work after a long stretch of working from their homes. To ease this transition, businesses of all sizes are considering new Hybrid Work rules, guidelines, and policies. The problem is that the hybrid workplace is a new concept and identifying this journey\u2019s starting point is not always clear.\nHere\u2019s the good news. Cisco has years of experience in building a culture around Hybrid Work supported by our technology (networking, security, collaboration, and applications), which gives us a unique position from which to offer guidance on the \u201cwhat\/why\/when\/how\u201d of Powering Hybrid Work.\nHybrid Work is more than where work is done \u2013 it\u2019s about who is doing the work as well. This means businesses must consider both technology and cultural aspects to the solutions, policies, and guidelines they implement. Cisco believes Hybrid Work successes are grounded in five characteristics spanning technologies and organizational culture. Hybrid Work is:\n\nInclusive: offering an inclusive experience for everyone\nFlexible: adapting to any work style, role, environment\nSupportive: focusing on safety, empathy, and well-being\nSecure: being secure by design, private by default\nManaged: delivering modern infrastructure, frictionless administration\n\nCreate inclusive experiences for everyone \nCisco research revealed that 98% of meetings now have at least one employee attending remotely from home. Ensuring every remote participant gets a \u2018seat at the table\u2019 is significant. It\u2019s equally important to know that the goal is less about creating identical remote and in-office work experiences and more about cultivating complementary experiences that connect and engage remote workers.\nConsiderations for a more inclusive environment:\n\nHow do you assess whether remote meeting participants enjoy an inclusive experience relative to their in-office counterparts?\nDo your employees have secure network access and a full collaboration suite to work anywhere?\n\nPractice flexibility and adapt to any workstyle, role, environment\nA critical component to executing Hybrid Work is giving employees the flexibility to work from home. This begins with policies that can be adapted to any work style, role and\/or environment where leadership empowers managers and employees to decide the best way to work. In fact, 64 percent of employees we surveyed said they expect that level of flexibility at work. Flexibility is likely to create happier and more productive employees, which generates better business results and talent retention.\n Cisco\nSOURCE: Cisco Secure Networking (Cisco, April 2021)\nThere must be ground rules, of course. Providing flexibility comes with the implicit understanding that the work is getting done and done well. Some businesses may not be able to provide as much flexibility due to compliance and rules governing certain industries. Establishing clear expectations can help ensure flexibility is used to create productive, inclusive, and safe Hybrid Work environments.\nKey questions:\n\nWhat is your leadership team\u2019s view on remote work?\nDo your employees have the latest \u2018work from anywhere\u2019 technologies including collaboration, security, mobile data?\n\nSupportive through focus on security, empathy, and well-being\nAs more companies ask employees to come back to the office, employees are clearly voicing changes they will make them feel safe in the workplace. Some 97 percent of those surveyed for the Cisco \u201cRise of the Hybrid Workplace\u201d report said they wanted \u201cchanges to make work environments safer.\u201d Businesses must adopt a culture that reinforces the benefits of technology to work from anywhere and support employee well-being.\nKey questions:\n\nHow are your leadership teams fostering empathy and support for your employees\u2019 well-being including addressing Unconscious Bias in the workplace?\nAre you maximizing the use of collaboration tools to create a trusted workplace?\n\nSecure by design, private by default\nIt\u2019s not surprising that more distributed workers expose a business to more security threats. The volume of security attacks skyrocketed during the pandemic including ransomware attacks every 14 seconds according to Cybersecurity Ventures. In certain industries, these costly attacks average $4.6M per incident, according to the Washington Post. To create a Hybrid Work environment that is secure by design and private by default involves deploying the right tools and technologies in a culture that enforces a trusted environment through education\/training, sensible security\/privacy policies to protect people, devices, data, and networks.\nKey questions:\n\nHave you provided education to your employees about how to securely work from locations away from the office?\nDo your employees know how to identify and report potential cyberthreats?\nWhat measures have you taken to protect your people and devices, while on and off the network?\n\nManaged delivery of modern infrastructure with frictionless administration\nCisco CEO Chuck Robbins said in a recent interview with the Washington Post that \u201c\u2026 most of the customers are making longer-term, strategic architectural decisions about hybrid work.\u201d For many companies, this will include investments in a modern, automated, secure, and easier-to-manage technology infrastructure. Your technology teams are adapting to the realities of a hybrid workforce that can connect from anywhere, on any device, and at any time. Empowering these teams with automated and prioritized alerts along with other tools for \u201cfrictionless\u201d administration is another Hybrid Work success factor and a key step in your digital transformation journey.\nKey questions:\n\nHow adaptive is your workforce to new technologies and processes?\nAre you able to monitor networking and application performance with end-to-end visibility from user to application anywhere?\nHow do you align the right technology solutions by role or persona across your business?\n\nSummary\nIn implementing a move to a successful Hybrid Work model, it\u2019s crucial to keep in mind the two components of Hybrid Work \u2013 enabling the workforce and transforming the workspace. While Adapting to these changes may be challenging for you and your employees, the benefits of creating a more inclusive, flexible, and empowered work environment is a generational opportunity worth the effort. Click here to learn more about essential components for hybrid work success.