The keys to enabling hybrid work

Mar 30, 2022
Employee ExperienceRemote WorkWi-Fi
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Flexible work environments that were precipitated by the pandemic are most certainly here to stay and work will not return to pre-pandemic norms. These days it’s all about what workers do and how they do it, not where they do it.

Access to technology dictates where a worker chooses to work.  Providing a consistent experience from just about anywhere is key to hybrid work.

Manageable high bandwidth, reliable and secure wireless communications will be one of the most important technologies freeing workers from fixed locations and enabling them to get their jobs done regardless of location.

Those attributes are just for starters. To be truly effective these technologies must embody some higher level characteristics.

Organisations must:

Reimagine connectivity: Create a pervasive environment for people and devices to connect from anywhere, easily and reliably, using wired or wireless networks.

Reinforce security: Secure their networks with continuous, zero trust security and identity-based trusted access that enables authorised users and devices to use applications, services, and data.

Redefine automation: Automate network management and orchestration with artificial intelligence and machine learning, while gaining end-to-end visibility and insights from analytics of device, user and application activities across the network.

In addition, while not directly contributing to their ability to support hybrid work, it is important that all systems and technologies aim for maximum sustainability.

A safe and healthy work environment

In its ideal realisation, a hybrid work environment supports workers equally, wherever they are. It could be a workstation at the company’s office, an employee’s home office, a desk in a hotel room. Technology, including both software and hardware, supports secure collaboration and communication, regardless of where work is being done.

It empowers people to work onsite, offsite and when moving between locations. It also provides support to the physical and emotional needs of employees: a safe and healthy environment, where that is possible, and promotes employee engagement and inclusiveness as well as being equally productive.

Developing and implementing hybrid work policy will be essential if organisations are to retain staff. A September 2021 survey commissioned by Cisco found 68 percent of those surveyed were already working from both home and the office, and 58 percent would leave their current employer if they were required to return to the office full time.

Ninety percent of participants also expressed safety concerns about returning to the office and wanting changes to make the office safer. And 98 percent wanted to see their workplaces improved with intelligent technology.

When asked how many working days each month they would like to be in the office once workplaces fully reopen, only 9 percent cited all ‘working days’ with 57 percent opting for 10 days or less per month.

Adoption of hybrid work inevitably means fewer workers in the office at any given time, and the Cisco survey found 53 percent of organisations planning to reduce their office footprint.

However, the office will have a key role in hybrid work. It will become a central hub where workers can engage in rich collaboration experiences, build rapport with their colleagues, connect with the workplace culture, and enhance their ability to help their employer achieve its business objectives.

Organisations will be able to maintain business continuity only if they invest to upgrade their facilities with technology that ensures they can function in a post-pandemic world.

Key technologies

Companies are taking a wireless-first approach to building the next generation workspace. The office will become the hub of hybrid work, supporting multiple simultaneous communications.

Today this means high bandwidth, real-time video with other participants in the office and in remote locations. Tomorrow it will be 4K and 8K video and even more bandwidth-hungry augmented and virtual reality.

High bandwidth coverage will need to be ubiquitous, high capacity, secure, reliable and easily managed. Excellent analytics and network assurance features will be essential.

The huge upsurge in the number of Wi-Fi users and the uptick in bandwidth requirements is putting a strain on the capacity of many Wi-Fi networks. The latest iteration of Wi-Fi, Wi-Fi 6E, addresses this. It uses new spectrum in the 6GHz band. In the US the FCC has allocated 1200MHz of spectrum to Wi-Fi in the 6GHz band, more than twice the amount of spectrum provided in the 2.4GHz and 5GHz bands combined.

In October 2020, South Korea became the first country in the region to open the 6GHz band, and Malaysia followed in January 2022, followed by Australia in March. New Zealand, Hong Kong and Japan have also begun consultations.

Underpinning the Wi-Fi network must be a highly secure, high bandwidth wired network that enables IT to securely operate at scale with great agility through a simplified, consistent, and seamless experience that is highly automated, provides zero trust security and is simple to operate. It must enable unified user identity and user onboarding and policy across all connections.

Universal Power over Ethernet (UPoE) where device power is supplied over the ethernet cable greatly increased the utility of these networks. It lowers deployment costs because the need for a separate power supply network is eliminated.

Convergence of IT and OT also enables centralised and smart control of lighting and HVAC systems that further saves power and promotes sustainability.

Multigigabit Ethernet is critical to support the higher bandwidths of more recent wireless standards. It also enables existing Cat5e cabling to support throughput up to 5Gbps, and Cat6a cabling to support 10Gbps.

Another technology extending hybrid work connectivity into industrial space is private 5G. In environments such as manufacturing plants, and oil and gas refineries, where low latency, wide-area coverage are required, private 5G complements existing Wi-Fi 6 networks for specific use cases and critical environments.

Cisco and hybrid work

To take advantage of the greater throughput available with Wi-Fi 6E, Cisco has introduced the industry’s first high-end Wi-Fi 6E access points, Catalyst 9136 and Meraki MR57, to address the most demanding hybrid business environments.

They will enable the next generation of mobile applications and services, from augmented and virtual reality and the metaverse, to IoT and artificial intelligence and machine learning.

The Catalyst 9136 also addresses worker concerns about the office environment. It incorporates an air quality, temperature and humidity sensors that can integrate with building management systems to provide insights into the operation of heating, lighting and air conditioning systems, through machine learning and artificial intelligence. This provides an optimal working environment to be maintained, and energy to be conserved.

Meanwhile, Cisco has introduced new Catalyst 9000-X Series switches which offer greater scale, faster performance, greater security, and flexibility. The range includes the Catalyst 9500X and 9600X models, the first offering 400G in enterprise and the first to use Silicon One ASICs for campus.

At the access edge, Catalyst 9300X and 9400X models deliver full mGig and 90W PoE ports, and converged switching and routing. All provide continuous zero-trust security for a smarter, more agile campus and branch network.

See it from Cisco

This VOD helps you learn how Cisco is pushing the boundaries of technology to provide automated operations, assure an unparalleled and more secure experience, support a smarter, sustainable workplace, and bring exceptional speed and scale to meet the demands of hybrid work.

Want to know more about the Cisco Secure Agile Networks powering hybrid work? Learn more and request a 1:1 free consultation at