The future of work is changing, and central to that evolution is the increasing adoption of hybrid work practices. Giving employees the freedom to spend part of the working week at home and the remainder in the office is seeing untold benefits, particularly for small business owners — from greater productivity and lower overheads, to better collaboration and overall staff wellbeing. And with nearly two in three people (64%) saying flexible work directly influences their decision to stay at a company, there’s certainly an appetite for hybrid.
We sat down with Ben Dawson, vice president at Cisco Australia and New Zealand, to talk about his vision for the future of work, and why all small business owners should explore the benefits of flexible working.
Leading the hybrid pack
As one of the most recognisable names in enterprise-grade technology, Cisco prides itself on being at the forefront of innovative solutions — whether that’s a specific technology or a better way of working. So when the pandemic struck, it’s no surprise they were well-prepared for the shift to remote and hybrid work and could also support their customers.
“Employees are now working in a combination of offsite and onsite locations, and we are rethinking how teams come together to collaborate, innovate and support one another,” Dawson says.
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Critically, he says the shift to hybrid is non-negotiable, and organisations of all sizes and across all industries need to recognise that or risk losing top talent.
“We are moving to a hybrid world — one that is more flexible, more innovative and more inclusive. A world that offers employees and teams more autonomy and choice in how and where they do their work.”
That hybrid world will require both business owners and their employees to adopt new mindsets, skillsets and commitments — as leaders, teams and individuals.
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The workplace, but not as we know it
While the workplace isn’t going away anytime soon, small business owners may be concerned about how its ‘purpose’ will shift in a post-pandemic world. Whether it’s an office, retail store, school, restaurant, bank, sports venue or manufacturing facility, business leaders have had to focus on health and safety in order to reopen their doors. And that’s exactly what staff are expecting of their employers today.
“According to the Global Workforce Survey, 97% of respondents wanted to see changes to make the work environment safer when they do go into the office,” Dawson says.
This ‘safe return’ extends beyond office meeting rooms. The right devices and network infrastructure can optimise working spaces, and support the ongoing safety and health of employees.
“Technology solutions can help manage density and proximity and play a critical role in ensuring a safe and productive return to workplaces. Cameras, sensors and IoT solutions can detect social distancing, whether masks are being worn, the number of people in a facility”
Tackling productivity, wellbeing and inclusivity
While the hybrid workforce is an exciting new era, it means small business owners need to be smart about how they approach company culture and how they lead from the front.
Whether you run a brand-new startup or are navigating your small business through the challenges of a pandemic, Dawson advises that you focus on three key elements:
- Access to the right tools: “Through a combination of Webex software and collaboration devices, we create tools that connect people, teams, ideas and workflows with a single click, gesture or simply with our voice. Cisco technology helps reimagine work from being a place an employee goes during set hours… into an activity and not a place.”
- Support employee wellbeing: “Life isn’t static. People aren’t either. And because work is a part of life and done by people, our work experience should match reality. Extraordinary innovation and meaningful human connections aren’t tied to one place. They are tied to our people who can be anywhere, at any time.”
- Culture of inclusion: “Our people strategy is leading with listening first — hearing feedback and insights, and is driven by data from our employees. We’re looking at capabilities, skills, cultures, structure and processes to ask the right questions. We know that good business decisions, like reimagining how we work — also can help us do good in the world. To meet the needs of your customers, you must be flexible, accommodating and empowering. The same is true for your people.”
Embracing change for the better
For some business owners, such a rapid change to the ‘traditional’ workplace may seem frightening. But it’s important to frame these changes within the context of building a more productive, collaborative and profitable business. After all, the future of work is hybrid, and hybrid is already here. It’s time to reimagine what ‘trusted hybrid work’ looks like.
“Hybrid work will look different at every organisation, and in many ways it will be harder. It has new dynamics that organisations must thoughtfully plan for. So getting hybrid work right will require leadership, culture, a people-first mindset and, critically, the right technology.”
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