OUR HYBRID WORK TECHNOLOGY EXPERT GUEST
Hybrid work technology isn’t where Mark thought he would end up. But after his training at Warwick, he moved back to London and landed a gig in media. After a while, he wanted a challenge, so he sought out the tech world.
Mark Needham is a graduate of Warwick Business School. He is EMEAR Hybrid Work Leader and a member of the Global Collaboration Sales Team at Cisco, where he specializes in business development and strategy, and helping customers unlock hybrid work.
Cisco is a $50 billion organization. With 270 offices spanning 88 countries, Cisco has one of the larger employee and real estate footprints. Using their own technology to add to company culture has been a key to their success.
CISCO ORIGINATED THE HYBRID TECHNOLOGY WORKPLACE
“So even if we look at pre-pandemic stats, half the company worked in different locations to managers. Half the company were working across multiple time zones. And to enable that to be successful, we had to have this proto hybrid work approach where everyone had the right tools.” – Mark Needham
During the pandemic, many large organizations have struggled with productivity, maintaining culture and difficulty mastering hybrid work schedules. This is mainly because of it being forced on them. They had to improvise.
In comparison, Cisco has had a hugely productive and innovative time during Covid. They’ve closed fourteen acquisitions, increased revenue by 15%, launched 23 new products, and hired more than 2000 people.
The groundwork for this progress started years ago. Pre-pandemic, 9% of the workforce worked fully remote and 80% of the company was working from home at least once a week.
This only worked due to a desire to be flexible and the ability to equip its employees with the right technology in order to make WFH a success.
OPTIMIZE YOUR EMPLOYEE’S HOME TECHNOLOGY
“I joined Cisco seven years ago and have had dedicated video [since]. So even though most of my team are in other countries, you never really feel that distance. And you can still foster that culture because you can always have that natural engagement.” – Mark Needham
Mark quotes his first tech job, where he worked from home equipped only with a Blackberry. He was disengaged, alienated from colleagues and never wanted to go to the office because of its inconvenient location.
Employees must have two things in order to succeed with the hybrid work model. The first is dedicated video. Every home worker at Cisco has access to a first class video experience. Mark uses a WebEx Deskpro, which is an executive device.
Mark advocates for a stand-up desk or a weighted vest to help posture and inspire good workflow. Another really important element is exceptional internet. Different areas offer different quality. At Cisco, many employees are able to transport office Wi-Fi to their homes.
TRANSPARENCY THROUGH HYBRID WORK TECHNOLOGY
“Every single month, there’s an ‘all hands’ with the CEO and all 70,000 staff. You can ask him anything. And the topics for discussion [can be] company updates, but also social [and cultural].” – Mark Needham
Cisco has a long history of strong transparency, from senior leadership down to the mailroom. During these meetings with upper level management, critical topics are discussed, such as COVID policy, vaccinations, and return to work.
Mark points to an example where during a company-wide Zoom call with the CEO, his granddaughter appeared on-screen. This cute little girl had to show grandpa a picture she’d drawn. It was a brief, heart-warming encounter.
This occurrence set a company-wide example that this type of family encounter during hybrid work is normal. This allows people to feel comfortable and bring their best every day, but with a level of balance.
The other added benefit of this transparency is aspirational. This is what the house of someone who runs a $50B company looks like. For some, motivation doesn’t get better than that.
HAVE GOOD TECHNOLOGY FOR HYBRID WORK
“Some of the articles around hybrid work position that it’s the junior person at home and senior staff in the office. And that’s not the case. [Sometimes] the person coming in remotely is the CEO. Those in the office [and at home should] all have access to the same tool set.” – Mark Needham
The office is now just one of many entry points into the ecosystem of technology and tools you need to drive your business. Reframing the office as being one way to work rather than the only way obviously has an impact in redesigning spaces.
As it turns out, the commonalities between the office and what you need at home are similar. There’s a statistic that moving forwards, 98% of meetings will have a remote participant.
Therefore, every single collaboration space in your office needs dedicated video experiences, whether it is only one person joining remotely or nine out of ten zooming in. The only difference may be the grade of equipment required for single use or multi-use.
CISCO IS PRIORITIZING THE HUDDLE SPACE
“If we take [our] new office in Chicago, individual offices have all gone. There are no individuals offices in that [space]. And it’s allowed us to double the number of huddle spaces.” – Mark Needham
Mark says it is all about the ‘huddle space,’ where employees are in open plan, socializing between meetings, or collaborating. In almost all of Cisco’s offices, there are no desks. They’re all big social tables, conducive to interaction, and set up with the right tech for any situation.
Cisco has doubled the number of huddle spaces and doubled down on providing first-rate video capability to engage with others.
Mark even has his own catchphrase: The Grand Community Lounge, a fusion between a business class lounge and a WeWork type space. Post-pandemic, people want to spend their time in more engaging and funky spaces. For Cisco, that natural rhythm and flow is so important.
HYBRID WORK TECHNOLOGY CONCLUSION
Mark says matching the workplace design to the workplace behaviors is key. If you have multiple offices, you will see different behaviors in different locations and ways you can dynamically change that.
Moreover, it’s a constant evolution and iteration based on the data, how people are using it, the feedback we get in and the priorities of the business at that point in time.
Mark says companies that prioritize investing in technology to make meetings and collaboration fluid will find success in the coming decade. With Cisco being named one of the World’s Best Workplaces a few years running and a long history of hybrid work, Mark knows what he’s talking about.