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What Are Employees Truly Want In A Hybrid Work World?

Hybrid work is impossible without the right infrastructure and tools, but it is also critical for leaders to think about how they can cultivate trust and empathy

It is hard to remember what work at the office was like before we worked fully remotely during the peak of the pandemic and as we toggled between a hybrid and remote model during the great work experiment that followed.

On the surface, hybrid work is the ability to work from home, the office, and anywhere. While it may seem like a simple concept, it requires a complete rethink of the employee experience, and a much greater focus on inclusive culture, employee well-being, as well as trust and leadership.

Hybrid work has changed the workplace for good

Our latest global Hybrid Work study reveals that work is no longer about where you go, but what you do. This has never been clearer, with almost two-thirds (65 per cent) of employees in ASEAN believing that their quality of work has improved with hybrid work and 66 per cent share that their job knowledge and skills have improved.

Getting more done has allowed them to take more time for themselves. Most respondents said that hybrid work has improved various aspects of their physical, financial, emotional, and social well-being by allowing them to reinvest time from their commute and rigid work schedules into more time for family, friends, and pets. This has ultimately made them happier.

While employees are saying they want a hybrid work arrangement, only one in four (28 per cent) think that their company is “very prepared” for hybrid work. This boils down to challenges on two fronts: technology and culture. 

Technology is an enabler in the hybrid work world

Working from anywhere is only possible if you have technology that allows you to connect from anywhere. A key enabler of this is a software-defined, modern network that can seamlessly and securely connect any employee to any application or cloud, across any platform, all with a consistent user experience.

Smart collaboration tools, which seamlessly integrate voice, video, and content sharing, also play an important role in enabling employees with a consistent work experience and in keeping them engaged.

Collaboration is not just a business for Cisco, but the way we work. Our collaboration tools such as Webex provide a smart, seamless, secure way for people across different work environments, languages, and technological proficiency to connect, with features such as noise cancellation, real-time translations, and artificial intelligence (AI) speech enhancement levelling the playing field for all meeting participants.

All these technologies need to be underpinned by a Secure Access Service Edge (SASE) architecture, which converges networking and security functions to protect an organisation’s entire infrastructure. 

The bigger challenge comes with making hybrid work inclusive

While technology is critical in a hybrid work world, it cannot succeed alone. The harder fix is the culture shift needed to build an inclusive environment for hybrid work to be successful truly. More than half of our respondents from the Hybrid Work study believe that fully remote workers will have challenges engaging with their colleagues (67 per cent) and company (66 per cent), compared to those who toggle between remote and in-office work.

These findings illustrate the need for organisations to rethink how they engage employees and create new rituals that promote team engagement in a hybrid work arrangement. Businesses must build an inclusive environment where everyone feels accountable, empowered, and heard regardless of whether they are working from home or in the office.

This success relies on flexible, empathetic leaders who can “walk the talk” and show employees that they are committed to embedding trust, flexibility, and listening in the hybrid world.

One way leaders can do this is by setting up a consistent platform for employees to share their sentiments on their work experience.

For example, Cisco conducts Quarterly Engagement Pulses to evaluate and spark conversations about how employees feel about their team, the work environment, and themselves.

In addition, all employees participate in weekly check-ins with their managers that allow employees to have a focused conversation about their work sentiments, priorities, and strengths.

This includes what they loved and loathed doing and the support they need from their managers each week. We found that this has helped employees feel seen, heard, supported and helps us ensure that they are given equal opportunities to thrive in their roles.

While hybrid work is not possible without the right infrastructure and tools for connectivity and cybersecurity, what will be critical for leaders to rethink is how they can cultivate trust and empathy within their organisation to embed inclusive fully collaborative work arrangements for hybrid work to really work.

Source: e27

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