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Inclusive technologies power up hybrid work

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Organizations can realize the benefits of a hybrid work setup by utilizing all available technologies and solutions out there. Technology services giant Cisco believes that this is the new way of operating a business — effectively.
Cisco Philippines Managing Director Zaza Soriano-Nicart said the pandemic somehow expedites the digital experience in every industry and every organization, regardless of size, in the country — and this made it clear that work flexibility will be the new work environment.
“We believe that hybrid work is here and it’s here to stay. Against this backdrop, we can expect employees to work from the office at varying levels, giving rise to the need for an efficient and resilient hybrid workforce,” Nicart told Back End News in an email interview. “While some industries in the Philippines have been given a return-to-work order, and while the government has loosened mobility restrictions, the majority of businesses in the Philippines have given their employees the flexibility to continue to work from home.”
Hybrid means working remotely and onsite, which some companies adopted when the government eased mobility restrictions as COVID-19 cases experienced a gradual decrease.
Earlier, Cisco conducted its Global Hybrid Work Study 2022 titled, “Employees are ready for hybrid work, are you?” that examined the effects of hybrid working amid the current coronavirus pandemic. It surveyed 28,000 employees from 27 countries, including 1,050 from the Philippines.
The study found that 92% of employees in the Philippines showed a strong preference for having the freedom to work from anywhere, and 60% prefer a hybrid work setup. The figure is higher than the whole of the ASEAN region which saw that 87% of employees prefer hybrid working.
Cross-architecture approach
According to Nicart, companies need a cross-architecture approach to information technology (IT) and networking infrastructure to be successful in today’s work-from-anywhere economy.
Nicart pointed out that this approach also entails collaboration tools that address employees’ well-being and ensure inclusivity for people working in all locations and settings.
She said a strong cybersecurity posture is also important “to enable secure access and protect everything from the network to end-points and individual users in a distributed environment.”
She added that companies need a “full-stack observability”— that offers real-time visibility of the whole technology infrastructure for the whole organization and even its partners— to be able to transition to hybrid work.
However, the Cisco official stressed that it would be crucial as hybrid work cannot be solved in isolation and it is cross-functional.
“We are fortunate that remote working has been in our DNA for us at Cisco. It is a culture we have built over decades and is based on the implicit trust we have in one another to give our best irrespective of where we are working from,” Nicart said. “But like many companies, we also learned from this mass transition to hybrid work. Transitioning to hybrid work is a journey, but because of our collaboration platform Webex, we were able to do this very quickly.”

One of the biggest challenges many businesses are facing today, Nicart cited, is looking for and retaining good talent.
This is why, she emphasized that hybrid work presents a “compelling opportunity” for business leaders to foster not only more productivity and innovation, but a more desirable company culture that will help in the ongoing war for talent.
If implemented well, Nicart expressed belief that hybrid work would be key to many businesses across the region in ensuring that good people stay with the company and produce great work with the people around them.
“Hybrid work has improved various aspects of employee well-being resulting in happier, wealthier, and fitter individuals. Why does this matter? Because it impacts business performance too,” she said.
Sixty-five percent of employees in the ASEAN region stated that they are less likely to leave and look for a new role with hybrid work arrangements, Cisco’s research revealed.
“Our latest research indicates that more needs to be done to fully integrate hybrid work arrangements for employees, especially when it comes to building an inclusive culture powered by efficient technology infrastructure in this new world of working that employees clearly prefer,” Nicart said.
“Leaders and companies need to commit to actions that go a long way to retain their people — listening, building trust, and leading with empathy, flexibility, and fairness,” she added.
Technology, cybersecurity
While there have been significant positive impacts in the workplace, she said hybrid work exposes businesses to new risks in terms of technology. “Now most people are working from anywhere — at home, on the go, eventually back in offices — and they are doing it on any device.”
“With this shift, the data center is no longer the hub — the user is. And to give them secure access to work resources and applications, our users now have to almost be treated as a ‘branch of one,’” she said.
In the hybrid new normal of work, the Cisco official said that companies have to make sure that remote employees are as engaged as employees who are in the physical office.
As hybrid work changed the business environment so much, Cisco admits that it also struggles in terms of networking and security functions in the cloud to deliver secure access to applications, anywhere users work.
Earlier this year, Cisco just released Cisco+ Secure Connect Now — an as-a-service, cloud-managed solution available to customers via a single subscription.
It provides customers with a secure access service edge (SASE) solution that is quick to deploy and easy to manage, radically simplifying how organizations connect and protect users, things and applications.
Technically speaking, SASE is the convergence of wide area networking, or WAN, and security services like secure web gateways, CASB, firewall as a service, Zero Trust network access.
With Cisco+ Secure Connect, ongoing operations management is done on a cloud network platform powered by Cisco Meraki and the Cisco Security Cloud, allowing organizations to configure the service within minutes and monitor networking and security traffic in one place.