The first Hybrid work index (HWI) from Cisco has shown that hybrid workers expect greater flexibility, accessibility and security, while businesses grapple with meeting increased technology demands.
The Hybrid work index, which will be updated quarterly, examines how people’s habits and technology interactions have permanently reshaped work a year and a half into the Covid-19 pandemic. It is based on aggregated and anonymous customer datapoints from Cisco platforms covering collaboration (Webex), networking (Meraki), internet visibility (ThousandEyes) and security (Talos, Duo, Umbrella).
Third-party research surveying more than 39,000 respondents across 34 countries, including CIOs, IT decision makers and employees, supplemented the research alongside Cisco’s own employee data.
For example, a standout theme was that people want choice, and that the hybrid workplace increases employee loyalty. Almost two-thirds agree that the ability to work remotely instead of coming into an office directly affects whether they stay or leave a job. Yet there was also uncertainty around whether employers will realise the potential of hybrid work. Only 47% thought their company would allow working from anywhere compared with in-office over the next six to 12 months.
Flexibility and wellness were found to be key drivers for hybrid work. An overwhelming majority of respondents agreed that personal health and wellness, along with flexible work arrangements, were non-negotiables as they moved into the future of hybrid work, which was also driving a surge in on-the-go meetings. Pre-pandemic, people used mobile devices 9% of the time to connect to their meetings. In a hybrid work world, this number tripled and is now at 27%.
In the broader context of meetings, Cisco found that meetings abound, but not everyone participates in them in the same way. Cisco noted that more than 61 million meetings take place globally every month via Webex, and in any one of them, only 48% of participants were likely to speak. In addition, 98% of meetings had at least one person joining remotely, something that the company said increased the need for the inclusion and engagement of remote participants so that they feel equal to their peers on-site.
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More than four-fifths (82%) of survey respondents agreed that access to connectivity was now critical to recovery from the pandemic and the importance of ensuring everyone has equal access to jobs, education and healthcare opportunities. Increased connectivity access was seen to empower people to work for any company in the world and allow companies to source the best talent regardless of location.
Looking at key future technologies, artificial intelligence (AI) was found to be at the centre of the future of work. Cisco noted over 200% growth in usage of AI capabilities from July through September 2021, which points towards people’s desire for improved meeting engagement. This includes meeting features such as noise reduction, automatic translation and transcriptions, polling, and gesture recognition – making it easier for people to engage in conversation, whether they’re virtual or in-room.
Just more than 18 months after the lockdowns and stay-at-home orders, home networks are now one of the most critical parts of the enterprise network. There was a two-times faster growth in teleworker devices compared with small and medium-sized business routers since the pandemic started. Collaboration apps are now the most monitored application type globally.
Collaboration apps were found to have surpassed secure access and productivity application monitoring, which were more heavily monitored at the onset of the pandemic. However, devices connecting to office-based Wi-Fi networks increased 61% in comparison with six months ago. This growth was led by the higher education, professional services and hospitality industries.
Alarmingly, though, the survey also revealed that during the pandemic, malicious remote access attempts grew 2.4 times. It showed that in September 2021, the hybrid workforce was targeted with more than 100 million email threats daily. This, said Cisco, underscored the importance of security infrastructures that keep work accessible to the right users and out of reach of fraudulent actors.
“We’re truly at a unique time, with the ability to redefine work,” said Chuck Robbins, Cisco chair and CEO, commenting on the HWI.
“All employees around the world want a workplace that enables them to do their best, and it is our responsibility as business leaders to learn how best to support and enable our employees, however and wherever they work.”