Brendan Cuthbertson, Head of Private Sector Sales South Africa at Cisco.
We are entering a world in which flexibility is demanded and inclusivity is the norm. This is according to Brendan Cuthbertson, Head of Private Sector Sales South Africa at Cisco, who says the comprehensive Cisco Global Hybrid Work Study 2022 revealed that from an employee perspective, there could be no going back to the ‘old way’ of doing things.
Workplace culture evolution
The Cisco Global Hybrid Work Study, which polled 28 000 people globally across 27 countries, discovered almost 95% of South African respondents want to work either in a hybrid or fully remote working model in the future. This compares favourably to global respondents, who came in at 92%.
Gen Z employees aged 18-24 were most likely to feel remote working was beneficial for their performance, with 70.3% saying their quality of work had improved. In South Africa, 70.1% of respondents said they preferred a hybrid model, while 14.9% preferred to work full time in an office, and 13.8% preferred to work full time from home. Cuthbertson notes: “From an employer perspective, the productivity gains and improved performance of working from home may not be as high as employees believe. What we are seeing a lot in both the local market and in Europe is that employers want to see people in the office again. However, they are aware that many employees – particularly younger talent – prefer hybrid and remote work. So we can expect to see work models evolving and changing as we enter this next phase of hybrid work.”
Financial well-being and environmental challenges
He says local challenges such as load-shedding and fuel price hikes will inevitably impact how hybrid work models are implemented and adapted.
Fuel and commuting have been ranked by 95% of respondents among the top areas where the most significant savings have been made since working remotely. Significantly, 92% of respondents believe these savings can be maintained over the long term.
“Load-shedding impacts those who might not have UPS and backup power at home, whereas most office parks have these facilities. So worsening load-shedding may drive people back to the office. On the other hand, rising petrol costs and transport costs will have a material impact on many employees who must travel to a workplace. Companies will have to find a balance and keep exploring models that work,” he says.
Security and data privacy
While organisations continue to explore the hybrid work models that will be most effective, Cuthbertson says they are actively looking to the technologies that enable the hybrid workplaces of the future. These tools must be secure, enterprise-grade solutions that integrate with other business tools and support seamless workflows across hybrid office locations, he says.
As more people and businesses adopt hybrid work practices, the need to protect sensitive data and information is more important than ever.
“Our survey found that only one in four employers are ‘very prepared’ to offer hybrid work across areas such as technology, cyber security and data privacy, company culture, employee support and HR processes and policies.”
Employees agree. More than 86% of those questioned said it was critical for making the hybrid work practice safe. Progress has been made on this front, with 67% in South Africa believing their company has the right cyber security capabilities and protocols in place. In fact, more than 62% of those polled said all employees across their company understand the cyber risks related to remote work
Cuthbertson says: “We want to be at the centre of the hybrid work revolution.”
Cisco is adding several artificial intelligence-driven upgrades to Webex, including several designed to improve the experience for remote attendees of hybrid meetings: making them look and feel (to the remote attendees) like everyone’s remote, for example, and adding a virtual whiteboard that everyone can use. In August, Cisco will be extending the CarPlay integration to include listening to past Webex recordings.