The Hybrid Workplace

- (how to) thrive at work in the new reality

In the light of the COVID-19 pandemic, we’ve all had to adjust to a new reality. Cisco’s first response was to offer free video conferencing and security solutions, even emptying our offices and shipping surplus videoconferencing devices to schools, hospitals, and governments. Organizations have embraced videoconferencing as a way to support remote working and continue their operations. We want to reshare our learnings in this guide.

Solving the Hybrid Workplace

The main challenge we identified for companies in the near future will be supporting a workforce split between the home office and the main office. We call this the Hybrid Workplace. There is a need and urge to get back to the office, but keeping employees safe and dispersed is the primary concern. Many companies figured out how to work 100% from the home office as an initial response to the pandemic, but creating equal opportunities and involvement for all in a Hybrid Workplace requires culture change, more planning and better tools.

The good news is this may be an opportunity for your business to stay competitive beyond
just handling the current situation. While your other investments related to the pandemic may strictly target safety, moving to cloud, adopting a mature home office strategy and enabling the collaboration spaces in the office has a ton of ripple effects:

Recruit the best talent regardless of where they live. Save the environment while saving
travel costs. Give your employees better work-life balance. Stay productive and collaborative wherever you are, in high definition. Enable your offices with smarter services across buildings, sensors and digital interfaces.

  1. Solving the hybrid workplace

  2. keeping your people safe

  3. Scenarios from a Hybrid Workplace

  4. Moving Forward

Keeping your people safe

7 principles for a safe office

We identified seven recurring principles across expert recommendations for a safe workplace during COVID-19. These principles should be implemented by a multidisciplinary team stretching across leadership, HR, IT, site managers and employees.

  1. Reduce human-to-human contact

  2. Minimize face-to-face meetings

  3. Minimize the need to touch anything

  4. Guide and educate people

  5. Clean and decontaminize

  6. Measure people’s temperature

  7. Track people count and movements

  • WHO

  • US Government

  • JLL

  • Nelson

  • BBC

  • Bloomberg

  • Buzzfeed

1 of 6
  • Reimagined use of hot desks

    With a majority of workers moving to remote or flexible workstyles, hot-desking may remain popular as fewer employees will need dedicated office space. However, the practice will require an overhaul in terms of how stations are monitored and cleaned. Consider ‘single-use per day’ or ‘clean in, clean out’ policies for existing spaces to meet health and safety standards.

  • More small meeting rooms and wider use of desk collaboration devices

    Keeping a safe distance in meetings is easier when joining from multiple locations - even if from the conference room next door in the same office building. Semi-open spaces designed for flexible use are also perfect for ad-hoc meetings and brainstorming. Employees can easily bring personal computers and phones for proximity pairing and no-touch collaboration.

  • More collaboration, less travel

    Travel has already been reduced significantly. Expect it to stay that way for a while causing virtual meetings to be the focus of team collaboration. Having Webex Rooms devices at home and in the office will help ensure equal participation and decision making. Start building changes to your digital infrastructure into your long-term investment strategy now while there is a decreased need for people to gather in one location. 

  • Better ways to meet

    An increase in distributed teams and employees coming to the office at different times means there will be fewer spontaneous meetings. Enabling Cisco Webex Hybrid Calendar Service makes it easy for you to plan, schedule and join meetings from any device, no matter where you are while Webex Teams status allows you to see who is available for a quick chat. Cisco Webex Hybrid Calendar supports Microsoft Exchange, Office 365, and Google Calendar.

  • Monitoring and analysis of space usage

    Knowing which spaces are in frequent use or currently crowded will help in managing space usage. Thankfully, all Webex Room, Board and Desk series devices come with intelligent people-counting sensors directly embedded. Organizations can build alerts based on capacity, track space popularity, or even create triggers to clean a room after use through simple customizations and available APIs.

  • Optimization of real estate

    Expect to see the tracking and monitoring of real estate usage result in space optimization, flexibility, and cost savings. Our customers tell us that insights and analytics provided by Webex Meetings and Rooms devices are by far the best way of demonstrating savings and ROI. You can confidently make long-term real estate plans backed with data from your Webex solutions.

Scenarios from a Hybrid Workplace

Working from Home

There is no safer place than home. Working from home is also a potential timesaver for your employees in achieveing work-life-balance. To make sure they are able to work productively, there are some aspects that need to be solved:

Cognitive workload

Video conferencing fatigue should be targeted with high quality audio and video, to minimize the cognitive workload of picking up cues in meetings.

Collaborate with confidence

Staying professional is still a priority when at home. With Webex devices on both sides, people join fast, appear in high fidelity and engage in close collaboration using purpose-built equipment such as the Desk Pro or Roomkit.


What about the admin experience of managing home offices? No worries - security, devices and licenses for home offices can all be managed from the Control Hub.

Going to the office

For employees going to the office, guiding and nudging towards the right behaviours is important.

Guide and educate

Give employees updated safety guidance through digital signage, easily managed via Control Hub to all shared devices. Here is how to configure digital signages for your devices.

Simplify safety

Creating a micro-service showing the last time cleaning was done is quite easy. Find out how from the Webex blog or check out the Room Devices section of DevNet.

Analytics and tracking

Monitor people density throughout the building by leveraging Cisco DNA Spaces and Meraki. Cisco DNA Spaces offer rich location-based services that you can integrate with any custom HR approach you want to establish. Discover more about DNA Space.

Working together at the office

Voice control to minimize touch

With Webex Assistant, you can control the device using your voice. To further minimize contamination while taking good care of the device, please use the cleaning guidelines.

Personal devices are welcome

With the Webex apps on your personal device you can control do amazing things. For example - whiteboard from your home, or a tablet in the meeting room, showing it on the big screen in the meeting room. Stay safe and collaborative.

Nudging to stay safe

An Australian customer built a custom meeting room alert that reminded people of the usage limits per room, using people count and macros.

Quickly up and running

Expect sudden changes in location for your employees while trying to disperse or rotating between home and office. When they’re cloud enabled and have a similar work experience from home and at work, the hassle of getting up and running is minimal.

Wrapping up after a workday

Simplify decontamination

Based on people count from meeting rooms, or people density tracking in DNA Spaces, cleaning alerts can be arranged to prioritize cleaning for maximum ROI, safety and convenience.

Resilient collaboration

It might not be possible or practical to attend every workshop or meeting in person or virtually - make sure your employees can choose to catch up in Webex Teams, watch meeting recordings or read automated transcripts with Voicea.

Moving forward

Depending on where your business are at now, there are different jobs to be done. The three phases shown below may help you approach this in a systematic way.

1. Care and continuity2. Return to the office3. A Hybrid Workplace
Suggested goalsPreserve business operations, and provide care and support to employees.Instill confidence and initiate the Hybrid Workplace.Take advantage of your new skills and leverage emerging market opportunities.
Workplace PoliciesOnly critical employees allowed going to the office, supporting people working from home.Controlled use of facilities: prioritize by role, occupancy by appointment, tightly clustered teams. Majority of workforce still working from home based on risk vs reward assessment.Intelligent use of facilities; available to all and used when needed, based on work activity.
Space Design and ManagementNudge towards social distancing using in-context guidance and educationRetrofit existing office layouts, reconsider geometries to separate and distance. Reduce density via workstation separation and occupancy limits.Adjust CRE strategies - focus on “safe” collaboration, learning and socializing. More open “we” environments. Dynamically manage density and adjustable spaces. Investigate new materials and fabrics to ease disinfection.
TechnologyEnable WFH: laptops, VPN and collaboration tools. Ramp virtual events for executive communications, town halls and education.Scale video device deployments to support a more dispersed workforce. Deploy hands free tech for workplace interactions. Provide contextual guidance to all.Leverage data and location-based services - for risk and contact tracing, workplace concierge services, intelligent wayfinding, smart-healthy building technology.
OutcomesAlleviate fears and prove to be productive outside the office building.Win trust, adapt 3Ps (policy, process, procedures) to new realities, enable rapid tech innovation.Accelerate CRE portfolio optimization, access new talent pools and evolve employee social contracts.

Downloadable PDF

This article is also available as a pdf document you can share with your colleagues.
The document is available here.