Hybrid Work Can Be a Powerful Competitive Advantage for the Early Adopters

Hybrid work will reshape how organisations think about where and how to invest in people, places, and technologies.

The good news for organisations is that many leaders have heard and are at least planning to heed the hybrid work clarion call. Recent research1 shows that nine out of 10 executives expect hybrid work to be the de facto model for their companies going forward. Further, these executives are planning for employees to be working outside of the office up to 79 percent of time, for the most non-essential roles.

There is a good reason for business leaders to take a firm and proactive stance on implementing or expanding hybrid work for their companies. The shift to hybrid work impacts virtually all areas of business operations and work culture including employee productivity & well-being, employee engagement, war for talent, technology investment, real estate strategy, and even customer experience to name a few drivers. Businesses who forge a clear and decisive path toward hybrid work are likely to outperform peers and competitors in these key operational areas.

Employee Productivity

Some organisations may be hesitant to adopt hybrid work due to perceived impact on employee productivity. But according to Gartner, companies who empowered employees with “radical flexibility” enjoyed a 40% increase in high performers compared with standard level of flexibility. Another survey1 revealed that companies who saw productivity gains during the pandemic were those who enabled employees and leadership to connect regularly even through “microtransactions” as defined by opportunities to discuss projects, share ideas, network, mentor, and coach, even remotely.

Success Story: DMS S.A. who develops ERP software that helps other companies become more efficient and productive, saw its own team’s productivity spike 50 percent by giving employees more flexibility in how and where they chose to work. This included decreasing the time employees spent out of the office from 70 to 30 percent using Webex. The Customer Support department alone experienced 200% increase in employee productivity using Webex without having to add staff. The company also reported being able to host more meetings across geographies in less time, which resulted in 70% cost savings.2

Employee Engagement

Maintaining high levels of employee engagement is an acute challenge when workers are distributed and often isolated from each other physically. Gartner reports3 that true success will require companies to adopt “human-centric work design” that is characterised by flexibility and empathy, makes employees feel more empowered, and increases their productivity and engagement.” The investment in the intelligent and intuitive workplace technologies also can play a major role. Cisco research shows that 98% of meetings today have at least one person joining remotely.4 Thus, it’s becoming more critical to use technologies to enable inclusion and engagement of remote participants, so that they feel equal to their peers on site.

Talent Retention & Recruitment

According to the Cisco Hybrid Work Index, 64% of employees surveyed said that the ability to work from anywhere instead of coming to the office directly affected whether they stayed or left a job, making hybrid work a key decision criterion for workers. By unfettering companies from having to always hire within a specific geography, hybrid work will provide organisations access to labor pools they’ve never tapped into before. This will be true even for small businesses who are open to hiring remote workers. Standing in the way for companies is the historically tight labor market. For example, the US labor market exceeded 10 million job openings5 for the first time ever, according to the US Labor Department.

Success Story: Normally based in San Jose, Calif., Avanti Lakshmi Kesavan, a product marketing manager in the Cisco Small Business Marketing organisation, took advantage of the Cisco office closures in early 2021 to work from Dubai and then India over a four-month span. Avanti’s managers ensured that she was equipped with the “office in a box” toolkit including a portable Webex Desk Pro, a powerful, all-in-one collaboration device. Avanti was able to connect with her family in both regions during the time but maintained high levels of excellence at her work. She did find the 11-to 12-hour difference in time zones to her colleagues in San Jose challenging at times, but she adapted accordingly aided by the flexibility and support provided by her teammates and managers. Due to these positive experiences, Avanti reports that it’s a work adventure she’ll never forget but hopes to repeat soon. 6


The evolution of workplace culture and the underlying policies can undoubtedly be profound in the shift to hybrid work. Equally, so will the advancements in technologies that companies will invest and deploy to support a highly distributed, on-and-offsite workforce. With 98% of knowledge workers believe meetings will now have at least one remote participant, it is no wonder then 94% of employees4 want their companies to provide a better collaboration experience such as the ability to reduce noise and distractions and the benefit of having common tools/interface whether at home or in the office. For the companies and their IT organisations, an important goal to protect their users, devices, and data from the growing number of security threats that are expanding each year. Today’s workers require access to cloud, SaaS, and on-prem applications and data anywhere (at the office, at home, or on the road) to do their jobs. Therefore organisations must make strategic investments into building a security architecture and implementing security solutions to support a global hybrid workforce. Emerging security technologies such as secure access service edge and zero trust network access are supplementing existing solutions to provide organisations a way to provide secure access for their workforce anywhere and anytime.

Real Estate & Sustainability

As more employees work remotely at least part of the time, it is not a surprise that companies rethink their real estate strategy and needs over time. According to Siemens7, over half the companies they surveyed expect to reduce their office space footprint over the next two years. But the biggest impact hybrid work will have for organisations is enabling them to reimagine the role of the office itself as work culture shifts from “office-centric” to “human-centric”. This shift will redefine the physical workspace as collaboration, employee well-being, and safety become top concerns for organisations. Thus, companies will look to optimise their workspaces by making them smarter with sensors, AI, and automation so that employees enjoy experiences that keep them safe and productive. More office spaces will be outfitted4 with dedicated collaboration suites, more conferencing devices, and even next-gen digital whiteboards. A third factor that will influence real estate strategy is the desire to be more sustainable such as reducing carbon footprint. In the Siemens survey,7 91% of the executives reported sustainability as a high or very high priority. Given these priorities, it is no wonder why more than half of the companies surveyed said they were planning to invest in workplace technologies in the next two years. Cisco is a prime example of this as indicated by the brand new, ultra-modern “talent and collaboration” centre8 that will open next summer.