The pandemic has made it amply clear that working from home is both convenient and efficient. A study published in the Harvard Business Review claimed that knowledge workers are more productive when working from home because they spend up to 12 percent less time in large meetings and up to 9 percent more time interacting with customers and external partners.

Even as organizations are aspiring to return to the office, they are mindful that staff want flexibility, and that working from home isn’t going away. Leaders are gearing up to roll out their own version of a hybrid work strategies that, depending on industry and business needs, offer employees the chance to work from home as well as provide them with inviting office spaces for in-person interactions.

To be clear, the move to hybrid work isn’t an extension of the remote worker strategy that organizations deployed during the pandemic. It’s much bigger than that. While the pandemic forced a mass shift to remote work, companies and employees are now choosing their future of work wot by hybrid. According to experts – this will have a pronounced impact on how organizations find and manage talent, their IT infrastructure and application choices, and much more.

At the center of this transition is the collaboration platform. For us and our clients, that’s Webex.

The team has been closely studying the way executives communicate. To them, last 12-months have been phenomenal. They’ve seen townhalls, trainings, and events transition to the virtual world, dived into virtual one-on-ones and team meetings to capture the experience of participants, and really made an effort to understand video fatigue, burnout, and more. Their work has shaped their vision of the future and resulted in the introduction of 800 new features since September 2020.

Just a few days ago, we revealed a new identity for Webex – it’s something that conveys, at a glance, the passion shared by the team and the brilliantly convenient, inclusive, collaborative experience the platform offers to users.

We also introduced the all new Webex Suite. It bundles meetings, calling, messaging, events, and even our most innovative polling and Q&A features, enriched by AI and security capabilities, at a price that is 40% lower than a-la-carte or competitive offers.

Webex boasts of many impressive features but there are some industry-firsts that I think really give our clients’ collaboration strategy more mileage per user. Thanks to our acquisition of Slido and Socio, we’re able to deliver the world’s first integrated end-to-end event experience at scale – physical, virtual, and hybrid. We’re also building upon our market leading noise removal and speech enhancement capabilities with the new ‘speech optimization for remote and shared workspaces’ capability.

Another industry-first is Webex’s data loss prevention (DLP) offering for collaboration. DLP is really interesting; Webex automatically blocks and removes confidential information in places like Messaging, in real-time. This means, users can prohibit classified content from being stored in the cloud rather than redacting or deleting content after it is posted, making the platform more suited to the needs of modern enterprises.

We know organizations are slowly planning a return to the office. To them, the new Webex Desk and other devices in the catalog will be most appealing as they will enable powerful hot-desking for return-to-work plans. For anyone using a Webex device, I think the new RoomOS X platform with modern touch interactions and a multi-lingual, super talented Webex Assistant is a something to look out for.

Well, Webex did roll out more than 800 new features in the past year, so there’s plenty of exciting news to share, from real-time translations to in more than 100 languages to immersive sharing that lets presenters give audiences a more authentic, stage-like experience – but let’s not lose sight of what we really need to discuss: the collaboration strategy for your new hybrid workplace.

Efficiencies don’t come effortlessly

Collaboration in the virtual world requires effort. People didn’t mind the initial challenges they faced with collaborating with their teams in a virtual manner all the time, not least because the transition to working remotely was anything but planned. However, now that this has become the new normal, organizations need to find platforms that optimize efficiencies. The ultimate goal, of course, is to provide a frictionless collaboration experience that blends the experience of teams, whether they work at home or in the office.

Speaking with colleagues and clients, I get the sense that organizations chose the tools that they felt would be easiest to deploy when governments announced lockdowns across the world last year. If you have a suite of software products that already supports your organization widely, adding another tool from their pack makes sense when time is of the essence. That was the right thing to do then – but leaders need to ask themselves if it is still the right tool for their organization and serves them effectively.

With tens of millions of customers across the world, Webex is a reliable, secure, collaboration platform. What sets it apart in the minds of customers looking to reshape their workplaces and workflows is the fact that Webex removes the obstacles and makes it easy to communicate in a hybrid environment.

As customers return to the office, Webex devices work seamlessly with Cisco’s portfolio (with WiFi6 and Meraki cameras feeding into DNA Spaces for social distancing, for example) to provide touchless experiences designed to make every employee feel safe and included. ‘People Focus’ makes sure everyone gets an equal share of voice (and video) and real-time translations allow organizations to thrive even if members of a team don’t work in the same location or even speak the same language. The possibilities are truly endless.

Business leaders I’ve been talking to recently wish they had leveraged Webex sooner. With video fatigue and burnout setting in, there’s a conscious effort now to revisit initial choices, rethink the collaboration strategy, and elevate the organization’s experiences – ultimately boosting efficiencies.

Cisco’s recent Global Workforce Study found that 58% of respondents expect to be working from home eight days a month or more and 98% of future meetings are expected to include at least one remote participant. We can no longer ignore the demand for hybrid workspaces. Those that haven’t started building their strategy yet need to take action now.