It has been around two months since I’ve moved from Japan to Singapore and taking charge of the Small and Medium sized Businesses (SMB) Growth Office in APJC. Besides meeting my Singapore-based colleagues and getting used to the tropical climate, I have also witnessed first-hand the strong integration of hybrid work initiatives both in our company and among the organisations we work with. Here in Singapore, many employers and employees have embraced hybrid as the default mode of work, and I’m heartened to hear about and experience its positive impacts on the workforce which supports this thriving city.

In fact, the concept of hybrid work has been around for years. It might have been known as “flexible working” or “telecommuting”, but companies including Cisco have been doing it way before the COVID-19 pandemic made hybrid work the new norm. With this, we’ve seen rapid development in collaboration tools and networking technologies to cater to the needs of hybrid workers and their new standards of what work should be like.

With their lean organizational structure, small and medium sized businesses (SMBs) must be prepared to invest in its most important resource: people. This requires making the necessary investments to foster an employee experience that allows them to perform at their best and in a seamless manner, regardless of where they are working from to make work more purposeful, productive, and flexible.

Today’s approach to hybrid work is premised upon inclusiveness, engagement, and well-being. It means that anyone and anything inside and outside an organization should be networked and connected to get work done faster, more autonomously, and more securely. This includes people and processes but also technology to enable a consistent experience and maximize productivity. So, what are the key pieces needed to achieve this?

Levelling the hybrid work playing field with inclusive collaboration technology

Maintaining high levels of employee engagement is challenging when workers are distributed and often isolated from each other physically.  In my previous post, I highlighted how companies can leverage technology to foster an inclusive workplace culture. This matters not only because every voice should be heard but because it encourages and maintains engagement from employees.

While Cisco’s latest study titled “Employees are ready for hybrid work, are you” found that the majority of small business[1] employees in Asia Pacific (65.5%) prefer a hybrid working model, the concern remains that remote workers will have challenges fully engaging with their companies (63%) as well as their colleagues (63%). These concerns are more acutely felt relative to employees from larger organizations, and this could be explained by the fact that small businesses might be more hesitant to introduce new technologies and tools into the workforce or face more constraints when doing so.

At Cisco, our technologies are designed to level the playing field for all employees regardless of where they are working from and under what circumstances. Cisco’s Webex platform does this with features such as noise cancellation and voice enhancement technology, as well as real-time transcriptions and translations to support those who might not be able to hear or understand the conversation in real time. The standalone Webex whiteboarding app is another great tool empowering employees to contribute to discussions and ideation across time zones and locations, both in real-time and offline asynchronously.

Burnout has become an issue for many employees and employers during the challenging times of the pandemic, and organizations of all sizes must address this and support the well-being of their people or risk losing them. In its latest iteration, Webex has rolled out People Insights, which provides personalized information on how employees are spending their time and who they engage with the most. This functionality will be immensely supportive for SMBs to cultivate a more productive and healthier work experience by helping users uncover blind spots in the way they work to empower them to stay more engaged, be better teammates, reduce potential fatigue and enhance well-being.

Having the right networking infrastructure is paramount

Organizations must recognize that having the right networking infrastructure in place is key to supporting the implementation of hybrid work technologies. According to our study, 61.6% of small business respondents believe that having regular connectivity issues is career limiting for remote workers.

Cisco’s suite of solutions addresses these concerns and offers a simple, cost-effective way to ensure always-on connection for SMBs and their employees. With Meraki cloud management, IT managers or administration personnel can effortlessly navigate the difficult terrain of a remote work environment with the aid of user-friendly mobile and web applications. Meraki allows the business to maintain the visibility of employee networks and empowers employees to work seamlessly with minimal disruptions to their productivity. The connectivity that this provides will be key in facilitating collaboration and productivity in the hybrid workspace.

Find out more about our solutions for SMBs here.

With 61.9% of respondents from small businesses saying that the ability to work remotely has made them less likely to look for new career opportunities, this underscores the importance of not merely providing the option of flexible work but also of ensuring that employees are well-positioned to contribute and thrive. As hybrid work continues to evolve, SMBs must be prepared to embrace collaboration and networking technologies in building an inclusive culture which will be key to their talent acquisition and retention strategies.

Learn more about what employees around the world are saying about hybrid work here or download Cisco SMB Dynamo eBook on the trend of hybrid work.