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Cisco's Alan McGinty talks to Workingmums.co.uk about its Connected Workplace programme.
Almost half of Cisco’s employees now work in different locations from their managers and new video-based technology is crucial to successful collaboration as the company rolls out a more agile working structure globally.
The company has been extending its Connected Workplace programme globally since 2009 – all new satellite offices function with CW. Indeed any new office spaces which are designed in the traditional office style with a desk allocated to each worker will not win financial approval.
The Cisco Connected Workplace features an open, flexible layout and functional furniture and relies on Cisco products and technologies including IP telephony, Cisco IP Phone Extension Mobility, Cisco IP Communicator, and wireless LAN mobility.
The move away from the traditional office structure and to more remote working gives the company many advantages. For one, it can take on more staff as it does not have to increase office estate. The problem with many companies is that the traditional footprint only supports a certain number of employees, says Alan McGinty, the company’s Senior Director, Global Workplace Solutions Group.
There is a multi-year plan to convert traditional offices to a more flexible format which allows for spontaneous open collaboration spaces, creativity zones, video privacy rooms and quiet rooms. The San Jose California head office, for instance, is seven million square feet in size so conversion is quite an undertaking.
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Alan says other benefits include cost savings – the new outlay costs less per square footage. It is also very sustainable and greener and the company can hire the best talent wherever they are located.
He adds that there is always resistance to change from workers and management and with four generations in the workplace there are still those who prefer to work more traditionally. In a couple of years the so-called digital natives will be coming online, however, and Cisco has to plan for the future. He says: "We have to meet the needs of a changing and evolving workforce, but it's also important to manage different generational needs. Some people prefer to work 8am-5pm in the same spot while others of our workers are completely mobile. They might work from different offices or from home. Some are campus mobile and hope buildings for meetings with different people; others are building mobile and float up and down between different floors.”
Cisco has a change management platform which is crucial to the success of its CW programme. Managers are offered training in more collaborative styles of working and how to manage in a new working environment. Communication of the benefits and challenges of the new way of working also needs to be clearly communicated. “It’s critical to gain buy in,” says Alan. That means that at the start of each roll-out of the programme representatives from employee groups attend a meeting where they talk about the different working needs of their team. The new workplace environment is designed around those needs. "It's not one size fits all,” says Alan.
The default position is that employees are no longer assigned a work station, but a “self-governing neighbourhood model” means that there is teams can decide for themselves how to use the space they have.
Alan says the impact on productivity is hard to measure, but surveys show people self report higher levels of productivity under the new system and higher engagement plus better work life balance.
Many employees bring their own devices, such as iphones, to work and use them for work purposes. Alan says: “Our job is to stay ahead of the curve and follow the way people are working naturally.”
Technology is crucial to the success of this new way of working and this is evolving fast. Alan predicts: “The workplace of the future will be more digital, more video driven and devices will be smaller. The global real estate footprint will continue to contract. People will be more mobile as long as it is effective for the company.”
Video is a particular focus at the moment. “Video helps to build and maintain relationships when people are working remotely,” says Alan. Cisco’s Webex system allows up to 20 people to be videoed into a meeting on a wall and to share documents. “It makes a huge difference to be able to see people,” he says.
Cisco’s virtual office uses a high bandwidth router and video IP phone which connects directly to the Cisco network in the office. Alan says it offers a high quality connection from remote computer or phone and means people can connect wherever they are in the world.
“Over 40% of our employees collaborate daily with people in other areas of the world. Our teams are very global as a result,” says Alan.