Cisco UK & Ireland Blog

My week of hybrid work: a true story

October 20, 2021

The past 20 months have brought countless challenges for all of us – leaders included. Last March, from one day to the other, we found ourselves managing teams via video meetings, chat and e-mails – from a desk in the bedroom or the kitchen table.

Now that the possibility to return to the office opens up, many leaders are eager to bring employees back as soon as possible. Organisations in the UK and beyond are on the search for the magic formula: should it be 50% of employees returning for 2,5 days, 20% for 5? Alternate weeks? Color coded teams?

At Cisco, we recently embarked on what we call our great hybrid work experiment. For me, last week was the first truly hybrid week in a long time. So, in that experimental spirit, I wanted to share with you my personal story and learnings.

First, the facts: I spent 2 days working from home, 2 days in the office, and 1 day on the road joining a meeting with one of our partners.

The 2 days working from home were a smooth ride, after all this has been our way of life for more than 1.5 years. But then, it was time to dress up, read the results of the lateral flow test, find the car keys and venture outside… just to realize that I was low on fuel and needed to find a functioning petrol station. The rest I leave to your imagination…

The office experience was powerful: anecdotes, quick side conversations with folks I have not met in a while, or have not met at all yet in person, at least not from head to toe. Some unscheduled chats about things not related to work, and things that don’t need a formal call to discuss.

Most of the two days in the office were dedicated to a leadership meeting. Whilst most of us attended in person, some of the participants joined remotely. And that’s how we learned about the small things that matter for an inclusive hybrid meeting:

  • We quickly figured that it’s best if speakers stay seated to make it an equal experience for all
  • We asked everyone, including those in the room, to join on their laptops as well, so that we see what remote attendees are seeing
  • The innovative Cisco Webex feature that removes background noise to focus on the active speaker was a game changer – for both on-site and remote participants
  • And we got used to consciously checking in with remote participants to make sure they stay engaged. For that, the “hands-up” sign proved to be another helpful feature of our Cisco Webex platform.

Admittedly, as the day went on, I caught myself worrying about one thing: chat messages and emails accumulating in my inbox and my inability to respond instantaneously. Real time collaboration became our norm during the home office months, creating the expectation of rapid responses. As we move into the hybrid work mode, telling people where we are and what we are doing (via a status update on Webex, for instance) helps remove the expectations for an immediate response as if you were sitting in front of your screen all the time. After all, if it was something urgent surely someone would call me like they used to?

Finally, the day when I was on the move worked out fine. Although the offsite meeting at the partner overran, I could still hit the road before my next Webex meeting started, and joined from my mobile phone. Smooth experience, no panic, never miss a moment.

So what did I learn during a week of hybrid work? Most importantly: it works. A few things that help: prepare, have the right tools, don’t feel bad if you can’t be immediately reached … that immediacy culture we have created can be managed and creating a sense of balance is important.

Adaptability and flexibility are of course key, and for the rest, do what you feel is right. If you are interested in more data and insights, check out our latest Cisco Hybrid Work Index and please share your own hybrid work experience.


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