Interview with a Workplace and Real Estate Strategist
In Part 1, we discussed how the modern workplace looks vastly different from just over a year ago. And the workplace continues to evolve. As it evolves, we need to make great changes to ensure digital inclusivity across all types of workers and work environments.
Now, we pick up where we left off in the previous article, talking with one of our trusted experts on this evolving topic, Cisco Workplace and Real Estate Strategist John Corbett. John discusses another challenge of the hybrid work environment—lack of visibility. Companies have a comprehensive understanding of their office’s physical space. However, their understanding of workspaces outside of their physical office spaces is generally left severely lacking.
John says “The physical office distributes a subliminal service that we take for granted. For example, your desk has an ergonomically assessed chair, power, and competent network connectivity. The distribution of this subliminal service needs to extend beyond the physical office. With 100 of your staff having to work remotely overnight, your office just went from one to 101 offices. If they were in the office, you would have line of sight of the ability of the office and its infrastructure to serve your staff in order to help them get their work done. We need to be able to deliver the same level of service beyond the boundaries of a physical office and satisfy ourselves that our company is capable of intuitively servicing our employees’ workflow needs at a hardware and software level, any time, anywhere.”
At Cisco, this means equaling the playing field by creating a digitally inclusive workplace.
What is digital equality and digital inclusivity?
“It’s our responsibility to provide [our employees with] a first-class workplace experience whatever their location. And this creates a more inclusive environment,” says John.
Here are the two primary components of John’s definition of digital equality:
“One part is physical. You’ll often find pockets of competency in an office—quality tech in boardrooms or large meeting rooms but nowhere else, for example. It is inevitable that people will gravitate towards “better,” thus creating false economies resulting in uneven demand bottlenecks. A broader, more distributed delivery of seamless, consistent, and easy-to-use competency, in smaller sizes, increases supply elasticity and helps to balance out uneven consumption demand.”
John went on to say, “The other part is equity beyond the physical environment. It used to be that if you couldn’t be in the office, you couldn’t work. And while we’ve seen this change during the pandemic, it’s still not good enough. We need to level the playing field further, so that those who work from home aren’t viewed as passengers, but active members of the group. Why should a woman who has decided to start a family be burdened with the uncomfortable choice of a potentially inferior place in the workplace, because she is not physically in the office? For example, equitable equipment, such as Webex’s background noise suppression AI, removes barriers to communication such as needing to mute and unmute yourself during a call. Therefore, the external environment now no longer impairs or disadvantages the external participant.”
How is tech levelling the playing field?
We also spoke with John about how technology is helping to overcome the challenges of the hybrid workplace. Here are some key features John outlines as helping create a digitally inclusive environment for all employees.
“Instant translation tools are helping us manage differences that arise from cross-cultural connections and workplaces across geographies,” says John.
Searchable meeting recordings
“I frequently work with people on the East Coast of the U.S. who are having meetings at 2 a.m. my time. While we have a recording of that meeting, I don’t need to hear the whole thing, if I choose not to. I just need the snippets relevant to me. I can now search keywords and the technology takes me to each place within the meeting, where that topic was discussed. I can also see other areas of the meeting that were considered important to the meeting host, during that meeting. Additionally, I can also raise questions after the fact, too. This technology means I can manage my time investments as I consider appropriate and I am not having to crumble my own work time boundaries to be an active participant in a global team while still remaining an active member.”
Smart tech used to diagnose connection issues
“Webex, Cisco’s collaboration platform, uses innovative technology to interrogate data and identify why you might be incurring an inferior meeting experience. It “sees” every bit of equipment (and related data) contributing to the engagement and can determine if, for example, it’s your headset that’s causing the problem, or something else.”
A look to the future
We asked John what’s on the horizon for the future of work.
Smart tech in the home office
“Smart devices, such as the Webex Video Endpoint, can continually collect intelligence to pick up on factors that create fatigue such as heat, air quality, or even environmental dangers like carbon monoxide for example. All of a sudden, something as simple as a Webex Video Endpoint for the home could be used to help improve the environmental quality of a workplace beyond the office.
Scaling digitally by leveraging the tech we already have
“We need to scale digitally. Technology needs to be distributable and singularly scalable across multiple platforms, devices, and locations, including the physical environment and “lean out” operational processes. We should be looking at how we architect this, so we can leverage the technology we already have, and scale more on the back end rather than the front end, as an iPhone does for example.”
In conclusion, John emphasizes the importance of “thinking of our office as one big device that connects people. Just because people are not there doesn’t mean they can’t be connected.”
It’s contributors like John that help us connect with what matters most in this new world of hybrid work. If you’d like to become a contributor, please send an abstract of what you’d like to have published on our site: [email protected]. All content must be exclusive to futureofwork.webex.com.