Tech

Here’s how Cisco decided that none of its 75,000 employees ever have to return to the office

  • Cisco will let its 75,000 employees work remotely indefinitely, it announced Thursday.
  • The firm didn’t notice a drop in productivity with work-from-home and expects to save money.
  • Less than a quarter of Cisco’s workers now plan to return to offices 3 or more days a week.

Cisco will not require workers to return to offices even after COVID-19 ceases to be a threat, the company announced Thursday.

Under the “no return to office” policy, Cisco will not set any top-down mandate for the number of days per week its more than 75,000 employees spend in physical offices. Instead, every employee will be considered a hybrid worker and the company’s leadership is encouraging managers to grant workers flexibility in whether they work remotely or in the office.

Even before the pandemic, many at Cisco worked from home, with roughly 14% of employees working remotely prior to office shutdowns. But now, more than 75% of employees say they plan to continue working remotely three to five days per week even when office entry is possible, according to company surveys. 

When most employees began working remotely amid COVID-19 outbreaks and mandated shutdowns, Cisco managers found that productivity didn’t seem to take a hit from remote work, according to Jeetu Patel, an executive vice president who manages Cisco’s security and collaboration businesses.

“Anecdotally, I would say we’ve seen a very high degree of productivity,” Patel told Insider, noting that the Cisco’s collaboration unit rolled out 800 new features and made five acquisitions since the onset of the pandemic.

Thursday’s announcement is also an attempt to prevent employee burnout by giving people flexibility around how they work, Patel said.

“As the productivity has gone up, the thing we have to as a society be careful of is fatigue and burnout,” he added. “Productivity is almost a derived outcome of well-being.”

Cisco’s offices across the world will look different when they reopen. Previously, 95% of the company’s office space was allocated to individual offices, but the company now plans to reconfigure its campuses to prioritize group work and team events. 

Patel said Cisco’s new normal of hybrid work will rely on software geared towards remote collaboration. One of those is Webex, Cisco’s remote videoconferencing software that has been a breakout source of revenue for the company amid the pandemic. Employees will also use Cisco’s suite of collaboration hardware products that support videoconferencing at home and in offices.

The move will likely save Cisco money on office expenses and as it downsizes some offices, Patel said, but added that this is merely a side effect and not itself a reason for the new policy.

“It’s less about the savings from the space and more about making sure employees have the right kind of experience, but there will be savings to be had from real estate,” he said. “It’s inevitable because you just don’t need that much real estate when you have people working in a mixed mode.”

Cisco’s approach contrasts with some tech giants who have pushed for a return to offices following the rollout of vaccines across the US. Amazon has said it intends to “return to an office-centric culture” and will tell most employees to return to offices by fall, while Google has signaled it will expect workers to return to offices at least one day per week starting in October. Other firms have offered more flexibility: Microsoft told employees they can work remotely permanently if they get their managers’ approval.

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