#FutureofWork. #RedefiningWork. #NewNormal.
These trending hashtags reflect the themes and challenges facing today’s workplace environment.
The whirlwind of change we’ve all been thrust into the past two years paved a way for a realization of many things—both positive and negative. Name it: persistent uncertainties, re-alignment of priorities, a change of mindset, and more.
For businesses, it meant a new era of work. Take the evolution of employees for example.
From solely relying on email as a channel of communication to espousing other collaborative technologies. From being focused on real-time inputs that one can bring to the table to transitioning to an output-based mindset. From aiming to amass as much knowledge to shifting to adaptive learning instead.
Truly, the way and how we work have transformed. But the most notable of all changes is where we work. From scrambling out of our offices to fully experiencing the pros and cons of working from home to now, adopting a hybrid setup.
Each of those transitions comes with its fair share of risks and factors to consider. But at the end of the day, the biggest consideration of companies should be this: How do we make this shift more than just a requirement but something more human?
The story of Regina Velarde on her transition from a WFH (work from home) setup to a hybrid one is a testament to the above. Be inspired by how this Enablement Manager from Cisco Philippines (#1 Best Workplace – Medium Category) champions the new normal with the help of her company.
A High-Trust, Positive Workplace
Isn’t building such an environment a given? Most definitely. However, the sad reality is, many
still choose to foster cut-throat, high-pressure environments. While this unfortunately rings true for other organizations, Regina takes pride in Cisco’s collaborative, positive culture. More than honor, she also takes inspiration to be her very best at work from this type of work climate.
At its very nature, any environment is collaborative. Meaning, it cannot exist the way it is without being made that way by a certain group of beings. Hence, Cisco’s positive culture is because of its people—leaders and employees alike. This is made true by how Regina further described her workplace, “In Cisco, you will feel valued. They give you an opportunity to make a difference regardless of your role. Being in a team where we share the same values assures me that my superiors and colleagues will always have my back.”
This reminds me of what Zaza Soriano-Nicart, Managing Director of Cisco Philippines, proudly shared during the CEO Masterclass series. She mentioned what they call in Cisco as “Conscious Culture.” There are many layers to this culture, but what is most important lies at its core: trust. This means the organization has confidence that its people will always be conscious to deliver their best regardless of where they are. And in return, this “trust” creates a workforce filled with employees like Regina—empowered and made to thrive in this work-from-anywhere economy.
What Regina shared in the latter part of our written interview gave justice to Cisco’s trademark “Conscious Culture,” “A work environment that creates trust, minimizes politics, does not discriminate, and provides contentment to its employees. All these are what Cisco is all about. ”
Regina’s manager, Sunayana Menon Puthillath, Leader for CX Enablement ASEAN, hit the nail on the head when she imparted her wisdom on how to support employees in the new normal, “Always check on them to ensure they are comfortable, happy, and motivated. Connecting with your employees is even more crucial now than before.”
World-Class Technologies and State-of-the-Art Equipment
In the pre-pandemic context, or maybe until now, hybrid setups may be hastily perceived to entail a negative impact on employee engagement, collaboration, and overall productivity. But look at how employees like Regina are thriving in this kind of business operation now.
For the Enablement Manager who’s been with Cisco for over 7 years now, going “hybrid” rakes in a bunch of perks. Regina said, “It [hybrid setup] gives one a sense of balance of being around people in the F2F (face-to-face) setup and at the same time, being able to be productive in the comfort of one’s home while saving resources (e.g., gas, time, money, etc.).”
But what is it exactly that makes the hybrid setup effective for Regina and the rest of Cisco’s people? Is it the inherent benefits that come with it? Is it because it’s timely due to the skyrocketing gas prices in the Philippines? One key factor is the convergence of 3 elements: people, technology, and places.
Zeroing in on the second factor, Cisco has used technology to ensure their people feel supported while transitioning from a WFH setup to a hybrid one. Regina didn’t miss a beat on putting Cisco’s use of technology in the spotlight when asked how the company supports her, “At the height of the pandemic, Cisco has provided the right equipment and technology to support our productivity… The company has continued to provide world-class technologies to ensure the employees, our partners, and customers can continue with virtual engagements in cases where face-to-face is not feasible.”
Technology is not the only tool to help employees become more effective at their work. There are also actual physical objects that help make the arduous transition from WFH to hybrid setup more manageable. To that, Sunayana also added and expounded on how as per Cisco’s policy, teams are allowed to invest in equipment such as chairs, microphones, headsets, and other tools deemed necessary to execute their work.
In this kind of setup, it is truly empowering for employees to be equipped with the right tools to get the job done whenever, wherever.
Consciously Achieving Work-Life Balance
As the lines that once separated our homes and offices were blurred, setting boundaries became a major problem for many. Pretty soon, social media was awash with the topic of work-life balance.
While the subject has already been a consideration for numerous employees and workplace cultures for years now, it was during the pandemic that the demand for it gained even more traction.
Besides the pandemic, another possible factor for the greater call for work-life balance is due to the composition of today’s labor force.
Today’s workforce is what you can tout as “multi-generational.” It is a melting pot of Generation
Xs, millennials, and the group that’s set to make up 30% of the global workforce by 2030, Gen Z.
The advent of the pandemic was not the only occasion that pushed companies to revisit and alter their policies and activities. It is also due to the arrival of more and more Gen Z employees. This generation is known to be courageous in pushing for more than just handsome pay but also being able to achieve work-life balance. Regina, despite being a Gen X, also shares the same desire.
With work-life balance being a clear necessity, pretty soon all sorts of creative solutions were born. Just look at how our featured Human of Great Workplaces, Regina, described how Cisco supports her well-being for basis: “Cisco has supported the employees with health and wellness programs to help both their physical and mental well-being. They [Cisco] even introduced the ‘Day for Me’ non-working holidays to ensure everyone is having their break because the hybrid setup has truly entailed more screen hours for each employee. As we transition to hybrid, Cisco has also put in place flexible work practices for employees near and far from the business district.”
Now, Regina makes a conscious effort to achieve work-life balance, especially when stationed at home. Short meaningful breaks after each virtual meeting are one of the ways she practices this. Her moments of rest come in the form of walking her dog to the park, catching up on current events, flipping through books, or simply hopping to the other room to bond with her family.
Sunayana added to Regina’s already-colorful description of Cisco’s positive take on well-being, “We also organize quarterly team-building activities along with frequent well-being activities such as desk stretching, yoga, and more. We have ‘No Meeting Fridays,’ too. Here, half of Fridays are blocked to ensure there is a break from back-to-back meetings. Also, we hold fun socialization spaces virtually to connect beyond just work on a day-to-day basis.”
Sunayana was quick to further expound on Cisco’s work-life balance culture, “We as a team ensure our members are free to take PTO (Paid Time Off) and leaves when they want to focus on their priorities, health, and holidays to maintain a good work-life balance.”
“Always remind your employees to take breaks, rest, and rejuvenate periodically. This cultivates a healthy working environment.” – Sunayana Menon Puthillath, Leader, CX Enablement ASEAN
Truth be told, it only makes sense that there is more demand for work-life balance, because we are all still navigating this volatile, discombobulating post-pandemic world. Maintaining one’s well-being is a must to keep sane and be effective at work. More than the aforementioned, a work-life balance culture is a non-negotiable for one to be a great place to work For AllTM. For All means that everybody regardless of role, tenure, and demographic segmentation is empowered to reach their full human potential.
The #1 Best Workplace (Medium category), Cisco, certainly got the above right because Regina proudly describes what a great place to work is as this, “It’s all about culture. In the early stages of one’s professional career, perhaps one would look at benefits and compensation as the most important factors. However, when things in both your personal and professional life become complicated and more intertwined, being in a place where you can balance both is what will eventually provide self-fulfillment… This is what Cisco is all about. Truly, it gives me the pride to say that I work for and with Cisco Philippines.”
The Power of Volition
Regina welcomed the hybrid setup with open arms. Why? It’s not only because of a high-trust workplace environment, world-class technologies, state-of-the-art equipment, and work-life balance. It was an easy decision because she was given the power to decide. She received the flexibility to plan her day and week as she deems fit. Now, who wouldn’t want that?
While reading the written interview, a profound quote from her manager, Sunayana, struck me. She said, “When there is democracy in decision-making, change is never hard.”
Sunayana’s wise words ring true as Regina didn’t have to think twice when she was informed of the company’s plans to transition to a hybrid setup. This is also because she believes that a lot has changed in terms of technology, the environment, and the economy since COVID-19 shook the world. And because of those drastic changes, she feels that bringing people back to how it was in 2019 is a process that must be done slowly but surely.
“Only a happy and motivated employee will be productive. Respect the boundaries of work and home and always give your employees sufficient flexibility to choose their mode of work.”
– Sunayana Menon Puthillath, Leader, CX Enablement ASEAN
For Regina and Cisco, the place to deliver top-notch quality work and to make a difference is simply, ANYWHERE.
In this work-from-anywhere economy, Hybrid is the FUTURE. And it’s about time to embrace this reality.
Be like Regina. Be a champion for the new normal. Be the future.
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