Cisco is creating a new office for hybrid work.

Cisco is creating a new office for hybrid work.

The Future of Hybrid Work: Redesigning Offices for Connection and Collaboration


The remote work wars are still raging, but many workplaces seem to be settling into some kind of hybrid agreement—however fragile. Striking the right balance between connection and independence has been a complicated task, keeping some CHROs up at night. According to a 2022 Gallup poll, decreased team collaboration and limited access to work resources and equipment were among the top challenges faced by hybrid workers. Additionally, some workers experience a feeling of “hybrid guilt” when they’re not in the office and worry that their in-person colleagues are receiving better treatment.

Tech giant Cisco has taken a bold step, betting that hybrid work is here to stay, and they’re redesigning their offices with those workers in mind. Cisco’s executive vice president and general manager of security and collaboration, Jeetu Patel, states that they’re thinking about the office as a place to connect with others rather than just a space for individual work. He says, “People are going to come into the office for engaging more with each other, rather than going out and getting work done in their cubicle. We have to reimagine, fundamentally, what the workspace of the future is going to look like.”

In Cisco’s Atlanta and New York City locations, the focus is on fostering collaboration and connection. There are fewer offices and video capabilities in almost every room. Instead of designated desks, there are more “huddle spaces” where small groups can hold impromptu meetings. The boardrooms are structured in a “triangular fashion” so that those working in-person can easily see the people joining remotely. The aim is to ensure that remote participants don’t feel like second-class participants in meetings.

Cisco had an “unfair advantage” in renovating their office spaces for hybrid work because they already manufacture teleconferencing equipment. While the cost of these renovations was substantial, it’s offset in part by the company’s decision to reduce its real estate holdings and redirect those resources towards making their existing spaces more effective.

Crucially, Cisco does not mandate that all employees return to the office on specific days. Instead, they give individual teams the freedom to decide how they want to work, while strongly encouraging employees to come to the office for certain activities such as meeting customers. This approach recognizes that different work teams have different needs and preferences when it comes to hybrid work.

Cisco plans to remodel its offices in most “tier one” cities and gradually adapt them to meet the needs of hybrid workers. Patel firmly believes that more companies will start designing office spaces with hybrid workers in mind, stating, “Because as these patterns of work start to kind of change, you will want to have modernization of your facility.”

The shift towards hybrid work is not only being felt in the physical office space design but also in the policies surrounding it. Some consulting companies, like Accenture and Bain, are even delaying the start date for recent college graduates while still paying them during that time. This innovative approach allows graduates to have more time for personal pursuits or further education before officially starting their jobs.

In this ever-changing landscape, it’s crucial for companies to adapt and embrace the needs and preferences of their employees. By creating office spaces that facilitate connection and collaboration, regardless of whether employees are physically present or remote, companies like Cisco are at the forefront of the evolving hybrid work culture. As other companies catch on, we can expect to see more innovation and modernization in office spaces worldwide.

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Around the Table
A round-up of the most important HR headlines.

  • Gen Z social media influencers are telling their legions of followers how to “manage up”—or how to manage their managers. Business Insider
  • Around 80% of bosses regret their original return-to-office decisions and would have taken a different approach if they could do it all over again, according to new research. CNBC
  • A London-based company that plans to specialize in creating A.I. that does the work of HR professionals just raised $2 million in pre-seed funding. TechCrunch
  • A conservative Starbucks investor has lost a lawsuit alleging the company’s diversity, equity, and inclusion policies violate civil rights laws. ANBLE

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Having it all: Gen Zers aren’t interested in “hustle culture” jobs with long hours and weighty responsibilities, but they do want the money that comes with them. Searches for flexible jobs with above-average salaries are way up, according to a job search site. —Orianna Rosa Royle

Meeting halfway: Almost a third of employees would rather take a 25% pay cut than lose their jobs, a tradeoff that might interest employers—if they were paying attention. Less than 3% of employees said they had ever been offered less money to save them from a layoff. —Paolo Confino

Talking the talk: X CEO Linda Yaccarino said last week that the company is looking to hire after massive layoffs and attrition under Elon Musk’s leadership. There’s one problem, though: The company hasn’t posted any job openings. —Chris Morris

Where to work: Fridays are “dead forever,” according to a major New York City landlord, and a prominent work-from-home researcher agrees. He says it’s part of a bigger trend of “coordinated hybrid” work. —Paolo Confino and Jane Thier