Remote work has become a test of the work culture. "If it was healthy, the company works smoothly today"

Moving work from offices to apartments was not only associated with a lot of stress for employees, but also a huge technological challenge for their employers. We talk to Przemysław Kania, CEO of Cisco in Poland, about how they find themselves in the "new normality".

Adam Sieńko, Spider's Web: The restrictions related to the Covid-19 epidemic began 4 months ago, and this gives the perspective needed for the first assessments. How has the coronavirus changed the way companies operate?

Przemysław Kania, Cisco: It was a good test of the culture of work in enterprises. If it was healthy, the company is running smoothly today.

The virus turned out to be a litmus test?

A bit like that. The traditional mechanisms of "I have my eyes on my people" no longer work. Work must be task-oriented and workers must be independent and informed of what they must do. The role of the manager is also important, as he allocates tasks, checks their performance, aggregates and passes them on, as well as the management's communication culture to employees.

Is it like that at Cisco?

We have been allowing remote work for a long time - the employee has the choice whether he wants to come to the office or prefers to stay at home. Access to all systems is possible from the office, but also remotely, and most systems are accessible from mobile phones.

Our culture has always been task-oriented and required to be proactive. Each employee knows what they are accounted for and on the basis of what criteria they will be assessed. As a result, the transition to total remote work was painless for us. Although, of course, the psychological aspect of lockdown started to bother us at some point. After all, man is a social being.

Which is why most of us are probably quietly enjoying our partial return to our offices. How do you think the post-Covid reality, already known as "new normality", will look like?

How it will look like is not entirely up to us, it depends on how we deal with the virus. However, it must be said that practically all office workers have been switching to remote work. And it was surprisingly positive.

What does it mean?

I mean, at the beginning of April, most of us, 90 percent. companies, she worked remotely. Even so, everything worked fine in terms of communication, business processes and operational efficiency. The technology has worked. Someone said nicely that it is scary to think what would happen if Covid-19 attacked 10 or even 5 years ago.

Let's take a risk and take a look at the glass ball.

Most of our clients say there will be no complete return to the office. Companies are now analyzing what activities can be performed at home and what activities should be returned to the office. We often deal with a hybrid model, a rotation system is used. However, large institutions declare that most of the employees will stay at home. If we learn to use the new opportunities wisely, the hybrid model will bring us many benefits.

As long as we learn to coordinate work between office buildings and our apartments.

Today, most enterprises already work in hybrid mode. We can see it by looking at the statistics of our platform - Cisco Webex . Its load during the lockdown increased threefold, and if we are only talking about Poland, even tenfold.

Where does this popularity come from?

Webex is a cloud platform that enables communication with all employees in the company, but also with customers and business partners. This is a very mature solution, but in a good sense of the word. It is checked. Years ago, it was hosted by the largest companies in the world and government organizations, and most of the Fortune 500 companies use it. It allows you to meet and discuss certain issues, share documents, record sessions. It gives us the opportunity to work effectively. But that's just one element.

What does the next one sound like?

For corporations, security is a key issue, and at Cisco Webex all traffic is encrypted. Users get a key for authorization, and the facilitator has full authority, may not allow certain content to be shared or ask someone to leave the meeting. All users can be muted and request to speak with a virtual hand-raise.

Thanks to such solutions, we did not become the heroes of any negative press articles. Unlike some of our competition.

A few years ago, Cisco urged employees to shut down Webex after the session was over. Such carelessness was apparently a plague. Have we learned how to use such tools safely?

Such situations are a thing of the past. Since then, a lot has changed - both in terms of the security of the platform itself and user awareness.

Did new problems arise during this time?

I don't want it to sound arrogant, but we had very little information that Webex was performing poorly or that users were dissatisfied with it. In early March, as the world switched to such solutions, we had some scalability issues, we needed to quickly increase performance. It took several days, the quality of video calls had to be cut a bit.

We also had problems with people starting to use Webex in places where connection quality is poor, such as in rural areas. But those were the only difficulties I heard about.

I heard that Webex started to be used in school education.

Yes, I found business-specific features to be perfect for e-education. Blocking content or muting users was in a sense tailored to the needs of teachers.

It is also worth mentioning that the system is intuitive and easy to use. You can join a webex session via a URL or an application that is installed in minutes. This makes the adoption of this solution very fast.

This convenience will convince smaller companies to use communication platforms? Until now, they have used them quite moderately.

With the outbreak of a pandemic, such solutions are becoming smaller and smaller businesses. Companies employing up to 100 people have also started using them. The growth is gigantic, and we believe adoption will continue to grow.

The selection of such tools may become a new field of competition between enterprises?

I would even put forward a bolder thesis. If there was any doubt about it before Covid, today CEOs emphasize that technology is not only something that determines the advantage, but something that is necessary for the company's life. Today, every company is a digital company. Building a system that ensures efficient communication between employees, regardless of the place and devices they use, is now just as important as putting a desk with a computer and access to the system in the past.

The digitization process will speed up a lot and I think it will trigger an avalanche of positive events in the long term.

What do you mean?

Employees are getting used to the practices imposed by the lockdown era. Thanks to transparent communication from the management, the employees felt taken care of. And these expectations will stay with us for longer.

We were afraid of Big Brother and we got a mother company?

I haven't heard of employees being monitored whether they really sit in front of the computer 8 hours a day. I would not like to fall into infantilism and say that everything is perfect. Some people have difficult housing conditions, for example because they lack a separate room for work. Everyone also suffers from the lack of physical contact with colleagues at work. The hybrid model seems to me close to the ideal because it responds to these problems. At the same time, it gives companies greater business benefits, both in terms of efficiency and costs.

Remote work has become a test of the work culture. "If it was healthy, the company works smoothly today"


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