Work-from employees will no longer be treated as a second-class citizen, which means they will get best-in-class technology including SD-WAN appliances, cellular backup alternatives, zero trust security support and maybe even battery backup.\nThat\u2019s at least part of the plan for hybrid workers now and moving forward, said Cisco\u2019s Todd Nightingale, executive vice president and general manager of the company\u2019s Enterprise Networking & Cloud business. \u201cThe \u2018return-to-office\u2019 concept is a myth--it\u2019s a world we have left behind.\u201d\n\nWhile the hybrid work strategy may be a plan for developing and selling Cisco\u2019s enterprise networking products and services, it\u2019s also the plan for its own workers.\nCisco's embracing of a hybrid workforce means its emplyees will have options for how they put in their work weeks. Some will work five days per week at home and gather in person occasionally for team activities and personal connections. Others might go to the office five days per week and use collaboration tools such as WebEx to interact with colleagues working at home and around the world.\nBut essentially every Cisco employee will be a hybrid worker, wrote Francine Katsoudas, executive vice president and Chief People, Policy & Purpose Officer of Cisco in a blog announcing the plan. That means no set mandate from the top about numbers of days in or out of the office, she stated.\nThe idea of enabling a hybrid or remote workforce isn\u2019t particularly new to Cisco --\u00a0pre-pandemic only a third of its employees were in the office full time --\u00a0 or many other large companies but it is something that has been wrestled with in other high-tech vendors and many enterprise companies.\u00a0\nFor example, Google recently said that 20% of its 135,000 employees will be required to work in the office, another 20% will be allowed to be fully remote, but 60% will be allowed to work remotely two days per week. Microsoft and others haven\u2019t decided what to do yet.\nA story in the Washington Post recently took the pulse of workers potentially returning to offices: \u00a0\u201cMost workers described a strange office environment bearing little resemblance to the one they left behind \u2014 a world of complicated social interactions, lingering anxieties about masks and vaccinations, and simmering frustrations about inflexible work policies. Companies spoke about the challenge of getting a workforce that has grown accustomed to working from home fired up again about office culture.\u201d\nAnd everyone is involved.\u00a0 Since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic the resultant massive increase in remote workers, the need to fully support a hybrid workforce is an issue confronting many businesses right now.\nGartner recently stated that by the end of 2021, 51% of all knowledge workers worldwide are expected to be working remotely, up from 27% in 2019 and that remote workers will represent 32% of all employees worldwide by the end of 2021, up from 17% in 2019. Gartner defines knowledge workers as those who involved in knowledge-intensive occupations, such as writers, accountants, and engineers. It defines remote workers as those who work away from their employers' sites at least one full day a week (hybrid workers) or who work from home all the time (fully remote workers).\nThe lasting impact of remote work is resulting in a reassessment of the IT infrastructure that shifts buyer requirements to demand work-anywhere capabilities, said Ranjit Atwal, senior research director at Gartner.\n\u201cThrough 2024, organizations will be forced to bring forward digital business transformation plans by at least five years,\u201d Atwal said. \u201cThose plans will have to adapt to a post-COVID-19 world that involves permanently higher adoption of remote work and digital touchpoints,\u201d\nDigital products and services will play a big role in these digital transformation efforts, Atwal stated.\u00a0\n\u201cThis longer strategic plan requires continued investment in strategic remote-first technology continuity implementations along with new technologies such as hyperautomation, AI and collaboration technologies to open up more flexibility of location choice in job roles,\u201d Atwal stated.\nThe hybrid workforce will need every technology from SD-WAN and SASE to a full stack collaboration suite--in Cisco's case WebEx--and best-in-class security and Wi-Fi and failover options, Nightingale said.\nCisco will support these workers with networking technologies including home\u00a0 SD-WAN routers that include a wireless connection for back up, and Cisco's Umbrella security support to let users access applications remotely and securely.\u00a0\nOther possible options include a Wi-Fi router that is an extension of the corporate network that can be managed remotely from Cisco\u2019s DNA Spaces package, for example.\nNo matter where employees are, Cisco says it will use its products to monitor network and application performance. These include tools like ThousandEyes, which provides end-to-end visibility into edge domains that customers don\u2019t own, such as cloud networks and the internet.\nOther offerings such as like Meraki Gateways and Cisco desk phones are key to helping remote workers communicate effectively, no matter the location or industry.\n\u201cThe other part of the hybrid work equation is the experience IN the office \u2013 how we make sure conference rooms are hybrid workspaces, having a modern office hoteling applications that reserve desktops and conference rooms to make sure you have a modern workspace to go into if you want,\u201d Nightingale said.\u00a0\nKatsoudas wrote that for Cisco to succeed, we must establish new and elevated levels of trust and transparency within our teams and our company.\n\u201cTo do that we are laying out what we\u2019re calling Our Collaboration Commitments--a set of expectations and beliefs laid out for individuals, leaders, and teams around topics including accountability, inclusion, and well-being,\u201d Katsoudas stated.\u00a0\n\u201cWe know that leaders will have a central role to play in creating and maintaining this conscious culture. It will be our team leaders who will model our hybrid work philosophy, leading with empathy and proximity to their teams. We know this is asking a lot of our people, which is why we\u2019re experimenting with new methods of team and leader learning to support the transition into this new way of working.\nAnd if we can get it right, we know that a spirit of flexibility and adaptability will allow us to meet our business needs while playing to the strengths of our people and their preferred workstyles,\u201d Katsoudas stated.