Bring The Outdoors Into Your Hybrid Work Routine

A few years ago I went for a job interview at Cisco. Towards the end of the conversation came the inevitable "do you have any questions for us?" At the time I had been running my own business for several years; juggling long commutes with family life, which had involved a plethora of fun clubs, shared school runs, dog walkers - basically the million things you need help with when you have no family nearby and spend half your life stuck on a train or tube, or in a car for hours on end. I only had one question."Is it true that at Cisco you can work from home?"

Hybrid work is part of Cisco's DNA. And it always has been. Dragging myself down to a dark, damp station platform at some horribly early hour of the morning, or sitting in miles of stationary traffic to get to the office, are dim and distant memories. Fast forward to today, and the impact of the global pandemic is pushing organisations across the world to put hybrid work at the heart of company culture, reimagining the traditional preconceptions about what it means to be 'at work.'

Cisco's approach to hybrid working has been a life-changing experience for me. For the first time in my career I have been able to find a balance between my working life and my home life. And it's not about whether you work in the office, or at your kitchen table; it's not about which chair you sit on, desk you sit at, or computer you work from. Hybrid work is a state of mind. And as the world transitions to a new way of working, these are some of things that, for me, matter most when teams are making the move to a hybrid work model.


Hybrid work and trust go hand in hand. You may have sat with your colleagues in the office every day, maybe gone into work occasionally - or never met face to face at all. But these days many more of us are spending extended periods of time working remotely, much more than we used to. When you are working virtually, trust is fundamental. Teams need to lean in and help one another to deliver on their commitments, trusting one another to get the work done - regardless of where they are in the world, what time it is, or how they've chosen to structure their day. With trust as their foundation, teams can shoot for the stars.


There's a lot of talk about burnout right now, and with good reason. When you work from home for days, weeks, months or even years at a time, it is easy to spend too much time in front of a screen. But you need to give your mind and body space to breathe. And you need to know you have permission to do that. Hybrid working means taking time for you, when you need it. I do my best thinking when I take the dog out for a walk. If you're feeling particularly virtuous, an early morning workout (once you've woken up), can get you off to strong start. Or sometimes just sitting enjoying a coffee before switching on the laptop is the way to prepare for a busy day. If you're not feeling well, let your team know, put on your Out Of Office and take time out to get better. It's OK to curl up in bed if you're feeling dreadful! Hybrid work is about balance, and finding the balance that works for you.


Your office is wherever you want it to be. A small child in the background, cat across your keyboard, dog barking at the postman, teenagers sticking their heads round the door asking what's for supper - we take it in our stride these days. We all have lives outside of work, and today people are far more relaxed about embracing that; laughing rather than cringing. We are more aware of the personal pressures people may be coping with outside of work, and empathetic to our team mates. Geography is no longer a barrier to securing your dream job, childcare can be shared more easily and if travel used to be challenging because you have disability, it no longer matters. The world has opened up to a new, rich and diverse pool of talent that, not so long ago, might have been excluded from career opportunities when hybrid work was not a possibility.


"Working nine to five, what a way to make a living," sang the great Dolly Parton. But now those days of being a 'bum on a seat' eight hours a day, five days a week, are over. As Cisco's Fran Katsoudas said, "Work is not where you go, it's what you do." Organisations are shifting their emphasis and supporting people to be motivated - and able - to bring more of themselves to work every day. They are beginning to understand how important it is for people to recognise when they need to recharge, and create daily routines that enable them to feel rested, energised and engaged. Establishing simple rituals like spending more time with the family, exercising regularly or taking a lunch break (rather than inhaling a sandwich at your desk) can make a hugely positive impact on your energy, productivity and positivity.


Hybrid work opens up opportunities to create strong networks and connections with people from all different walks of life. You could be on a Webex meeting with colleagues in India one minute, and have a chat to a neighbour outside your house an hour later. What an incredible experience, to have that global perspective in your life, and the opportunity to spend time with people from all walks of life; listening and learning from one another. Hybrid work facilitates connection, bringing people together from all corners of the globe.


Our world has been turned upside down in an unimaginably short space of time. We are at the beginning of a new era, redefining the way we work and live. But figuring out what new ways of working - and living - look like, won't happen overnight. We need to be patient. Try not to rush. Try not to push. I'm a terrible one for wanting everything yesterday. But right now it's important to slow down and define a routine that works for you.

A friend once said to me (as I was trying to teach my dog not to jump up); "It's simple. But it's not easy." The era of hybrid work that we are taking our first steps towards, will come together in time, but it won't happen overnight. Having said that, I am optimistic that hybrid work will be a powerful positive we can all embrace, helping us move forward to a brighter, more flexible future.

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People, Not Screens: Why Soul-Based Leadership Will Change the Nature of Remote and Hybrid Work


People, Not Screens: Why Soul-Based Leadership Will Change the Nature of Remote and Hybrid Work