Three Insights for Winning in the Future of Work

Three Insights for Winning in the Future of Work

Exclusive research shows what’s coming, and how to make It work for you.

The Future of Work — your organization may not be ready for it, but it’s a safe bet your best employees are. And any business leader who wants to drive competitive advantage and keep top talent needs to think ahead.

To succeed, your teams need better ways to meet, share ideas and information, and get things done quickly. That takes technology change, to expand the boundaries of human potential. And it also means creating the right culture, to attract and retain the best talent.

But how can business leaders meet the expectations of their best employees, who demand that technology and culture enable a creative, productive, and satisfying work experience?

Here are three key insights taken from the preliminary results of a Cisco survey of more than 1,300 knowledge workers across nine countries.

(You can also download the full preliminary PDF report here.)

Stamp Out ‘Place-ism’ — or Lose Top Talent

The future of work is about what we do, not where we do it. Today’s technology can make almost any place a workplace, allowing modern workers the freedom to decide how and where they contribute the most value.

That means that “place-ism,” the insistence that all employees work in the same space, will increasingly hinder success — and innovation — moving forward. In Cisco’s survey, 23 percent of knowledge workers currently have the freedom to choose where they work, but another 44 percent expect to have that choice within the next three years.

Ending place-ism also empowers more people to contribute their skills and passion, while giving organizations access to more and varied top talent. The No. 1 factor influencing productivity, agility, and job satisfaction was secure, reliable access to all of the tools and information that workers need to do their jobs, regardless of device or location. But only 33 percent of respondents have that full access today.

Fix Your Meetings

Are you frustrated by meetings? You’re not alone. In Cisco’s survey, 70 percent felt that their meetings did not result in clear outcomes or were not an excellent use of time. 


And we spend too much time in those ineffective meetings: Sixty-seven percent of knowledge workers feel their workload is badly balanced between “we time” to collaborate and “me time” to think and create.

A big part of the problem? Companies aren’t good at going virtual: Only 27 percent report meetings with virtual attendees that are as effective as in-person meetings. Improving those meetings drives significant value: Efficient and effective meetings are the second most impactful factor on satisfaction, productivity and creativity.

The key is getting the most out of those meetings, no matter where participants are located. Survey respondents strongly preferred virtual meetings over in-person meetings, and meetings that included video rather than voice-only. To succeed, those virtual meetings must offer real-time access to information and insights, along with the ability to pick up the kinds of non-verbal gestures and communications once discerned only in face-to-face meetings.

The Machines Are Coming — Roll Out the Welcome Mat

Instead of taking our jobs, AI, speech recognition, and other emerging technologies are poised to play a major role in improving the lot of knowledge workers. 

Among the top four individual challenges at work in Cisco’s survey, two are directly related to areas where AI and automation tools could significantly alleviate performance of rote tasks. These were time spent on administrative tasks (the number-one challenge!) and managing large amounts of data (the number-four challenge overall). 

AI and automation will reduce these kinds of mundane tasks while supporting better, faster decisions. Knowledge workers are ready for them. In Cisco’s survey, 63 percent of respondents are already using or are in the process of adapting some kind of automation tools, such as those that simplify setting up meetings or filling out expense forms.

Overall, Cisco’s survey reveals that workers see a clear path to a better future, with effective meetings, better work-life balance, and highly creative collaboration. Smart business leaders will respond in kind.

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Talent & Future of Work