Research report

The Future of Work

It’s Borderless, Lightning-Fast, and Highly Creative.

A New Frontier of Work: Optimizing Creativity, Collaboration and Productivity Embrace the Future of Work — on All Fronts Tackling the People Challenge Barriers to Productivity and Innovation
Goodbye ‘Place-ism,’ Hello Top Talent The Right Tools for a Borderless Future Driving Engagement, Productivity, and Innovation: Where Culture and Tech Meet Efficient Team Meetings are a Key Driver of Creativity, Productivity, and Job Satisfaction
Getting Meetings Right Building Better Collaboration: From Voice to Truly Virtual The Future of Work Is Here for the Taking Related Content

A New Frontier of Work: Optimizing Creativity, Collaboration and Productivity

The future of work — it’s an exciting frontier where, more than ever, innovation and collaboration will be keys to success. And it’s coming to an enterprise near you at breakneck speed. Not to mention a café, home office, or shared workspace.

In this fast-changing world, speed, agility, and creativity drive competitive advantage. To succeed, teams need better ways to meet, share ideas and information, and get things done — fast. That requires technology change, to expand the boundaries of human potential. And it also demands the right culture, to attract and retain top 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 experience, anywhere they choose to work?

Figure 1


Where has your organization made significant changes in preparation for the future of work?

Figure 2

Challenges organizations face


What are the most significant challenges your organization faces today?

Figure 3

Challenges people face in their job role


What are the most significant challenges you face in your job role today?

Figure 4

Workers want flexibility and new capabilities, and organizations are largely responding


I have the freedom to choose any place to get my work done

The Right Tools for a Borderless Future

According to knowledge workers, the number one factor influencing productivity, agility, and job satisfaction is secure, reliable access to all of the tools and information they need to do their jobs, regardless of device or location. While only 33 percent have that ability today, companies are responding; another 61 percent expect to within three years or less.

Our study revealed a similar trend with collaboration tools, a linchpin of future work success. Voice, video, IM, discussion threads, digital whiteboards, project tasks, and file sharing allow teams to be creative, flexible, and productive moving forward. No single tool is a magic bullet for future collaboration. And finding the right combination is essential for success.

Beyond those current capabilities, AI, voice recognition, and other emerging technologies are poised to play a major role in improving the lot of knowledge workers. These tools will alleviate such previously mentioned challenges as time spent on administrative tasks and managing large amounts of data, and will support better, faster decisions.

In Cisco’s survey, 63 percent of respondents are using or are in the process of adopting some kind of automation tool, such as those that simplify setting up meetings or filling out expense reports. Smart organizations will continue looking for ways to ease the burden on knowledge workers from rote tasks.

Driving Engagement, Productivity, and Innovation: Where Culture and Tech Meet

Cisco’s study demonstrates that driving the right cultural and technological changes pays serious dividends for any organization looking to compete in the digital age. These show up in the form of job satisfaction, productivity, and levels of innovation and creativity, all of which drive greater customer value.

Beyond access to the tools and data they need to do their jobs, the biggest factors influencing job satisfaction among knowledge workers include effective team meetings that resulted in clear outcomes and diverse teams built on respect for all kinds of contributors.

Innovation and creativity are also enhanced by work spaces designed to accommodate different kinds of activities, whether focusing, collaborating, or creating — as well as secure access to tools and data and effective team meetings.

When the right collaboration tools are combined with a forward-thinking culture, teams can reach their full potential.

Getting Meetings Right

Poor, unproductive meetings proved a top challenge and persistent complaint. On the flip side, efficient and effective meetings are the second most impactful factor on satisfaction, productivity and creativity level altogether (see Figure 5).

Although 25 percent of knowledge workers feel they spend too much time in meetings, they don’t expect the balance of “me-time” vs. “we-time” to change much in the future — there’s simply no way around it in a collaborative culture. The key is getting the most out of those meetings, no matter where participants are located. Once workers go back to their crucial “alone” time to think and create, they should be empowered with the information and inspiration they need.

Figure 6

Where and how meetings happen


What percentage of your time do you currently spend working from home or some other remote location versus in a corporate office each week? What percent of your meetings today are in-person versus virtual? What percent of your virtual meetings use video conferencing today? And how would you like this to look in the next 3 years?

The Future of Work Is Here for the Taking

Cisco’s preliminary study results indicate that workers see a clear path to a better future, with effective meetings, better work-life balance, and highly creative collaboration. Business leaders must respond in kind if they want to attract and keep the best talent.

Technology change — ensuring a strong, secure, and modernized infrastructure foundation to support the kinds of collaboration and effective meetings that workers demand — is part of the challenge. Culture change — encouraging trust, flexibility, and respect across highly dynamic and far-flung teams — is another.

It’s not just the right thing to do, but the wise thing. These capabilities drive clear benefits in productivity, creativity, agility, and engagement.

The future of work: It promises to be borderless, lightning-fast, and highly creative (not to mention fun). Good leaders will reinvent their businesses to meet these challenges — and create unprecedented value along the way.