Technology Allows Cisco to Work with the Best, No Matter Where They Are

Aliah D. Wright By Aliah D. Wright October 6, 2017
Technology Allows Cisco to Work with the Best, No Matter Where They Are

Cisco Systems says it is using technology to foster the employment of distributed teams around the world and saving millions of dollars, even though many companies that once offered telework are now bringing employees back into the office.

"By 2020, nearly 50 percent of the workforce will be freelance workers," said Jason Phillips, vice president of digital HR and global chief of staff at Cisco, speaking at the TRaD Works Forum held recently in Washington, D.C.

The annual event focuses on telecommuting as well as remote and distributed work.

To prepare for the influx of freelancers, speakers from Cisco said, companies should embrace technologies that allow the flexibility to work from anywhere and at any time.

"The bottom line is there's going to be a lot of mobility and [employees] are not going to be co-located in a specific building," Phillips said.

Cisco, a 25-year-old IT company based in San Jose, Calif., employs 80,000 people in 473 facilities. It has offices in 273 metropolitan areas in 93 countries. Most employees, however, work remotely at least part of the time.

Phillips and his co-presenter, Dave Wagner, Cisco's vice president of operations and workplace resources, told conference attendees the company is committed to employing the best workers it can—no matter their location. State-of-the-art technology helps it do that.

"Almost 60 percent of [employees] operate in a highly remote or mobile fashion," Wagner said, adding that these employees may come in to an office only once or twice a week and not always to the same office. 

Cisco has allowed telecommuting for years, and this has helped the company save a significant amount of money. With a reduced need for office space to house employees, it closed 239 buildings between 2012 and 2017. That decreased its real estate portfolio by 30 percent, enabling it to slash $196 million from its budget and earn $294 million in building sales.

What's more, "our technology has saved us over $200 million a year in travel alone," Wagner said.

During the same time period mentioned above, he said, employee engagement and workplace satisfaction both increased by 17 percent. Work/life balance increased by 15 percent, and the company noted an 11 percent decrease in safety incidents.

[SHRM members-only toolkit: Managing Flexible Work Arrangements]


Cisco poured the money saved from telecommuting into its workspaces, which has improved recruiting. Cisco said 72 percent of new hires say the workplace had a positive impact in their decision to join the company.

"I have the pleasure and the challenge of overseeing Cisco's workplace resources organization," Wagner told attendees. "It's a highly diverse and dispersed team … that takes care of over 80,000 occupants and all of their needs and their physical footprint.

"My job is to make sure they operate in comfort."

 During the presentation, Wagner and Phillips used a Cisco platform that looks a lot like Skype.


With it, they conferenced in two employees who were working from a remote location "at the top of Europe above the Arctic Circle in Norway," Phillips said.  The employees appeared on video and could share their screens and demonstrate in real time how they're able to work with colleagues in far-flung places. Those employees said they work with Cisco employees from Australia to California and beyond.

"We don't want to be geographically bound by the best talent," Phillips said.


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