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How Can Your Team Thrive in the Hybrid Workplace? We Can Help.

The global pandemic has dramatically changed how we work — and how we feel about going back to our offices. Each week I speak to more customers planning a return to the office, but for just a subset of their employees. They are not alone in this approach. We conducted a global survey of 1,500 people and found that less than 9% of the global workforce expect to fully return to the office after offices reopen. And, 98% expect there will be at least one remote worker in every meeting going forward according to the same survey. The hybrid workplace is here to stay.

But it’s clear that there is a lot to do before many will feel confident about this new hybrid work environment. While 89% are frustrated with in-office experiences, 94% want better work-from-home collaboration experiences.

Take a look at a snapshot of the survey results

What would make a better work experience? 96% of companies say they could improve work environments with intelligent technology. Today we are introducing exciting Artificial Intelligence (AI) innovations to enable this safe return to the office and to help your team be productive anywhere. These innovations are part of the Cisco Webex blueprint for the hybrid workplace to engage your team, whether they are remote or in the office.

Making Remote Work 10x Better

58% of survey respondents say they will continue to work remotely eight or more days per month even after the pandemic is over. With video conferencing now a part of daily work life for most, it’s critical that you have a stellar, seamless video meeting experience. We’ve listened to our customers and we’re on a journey to deliver 10x better-than-being-there experiences. Webex delivers seamless collaboration with built-in AI technology that overcomes common friction points and works in sync with the apps you love.

Enhancements for Remote Workers

Here are a few enhancements we’ve made to empower remote workers:

– No more need to ask, ‘can you go on mute?” We’re excited to announce that we’ve acquired BabbleLabs. This is huge! Distracting noise on Webex meetings will now be a thing of the past. By the end of this month, AI technology from BabbleLabs will silence unwanted noise (think street noise, keyboard typing or a pesky vacuum cleaner) while enhancing the speaker’s voice so you can hear clearly. BabbleLabs’ noise removal technology is currently in Cisco customer trials with general availability for Webex Meetings desktops and select Webex Room devices slated for October, with full portfolio availability to follow.

– Show up the way you want. Make sure you look and sound amazing before you join a Webex Meeting. We’ve enlarged the preview screen so you can clearly see how your background will appear. Controls are simplified too. It’s easy to set your audio and video preferences. Liven up your meeting appearance with a blurred or virtual background (we’ve added more of those, too) or even add your own custom image.

– Fewer clicks and a personalized in-meeting experience. Our new, easy-to-use design puts Webex controls in the most logical place—and even adapts to your screen size. Simplified meeting controls are front and center – with clearly labeled icons, an updated color pallet and contextual menus – but never in the way of meeting content or video. You can also customize your video screen view – see many people or just a few and hide non-video participants with a simple click. New thumbnail controls for each attendee mean users can right-click on anyone’s video or avatar to directly interact or even your own self-view to change your own audio or background on the fly. Whatever your preferences, it’s easy to make your Webex Meetings experience your own.

Technology Innovations to Help Workers Safely Return to the Office – When It’s Time

When the time comes, companies plan to make far-reaching changes to welcome workers back into the office. In our survey, 53% plan to optimize the office-footprint. In other words, they want to make the best use of office space while ensuring safety and increasing productivity.

Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning (ML) will play a critical role in optimizing the office for safety and productivity. We are extending our mission of 10X better experiences even in the office, integrating intelligence into are devices.

We’re announcing the following new capabilities and devices to help you design an intelligent workplace that provides a safe, secure, and productive work environment for all.

Even More Environmental Sensors in Webex Devices That Support Actionable Workplace Analytics

Cisco is making it easy for IT to collect and take action on important data that can be key in ensuring a comfortable and safe workplace. Thanks to machine learning, Webex can now recognize and count people whether they are wearing face masks or not —no matter where they are in the room. This is critical to ensure compliance with room capacity limits. Our integrated collaboration device sensors also monitor environmental conditions such as temperature, air quality, ambient light, and room acoustics. Get metrics and analysis from these intelligent sensors in Control Hub to create your ideal workplace environment – real-time and historical sensor data and can provide valuable insights around meeting space usage to proactively pinpoint issues and to continue to optimize spaces to more effectively serve your evolving needs.

A New ‘Smart’ Room Booking Experience

Companies need a new approach to managing meeting spaces that ensures safety and optimizes use. I’m excited to introduce to you today two versions of the new Webex Room Navigator. They are purpose-built devices that contain all the sensors I mentioned. Webex Room Navigators sit either inside or outside the meeting room to provide intelligent, safe room booking for users and deep data for IT and facilities managers.

Never has it been easier to ensure a productive, safe and healthy meeting environment than with our new Webex Room Navigator working with Webex Room devices. The out-of-room Webex Room Navigator model makes it simple to find and book a space to meet—it clearly shows when the room is free and changes the status to booked when you enter. Activate it with touch or just use your voice and let Webex Assistant do the work for you.

The in-room Webex Room Navigator model provides alerts for social distancing, cleaning schedules, and more and allows you to book from inside the space, too.

Both versions have a digital signage mode—so companies can use the screens to convey important information. Even better: built-in “no-show” technology automatically senses if no one shows up for a scheduled meeting and frees up the room for another team’s use.

“Webex Room Navigator has a neat modern profile, which our colleagues will find intuitive and enjoy using – and can resist usage day in and day out. I can really see the value in the environmental metrics the Navigator provides, giving us new insights from its sensors that we didn’t previously have.”                     – Ben Watt, Information Technology Services, The James Hutton Institute

This approach to creating new hybrid workplace experiences brings together software, collaboration hardware, cloud AI automation and integrated workflow apps to create a more intelligent work environment. Whatever challenges you face, from overflow room booking to wayfinding when a meeting room is booked, Webex is there to make it simple and seamless.

Be Prepared for This New Era of Work

If you saw your own organization reflected in the statistics, you understand the urgency of preparing for the new era of work. Cisco is making it even easier to purchase the Webex suite for the hybrid blueprint with our new Collaboration Flex program. Flex includes better-together licensing options to help you take full advantage of meeting, calling and messaging from the Webex cloud.

From the home office to the boardroom, displays, sensors, artificial intelligence, and automation deliver technology-driven experiences and accelerate transformation to keep workers safe and productive. We’re committed to helping you navigate the intelligent hybrid work environment.

Learn more about using AI to provide a hybrid workplace that people love

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What’s new in Webex: October 2020

Link to all Javed’s monthly update blogs

Securing Remote and Mobile Workers the Webex Way