With the Covid-19 pandemic waning, the hybrid work environment is fast becoming the wave of the future and many companies are scrambling to keep up with this new normal. Hence the emergence of solutions like the Cisco Webex Suite and managed services that can make a hybrid work environment work for everyone. 

The pandemic has sparked a considerable shift in the workforce, with many employees now working remotely. According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, by May of 2020, more than one-third of the total US workforce had worked remotely due to Covid-19. Data from the National Council of Compensation (NCCI) indicates that about three-quarters of office-based clerical and professional employees in the US had begun working from home by early in the pandemic.

Meanwhile, in a survey of 2,000 office workers in 10 countries worldwide, JLL found that 72 percent of respondents wanted to continue working at home regularly after the crisis. Beyond that, 75 percent expected their employers to support their work at home. What’s more, 70 percent of these office workers said they are in favor of a hybrid model,  “where they can head to the office to work in teams, manage and be managed, or solve complex problems, according to JLL’s survey, conducted in October of 2020.

Webex for collaborative conferencing

Cisco Webex Suite is the perfect platform for enabling the emerging hybrid workforce members to meet over video and collaborate from office, home, and other remote locations.

Cisco first announced its acquisition of software startup Webex in 2007. Today’s Cisco Webex Suite represents a merger between Cisco’s earlier Webex web conferencing platform and the Cisco Spark team collaboration app, accomplished through a rebranding effort in 2018.

The cloud-enabled suite includes the Webex Meetings and Webex Teams software products, plus the Webex Devices family of video hardware. The software is available to people in both office and remote locations through a choice of desktop and mobile apps, along with a web browser version. Cisco is now moving all of these product lineups in the direction of unified support for hybrid environments.

Webex Teams is a team collaboration environment with features that include video meetings, messaging, whiteboarding, file sharing, and a persistent virtual meeting room for collaboration by in-office and remote teams. Through another feature, called Webex Calling, users can voice call to any destination through either Teams or a Cisco IP phone.

On the other hand, Webex Meetings offers webcasting – also known as video streaming – to as many as thousands of users, with interactive Q&As and live polling. Webex Meetings comes with personal rooms that users can customize, schedule meetings, or leave open for ad hoc meetings. Users can also schedule Webex meetings from Webex Teams, join a Webex meeting, or continue a discussion in Teams after a Webex meeting has ended. Additional Cisco collaboration tools in Meetings include video conferencing, screen sharing, live chat, remote desktop control, and automatic queuing and routing.

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Workers now use a personal assistant to take notes and set up future meetings and webcasts simply by using their voices. You simply say the phrase, “OK Webex,” followed by a Cisco Webex Assistant Voice Command.

Webex Devices offers a highly scalable series of meeting room devices for office environments with its Webex Room Series and Webex Board. The Webex Room Series, for example, includes kits for rooms of various sizes with a camera, codec, speakers, and microphone and integration with flat panel displays.

Meanwhile, a new Webex Desk Hub lets workers personalize shared workspace in the office. By inserting a smartphone into the hub, the employee gets automatic identification recognition. The worker is also provided with a personalized space, customizable with photos and personalized links to meetings. 

Why choose Webex for hybrid work environments

Webex is one of the video conferencing and collaboration environments on the market today. Why is it so perfect for hybrid work environments? Here are five great reasons.

1. Webcasting support

Unique in the collaboration market, Webex allows for highly polished and sophisticated video presentations for employees in the office and remote settings alike. Here are some examples:

  • Live and on-demand training sessions for more than 1,000 participants.
  • Interactive webinars and events for up to 3,000 attendees.
  • Large-scale virtual events for more than 40,000 people, located either in the office or remotely.

2. Innovative features aimed at hybrid environments

In what some see as a Cisco transformation, the company is now making a concerted effort to build new features specifically for hybrid environments. People Focus is targeted at helping remote workers feel more connected to meetings. Webex uses Camera Insights, artificial intelligence (AI), and machine learning (ML) to crop videos to focus on meeting participants individually to give remote workers contextual clues through facial expressions and body language.

Another new feature, My Voice Only, is to remove background noise in remote and shared workspaces, including noise from other individuals in the same space, such as family members in home environments. Other features include polling, Socio, Webex Assistant, whiteboard, and asynchronous video.

3. Integrations with Microsoft Teams and more

Users of Slack and Microsoft Teams can start or join Webex Meetings directly from those platforms. This gives greater flexibility to those who have a preference for one of these platforms, as they can continue to work in that environment while gaining the ability to join Webex Meetings.

Webex Meetings integrates, too, with Microsoft OneDrive and IBM Connections for file sharing and with Office 365, Outlook, and Google Calendar for calendaring.

Webex Teams provides integrations with other apps useful to remote and office employees, such as Salesforce and Zendesk for customer relationship management (CRM) and to Asana and Pivotal Tracker for project management. What’s more, Cisco includes APIs in the Cisco Webex Developers program for integrating additional apps with Webex Teams.

4. Remote meeting management

The Control Hub in Cisco Webex offers real-time monitoring of your Webex services in both remote and office settings. The Control Hub lets you manage users and services, access reports & analytics, and configure security policies. Swift corrective action can be taken when issues such as call disconnects or disruptions to audio, video, or other content are noted.

5. Remote IT administration

IT administration of Webex Suite can also be performed remotely. This includes onboarding and offboarding users, devices, and services, in addition to regular configuration audits, regulatory compliance activity, and security patch management. For organizations that don’t have in-house capabilities for specialized IT administration or conference monitoring, these services are available through Cisco Consulting partners such as Yorktel.

As a certified Cisco partner, Yorktel holds numerous Cisco certifications and is uniquely positioned to help your organization match your business needs to the right Cisco technologies. To learn more about working with Yorktel on implementing and managing Cisco Services such as Webex Suite, contact us here – learnmore@yorktel.com

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