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Driving Safety and Focus in Hybrid Work

I'm writing this at a table the Four Seasons Las Vegas has helpfully set up in its cool, marble-floored lobby; I have a full view of the patio outside, a comfortable seat and -- most importantly during a tech show -- an electrical outlet all to myself. It's been remarkable how productive I've been despite the view, and it's a great reminder that when it comes to hybrid work, the place you work really influences your mindset.

This week at Cisco Live, the company has been talking about its approach to hybrid workspaces, and a core component of its approach is that good work can be done when the space is set up for your needs. When I talked with Joel Bailon, Cisco's VP of business development and partnerships, yesterday, he summed up the company's approach like this: "I think we're really looking at this from the collaboration group, We think of hybrid work as helping organizations and people turn any space into a productive and safe place to work."

So what makes a place productive and safe for people to work? It's got to be a place where you can maintain data security, but unless you're working in the Come In, Please Open Proprietary Documents Cafe, that may be less about place and more about technical tools. But what's interesting is how Cisco is broadening the idea of which places are productive and safe places -- like your car.

Let the record show when I was talking with Bailon, I kept saying, "Your car? Which you drive? You're now going to be working when driving?" And he pointed out: people already take calls while they're in the car, whether they're driving or being driven, and that was one of the impetuses driving the pending Webex automotive application, which will be available in select Audi models in 2024.

To make the experience of working in your car safe for both participants and the other cars with which they share the road, the Webex automotive application will go into an audio-only mode when the car is in motion (so there's no taking your eyes off the road to keep an eye on the video feed while you're merging into traffic), there will be noise-canceling features so your colleagues aren't distracted by the noise of the construction you're driving through, and the full Webex bells and whistles come out only when the car is parked.

I can see where a car might be like a hotel lobby: a liminal space just blank enough to allow for pure focus and productivity. There's been a lot written on what workers want, what managers want, and what offices are doing -- Cisco's now looking at how to take some of the best features of an office anywhere now.Extending a model of safe productivity to the places where people are already working seems like yet another quietly transformative outcome of the last few years.