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September 17, 2019

How Cisco is providing a ‘soft landing’ through major life transitions

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Paula Gacesa is a mother to a ‘blended family’ of four, ranging from two to nineteen, has worked in the technology sector for a bit over twenty years in the UK, US and Australia, (possibly an unlikely direction after gaining a degree in German language and literature) and is currently a Senior Program Manager in Customer Experience at Cisco.

We asked Paula what Back To Business is all about.

“Back To Business is an employee network, providing a safe place to connect, share experiences, ask questions and learn about topics that can help employees ‘re-onboard’ and re-engage or plan for a period of leave. As an Inclusion and Collaboration group, we also raise awareness within the business on the challenges faced by employees when returning to work.

Cisco already promotes flexible working and offers a rich array of collaboration technology to make work possible from just about anywhere. Back To Business provides a network to feel connected, get practical and emotional support when returning to work after a period of extended leave.”

As chapter lead for Australia and New Zealand, Paula returned from parental leave herself 18 months ago:

“I returned to work with some ideas about what we could do to support employees who were also going through the incredible juggle of managing babies, older children and the demands of work. I was fortunate to have a wonderfully supportive manager, but saw some opportunities to streamline processes, as well as connect with others to share experiences – if only to commiserate about lack of sleep or build up some confidence! As often happens, life got busy and a few months went by, I heard about a chapter of Back To Business being launched in Cisco UK and decided to investigate, establishing a chapter for Australia and New Zealand.”

There are now a growing number of Back To Business chapters in Cisco around the world run by employees for employees in close collaboration with HR.

“It’s all about providing a supportive environment where employees can bring their whole selves to work and feel part of the Cisco family. Employees planning or returning to work have an avenue to collaborate with Cisco Employees across the globe who share similar circumstances”.

While Paula’s experience centred around returning to work after a baby, she stressed that Back To Business supports employees returning from any type of absence.

“It isn’t only about parental leave, we support anyone taking a period of extended leave, it might be due to illness, bereavement or a period of personal leave. It might also be because an employee has had to support a family member. It can be an incredibly stressful experience dealing with illness and we want to ensure that employees have access to all the support they need and can connect with others if they want to. This is in addition to benefits that Cisco provides as part of private healthcare and the Employee Assistance Program (EAP).”

We asked Paula what kind of support Back To Business provides.

“We provide access to a community of support to help employees adjust and get back to business. We hold regular webinar sessions, provide a confidential discussion space on our Webex Teams platform, and have also created eBooks with advice and guidance for both employees and managers.”

In closing, we asked Paula what it means to her to work on this initiative.

“I feel very lucky to have the latitude to build and work on something that helps others. I believe it’s very important to give everyone the opportunity to have the best experience they can at a time that can cause a lot of anxiety. Sometimes small gestures can go a long way to giving people a sense of belonging and creating a caring work environment. At the end of the day, we want to provide a smooth return process to help people be themselves and make their return to the workplace as positive as possible.”

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About the Author
WORK180 promotes organizational standards that raise the bar for women in the workplace. We only endorse employers that are committed to making real progress so that all women can expect better.

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