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Venice is one of the world’s most popular and most romantic travel destinations, but its population has dwindled by two-thirds over the past 50 years to fewer than 60,000 people. As part of the city’s plans to address this issue, local authorities have partnered with Cisco, academics and non-profit organisations to explore new ways of attracting and fostering a thriving ecosystem of remote workers.
The activity will be crystallised around the Venywhere project, a new initiative that will turn Venice into a “living lab” on the future of work, where every aspect of hybrid work will be put under the microscope. The project aims to offer a platform that gives people everything they need to live a unique, safe and frictionless remote worker experience in the city, and aims to act as a gate to transform a work-from-anywhere experience.
For centuries, Venice has attracted people from different backgrounds, religions and cultures. Cisco said this inclusive culture makes it the perfect place to experiment with new ways of working, living and collaborating together, powered by the latest digital technologies. The experiment will explore the impact of hybrid working on employee experience, wellbeing and work-life balance and the possibilities it brings to diversify the economy and repopulate a historic city.
As part of the project, 16 early-in-career Cisco employees from Italy, Spain, France and Greece have relocated to Venice for three months to live and work. The team will look at how people’s expectations of work have changed and ways that people, teams and organisations can work better together, attract new talent and connect with the communities they live in.
Alongside their regular jobs in virtual sales, the group is also taking part in in-depth surveys and interviews about their experiences, and helping co-design new practices and solutions for hybrid workers. Their experiences will help shape a new model for digital citizenship.
What is said to be a crucial part of the research is the recognition of the importance of belonging and connection – for remote workers and for the communities they are living in. The participants are volunteering their time with local organisations and projects focusing on climate change, economic growth through hybrid work and recycling. In February this year, Venice announced its Global Capital of Sustainability initiatives, focused on the future development of the city. Venywhere project participants are using their volunteering time to help further this initiative.
“The way we think about work has fundamentally changed,” said Chuck Robbins, chair and CEO at Cisco. “Employees are more outspoken than ever about wanting flexibility, and companies must recognise that if they want to attract and retain the best people, they need to offer hybrid work options. They also need to think about work, productivity and wellbeing in more holistic ways. Our collaboration with Venywhere is giving us real-life insights into what all of that might look like – in a historic city that is redefining its own future.”
Gianmatteo Manghi, general manager of Cisco Italy, added: “Nearly a year ago, we announced that our workforce would be truly hybrid. The experience from this group of pioneers will help us understand and evolve how the future of work can transform people, teams, companies and even societies.”