She also said she wasn't surprised by the fact that one in five IT pros see their relationship with workers as strained. "You hear a lot of people complain in IT, but the complaining can be short-lived," she said, based on nearly 20 years in networking circles.
Cisco focused the findings on the need to adapt and update IT policies to current trends, arguing that IT shops need to communicate policies clearly and more often to workers -- especially regarding security. Explaining network security to a new employee can be futile since a worker is exposed to so many new ideas, Lasser-Raab said.
The 64% who see a need for improved IT policies said they could be updated to reflect real-world expectations and work styles, including finding an acceptable medium between device usage, social media, mobility and work flexibility.
Lasser-Raab said Cisco internally revamped its approach to security, one that is centered on telling Cisco employees "we trust your judgment, but first you need to be trained and are personally responsible for security." Cisco employees are taught about creating effective passwords, protecting passwords and using such devices as a screen cover on a laptop while traveling on a plane or working around strangers, she said.
"We moved from locking down with security to security information sharing," she said. Cisco automates many security updates, as numerous companies do, but its efforts to give employees more responsibility shows there is an "opportunity for companies to adopt trust and education."
She said Cisco has also learned that social media, such as Twitter and Facebook, can be used advantageously to promote company events and projects across a large, dispersed work force. "What is viewed as a waste of time can become work time," she said.
In some workplaces, the use of iPods might be discouraged. But they can add to productivity for some other workers, such as software engineers working alone for long periods, she said.
Cisco also found that allowing more devices works. When some Cisco workers started showing up with MacBooks to do their work -- even though the Apple laptops weren't permitted two years ago -- Cisco changed its IT policy to allow the Macs, as long as workers supported the machines themselves. "We quickly got 10,000 Mac users within a year," she said.
The survey found that restrictive policies can lead to a revolt by workers. Overall, only 34% of workers said they adhere to their company's IT policy all of the time, while 56% said they adhere to it most of the time. Some workers (7%) said they sometimes follow the policies, only 2% said they do so "not very often." And just 1% said they never adhere to company policies. Of that 1%, four in 10 said they violated an IT policy to gain access to a restricted program or application to get their job done.