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Enabling Productivity, Employee Experience, and Real Choice in Today’s “Phygital” Workplace

office space
Chuck Leddy
Published on

The “phygital workplace” isn’t really a place at all. Instead, it’s a blending of the physical office and digital tools to support productivity and employee experience (EX) no matter where work happens

“These two workspaces are starting to overlap,” says Brendan O’Neil, Director of Partner and Channel Strategy at Robin. “People want a physical workspace [i.e., the office] and still want to participate heavily in the virtual workspace.” 

For employers and employees alike, balancing the new ways of working will be a complex, evolving process of learning and adjusting. “The variables in play that impact whether people work from home or go into the office will be different every single day. Organizations need to set their people up for success no matter what the balance of variables might be.”

Phygital Capabilities as Foundational for Work Productivity and EX 

Having the right digital tools to support collaboration, such as good cameras and microphones (not to mention Robin), is essential for today’s phygital workplace. “If people aren't enabled to do their best work in both the physical and the digital spaces,” says O’Neil, “it may force them to make “default choices” about where and how they work that limit their productivity and experience.”

An employee might go into work to attend a hybrid meeting simply because the digital platform isn’t reliable. Maybe the organization is inconsistent with internal tools, or maybe people can’t easily access the information and documents they need to participate remotely. That lack of real choice diminishes employee productivity and EX, and may (over time) catalyze employee churn. 

Hobson’s Choice: Bad Phygital is a ‘Silent Killer’

To understand the importance of delivering a good phygital experience and giving people real choices about how and where they work best, let’s go back 400 years. 

In 17th Century England, entrepreneur Thomas Hobson rented horses to the public (think Hertz with hooves). Hobson’s customers always wanted to rent the strongest, fastest horses, which tended to get overworked, while other horses tended to be underutilized. 

To “solve” this resource-utilization challenge, Hobson changed his business model to give each customer two choices: either (1) rent the horse he’d placed nearest to the stable door or (2) rent no horse at all. 

This “rule,” where two choices are offered but only one makes any sense, became forever known as a Hobson's choice. The point? Don’t turn your phygital capabilities into a Hobson’s choice, because people can (and will) go elsewhere when given no choice.

“A bad digital experience is a silent killer,” says O’Neil. “If employees are calling into meetings and not getting a good experience because the microphone, camera, or some other aspect of the digital experience goes wrong, they might not complain, but their productivity and engagement will suffer. Their future decisions about where to work also will be impacted.” 

O’Neil suggests that organizations check in monthly or quarterly about their digital and physical capabilities to ensure they’re enabling people to do their best work. 

“You need to know what’s happening and make improvements by collecting continuous feedback about people’s experiences,” O’Neil says. “That's something Robin enables.”

Supporting Work Coordination in a Hybrid World

In a hybrid work world, it’s essential to allow people to coordinate their work week and make choices that serve how they work best. A one-size-fits-all schedule or workspace definitely does not fit all. 

Sales professionals, for example, may prioritize in-person coaching and mentoring, preferring to sit in on sales pitches, while software developers have been effectively collaborating via digital platforms (like Slack) long before the pandemic began. Every organization, every business function, and every individual has different needs.

“An employee can open up their calendar and see, oh, I’ll work from home on Wednesday because I have a lot of one-to-one meetings with people who don't live anywhere near the office,” says O’Neil. “But on Tuesdays and Thursdays, I have meetings with people who are typically in the office on those days. I’ll go in and meet them face-to-face so we can strengthen our working relationships.” 

The Office: No Longer the Default Choice

The office has its use cases, as does working from home. Phygital capabilities enable people to do their best work from anywhere. 

“The office isn’t the default anymore,” says O’Neil, “and we’re seeing more organizations doing in-office programming to encourage employees to engage in face-to-face community and build company culture. Offices are having to transition to a hospitality mindset.”

Restaurants have been attracting people with programming forever by offering happy hours, taco Tuesdays, and trivia nights. “Office events and programming can be really attractive to people,” says O’Neil, “and help inform how people coordinate their work weeks.” 

Good phygital gives people real options, making both the physical and digital workspaces accessible.

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