The Workplace Experience Lab: Iterating on Hybrid Work

Britta Schellenberg
Britta Schellenberg
Published on 
10.13.2022

The workplace experience lab

You may have noticed that our twice monthly newsletter, “Future of Work Wednesday” didn’t appear last week. That’s because we’re moving to a monthly newsletter format and also changing the name to “The Workplace Experience Lab.” We’re calling ourselves a “lab,” because we’re all currently involved in a massive experiment to transform work and trying to figure out what works best for our own organization. Don’t be surprised if, from time to time, I invite other smart people into the “lab” to share insights or even pen this newsletter.

Let’s dig in! Driving a positive workplace experience is a complex, highly-variable endeavor that requires experimentation. What works for organization X won’t work for organization Y. Even more challenging, what worked for organization X in June might not work for organization X in October. Hybrid work isn’t a policy or project that you can “set and forget”: it’s a continuous and iterative journey driven by data and KPIs that connect to employee experience, rates of productivity, talent retention, hiring, and much more. 

Before we start discussing best practices for making hybrid work effective, let’s begin with what definitely isn’t working for companies thus far.

What Failure Looks Like: ‘One-and-Done’ Pronouncements

Your dynamic, visionary CEO can call a town hall meeting at the HQ to announce that “we’re all returning to the office starting next week, and we expect you to come in 3X per week from now on.” Guess what? That’s not how to make hybrid work effective. The CEO has given a policy, not a business strategy. Getting office plans right requires more than a pronouncement, you need an inclusive and iterative process that collects ongoing feedback from employees in order to achieve strategic business goals. “The goal of every business is to deliver high office occupancy rates,” said no successful business leader, ever.

What happens when the CEO tells the board and the organization’s investors that the organization has achieved its office occupancy goals, but that the business is now: (1) less productive. (2) leaking top talent, (3) becoming less profitable, and (4) beset by “quiet quitting” among the middling talent remaining? Yes, the CEO has “successfully” forced people into the office, but with “achievements” like that, who needs failure? 

4 Best Practices for Hybrid Work Success

Hybrid work success is about continuously focusing on, and iterating upon, experience. That experience isn’t about where work happens and it can’t be measured with metrics from the office of 2019. Instead, a workplace strategy should be measuring key business drivers such as productivity, talent retention, and employee engagement rates. 

At Robin, we take the time to understand our customers, learn about their specific needs, and work collaboratively with them to tailor approaches that work for them . And yes, technology matters, but it’s only one component of a holistic and highly-strategic process. In working with our customers, we’ve seen four best practices that lead to the best outcomes with hybrid work:

1. Hybrid work should be about experience, not mandates 

If the leadership team wants to ‘force’ people into the office, it’s better to ‘pull’ them in with advantages they can’t gain working from home (such as collaborating with colleagues or participating in fun social programming) rather than ‘pushing’ them in with inflexible and unpopular RTO mandates. Your top talent always has choices, so you need to make the office an attractive destination they want to choose (otherwise, they may choose your competition to work for).

2. Hybrid work isn’t a set and forget policy, but a continuous, iterative journey

If your hybrid work approach is driven by the sole goal of maximizing office occupancy rates, you’re doing it wrong. When your office is more important than your people, you’re going to have empty offices, disengaged people, and, likely, a failing business. The key strategic question isn’t “where are our people working today?” but “are we supporting our people in being productive and doing the best work they possibly can, no matter where they work?”

3. Data and insights are the fuel that drive the engine of your workplace strategy 

Once you’ve clearly defined the destination you’re seeking to reach, typically around employee productivity, enhancing employee experience, and talent retention/acquisition, you can then create a leadership dashboard to monitor and discuss your pre-defined KPIs/metrics. If employee sentiment, for example, says you should invest in healthier snacks in the office kitchen, then you can make the necessary changes to move the needle. When you consistently listen, learn and act on feedback, you’ve got an effective engine humming in high-gear, fueled by data and relevant actions.

4. Unify your workplace technology into a workplace experience platform.

If hybrid work success requires an integrated, holistic, and data-informed approach to where people work and how they work , then the technology tools you use to enable that approach can’t be fragmented and disconnected. In order to implement the three best practices detailed above, you’ll need a holistic workplace experience platform that integrates tech tools and enables hybrid work success. In fact, 73% of managers using a workplace experience platform reported being empowered with appropriate tools to execute their hybrid work strategy.

Ok, that’s enough chatter from the workplace experience lab today. Until next month, keep on experimenting and sharing results – we’ll be doing the same!