The Future of Work is hybrid: moving to a hybrid, ‘phygital’ workplace | Deloitte Netherlands

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The Future of Work is hybrid: moving to a hybrid, ‘phygital’ workplace

Rebooting the digital workplace

Early 2020 many organizational leaders would not have signed off on a year-long working from home experiment for their desk workers. There are too many unknowns, too many stigmas on working from home to break. While the past year wasn’t your normal experiment, in the least it forced us to rethink our workplaces in the broadest sense: if the future of work is hybrid, what does that really look like?

We are currently in discussions with many clients, who are zooming in on one or more of the following questions:

  1. Short term: how do we go back to the office safely?
  2. Mid-term: how do we leverage what we learned in the past year to go back to the office in a hybrid model, combining in-office and remote work?
  3. Long term: knowing that in 5 years it is likely that we will do significantly different work, and knowing that our workforce setup will likely look significantly different, what work environment is needed?This includes the organization’s design, processes, tools, policies, ways of working and culture

Of course we predict that those that only focus on the first question, may be disappointed in the long term. Those that are rethinking their mid term and long term models are truly leveraging the unexpected but amazing chance that the pandemic has provided in rebooting the digital workplace.
 

What we learned

There are a few key lessons learned from our work during the pandemic that will shape the future of work:

  1. There are at least parts of our daily work that can be done remotely just as well as in the office. Productivity numbers vary, but if we negate the effects of shut downs we see that this is not just ‘bad productivity’ (bad productivity means that productivity gains stem from job losses and high unemployment rates). This is an actual increase in productivity, where output was outpacing the hours worked: we didn’t just work more, but we were more productive.1
  2.  Many organizations were able to break earlier orthodoxies, cut red tape, and rise to the occasion to make decisions faster, with a shared goal. Our whitepaper on The future of work in a post-pandemic world outlines these findings. For example, think of how quickly some manufacturers such as DSM were able to adapt their production lines to produce face masks and disinfectant gel.
  3. The 100% remote experience has had significant negative experience on worker wellbeing and mental health, increased anxiety and isolation, lengthened our workdays and increased the number of meetings, and in many cases brought the loss of sense of belonging within organizations.2
  4. The majority of employees do not want to return to 100% in-office work, and neither do employers; they are planning for a hybrid workplace, combining in-office and remote work. In fact, some organizations such as Salesforce and Spotify are implementing ‘work from anywhere’ policies for some of their workforce.3
     

The hybrid workplace

When considering the future workplace model, we argue that the human experience should be in the center of all the decisions. After all, the workplace is only there to enable the employee to do the best work in the best location in the best way. This human angle includes considerations around performance and efficiency, on how we work efficiently together in hybrid teams, how we enable smooth collaboration and continuous knowledge sharing, and how we do output-based performance management versus ‘line-of-sight’ performance management. It includes questions around culture, the sense of belonging and physical and mental wellbeing.

Next, we define the required place and space for the work, which includes work segmentation decisions around which types of tasks are best executed where, location strategies, real estate impact, and office design more geared towards socialization and collaboration rather than individual work stations.
 

Enabling technologies

Technology has been the one most important enabler for our remote work experience last year, and will be the one most important enabler going forward towards our hybrid workplace. Technologies support our day-to-day collaboration, and will in part be able to create the ‘digital serendipity’ of the occasional knowledge transfer at the coffee machine. Technologies can support our wellbeing, as described in our whitepaper on integrating tech and well-being. And technologies will change the office design to bring together the in-office worker and remote worker, avoiding that experience that we used to have where a single remote worker was not able to truly join a meeting with those in the office.

The future is phygital

‘Phygital’ has been a term coined usually by marketing departments to describe approaches that bring together the physical and digital world. The past year has brought this to organizations’ inward-looking strategies as well, creating a new phygital workplace for their workforce to optimally enable them to do their best work in the best place in the best way.4
 

1  https://www.forbes.com/sites/deloitte/2021/05/13/how-stakeholders-can-make-or-break-companies-sustainability-efforts/?sh=e54bb7d476d7

2 https://www2.deloitte.com/nl/nl/pages/human-capital/articles/the-future-of-work-in-a-post-pandemic-world.html

3 https://www2.deloitte.com/nl/nl/pages/human-capital/articles/human-capital-trends.html

4 https://www2.deloitte.com/nl/nl/pages/human-capital/articles/connecting-the-dots-on-shifts-in-work-workplace-and-workforce.html

5 Tech Trends 2021: Rebooting the digital workplace: https://www2.deloitte.com/nl/nl/pages/enterprise-technology-and-performance/articles/technology-trends.html

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