Let’s Get Phygital (Huh?!?)

As COVID-19 continues to re-re-rage, I’ve been reading a lot about what organizations are thinking and doing regarding their staff and plans for them returning to their workplaces. For community banks, this obviously means their headquarters and branches.

In the course of my research, I recently came upon this: Phygital. Meaning, people physically in a place fully supported by digital services. Get it, Phygital.

Yeah, I hate it, too. And how would your people react to that word?

But, ill-advised wordplay aside, the point is well-taken. The workplace is forever changed. I could list numerous reasons as for why, but you already know the big ones. The existential question for our clients is how are they going to adapt in 2022 and beyond?


I came upon “phygital” (still, sorry) while looking into workplace planning firms. i.e., usually boutique design-build firms that have evolved to provide a broad range of consulting services such as workflow, space planning, workstations, eco-friendly utilization systems and even wellness-at-work programs.

All good things and many of these groups are trying hard to re-imagine workplaces of the (not so distant) future and apply their insights and services on your behalf. But my takeaway is that they all mostly get it backwards.

By that, I mean that they quickly seem to get to the “phygital” (again, so sorry) solution without first understanding and validating the core issue. That being what your people want. But that’s not the focus of these consultancies because what people want is about culture and these firms make their living by “phygitizing” stuff. (I know). In short, they’re leaving it to you to figure out what your staff and customers want and then they’ll come up with a menu of stuff to make it so.


I’ve long embraced the philosophy that successful answers begin with asking the right questions. With that in mind, here is a short list of initial “people” focused questions that we are recommending to our clients.

For Your HQ Staff:

  •  What, if anything, concerns you most about returning to the office?
  •  What, if anything, concerns you most about not returning to the office?
  •  What changes would you most like to see in our current HQ layout?
  •  What attributes best describe the ideal work environment for you?
  •  What technology upgrades or additions would you like to see incorporated?
  •  What health and safety protocols or design changes would you recommend?
  •  What aspects of our pre-pandemic work environment would you like to see eliminated?

For Your Branch Staff:

  •  What changes would you recommend with regard to safely and effectively interacting with your branch co-workers?
  •  What changes would you recommend with regard to safely and effectively interacting with our customers?
  •  What potential branch enhancements do you think are most important to our customers?
  •  As an organization, what should we proactively plan for to best prepare for another COVID variant or disrupter to our business and/or community?

For Your Customers:

  • As a valued customer of (your bank name here}, what concerns — if any — do you have about visiting your local branch?
  • What suggestions do you have that we should consider in order to improve your experience in our branch?
  • What changes would you recommend that we make to our branches to increase the frequency of your branch visits vs. online interactions?


There are obviously many more questions that can be asked, but you get the point: People first! Which leads me to a final list of preliminary questions. The one’s that – as leaders within your organization – you need to ask yourself.

  • What is our ideal clientele of the future?
  • Does our current brand, marketing, product offering, structure and culture support this ideal?
  • Are we the kind of employer that can recruit and retain the kind of staff necessary to deliver our vision?
  • If not, why? And what changes do we need embrace in effort to achieve the future we envision?

Tough questions, these. But one variable is already being addressed for you. Workers across the country have discovered a new level of choice – and therefore leverage – that didn’t exist prior to the pandemic. So why will they choose you going forward?

Corey A. Waite is a leading commercial real estate advisor to the financial services industry. As Founder and CEO of Rubicon Concierge Real Estate Services, Corey works directly with senior executives coast-to-coast to deliver strategic plans and transactional services focused on optimizing the needs of employees, clients and members.

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