Molding the Future Workplace blog

Nov 08

After conducting desk research, I was able to create interview questions that were aimed at understanding the human and personal experience of the online work environment. These questions went through two iterations before they were ready to be used. I used a variety of open-ended questions to get unbiased and a variety of answers as well as help me establish informal conversations with the interviewees, hoping to make them more comfortable.

I reached out to a people from various professions and experiences in the workplace and working online. I wanted people who are new to the work environment and have started  remotely; people who have worked in person prior to the pandemic; and those who are hybrid, working both remote and from the office. That helped me collect data that was well rounded and not bias and from multiple experiences. I was able to conduct a total of six interviews.

While conducting the first three interviews, I realized that one of my questions was not properly targeting a concern people had. As a result, I ended up changing it. An it turned out to be the right choice since the next three interviewees had a lot to say when responding to the new question. The amount of time it took for them to answer and how much thought they gave the questions also indicated to me that changing the one questions was the smart move.

This was a great learning experience for me. I usually am afraid to move forward without having all the elements set up perfectly. But by letting go of that assumption, I was able to iterate my questions on the fly based on real-time feedback from the interviewees. It only improved the quality of the data I collected, but also taught me a valuable lesson about the design process and its flexibility.

 

Sep 27

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How can we create an online environment that facilitates trust between coworkers, as well as employers and employees?

Foresight:

What is the Problem?

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, many organizations have had to make a swift shift to remote working. For many, this means adjusting to new online collaboration tools and the home-work environment. However, this abrupt transition to working remotely has also created an environment that is more difficult to facilitate trust. This is especially true for those currently entering the workforce or a new organization.

Where does this happen?

So why does working remotely make building trust more difficult?

For starters, the abrupt transition from working in office to online has furthered the distrust between employees and employers. In office, employers fear employees are slacking off. Therefore, employers rely on in-person monitoring to make sure people are working. With the move to working online, employers have lost their main management tool and have had to look for technological solutions. Technology, like spyware and productivity monitoring software, capitalize on managers’ fears, enabling employers to watch and micro manage employees like never before.

Another aspect that is important to consider is the effect that online mediums have on the quality of communication and its limit on social interaction. A lot of non-verbal communication is lost in translation when using messaging, voice calls, and video calls. This makes it difficult to gauge the person you are speaking to. Meeting online also adds a formal expectation to “in-office” communications, making it harder to get to know your colleagues and building interpersonal relationships.

Both examples show the elements of the online work environment that make building trust more difficult.

Who is affected?

The difficulty to build trust online is a challenge that affects both employers and employees working remotely. Young professional entering the work force during the COVID-19 pandemic may benefit the most from improving and speeding up the process in which trust is established. I can also see non-tech companies who have been forced online by the pandemic to benefit from improving trust with their organization.

Why is this important?

Why is trust important to businesses? Trust is the essential building block that enables teams to communicate and collaborate, thus improving productivity. Having trust in teammates also enables people to act independently and ensure efforts are directed to completing the current project and not in controlling and micromanaging each other. It also enables people to have a sense of belonging.

Trust also ensures that there is an established sense of psychological safety within the group, meaning that the group is a safe place to share opinion within without judgement. Psychological safety enables teams to better communicate and to be more productive.

What are the next steps?

Moving forward, I want to look at how online communities build trust when they have never met in person.

  • How to hackers build trust and accountability online?
  • How do gamers build parties with people they have never met?
  • How do people open up and trust people in self-help chatrooms?
  • Look at Steven Johnson’s book “where good ideas come from” to get insight on how ideas are created from a social interaction, like in conversation with colleagues. And his concept of “adjacent possible” where we look outward for inspiration.
  • Look at non-tech companies who could be a potential client to design solutions for.

 

Sep 26

“If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses.”

– Henry Ford

I want to address the quote above by Henry Ford as I think this reflects on one of the important roles designers have and skills necessary to the creative industry.

The quote highlights the disconnect between what customers say they want and what they actually want. It is important for designers to understand that the consumer‘s vocabulary is shaped and limited by their experience. One major limiting factor for customers when articulating their desires is the available technology they have experienced. Which is why when Ford asks customers what they want, they describe faster horses.

The next step is is to understand our role as designers to translate customer feedback into the true underlying needs and desires of the user. Ford does this by breaking down and examining the function horses perform, getting people from point A to point B, and then building it back up into what the customers want: a faster mode of transportation.

It is imperative that as designers we see past the surface words and look at the deeper meaninsg behind them to understand needs, desires, and new opportunities.

 

Sep 23

Workplace Foresight

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I took the two of the four  STEEPV analysis opportunities focused on the future workplace I identified last week and attempted to frame my problem space.

Below is a picture of my notes as I brainstormed and found insights for my two opportunities.

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Opportunity 1:”How do we build/maintain a sense of camaraderie while being physically separated over digital platforms?” (left). Opportunity 2: “How can we maintain the value of work done online and establish a holistic measurement of productivity?” (right).

I brainstormed the four W’s (who, what, where, why) on my own and found it very difficult asses if my ideas made sense without having anyone to discuss with. This also made it very hard for me to choose an opportunity and feel confident in my project defining sentence.

I think that once I can discuss with other people my problem space, I will discover more insights and can better assess if my ideas are realistic and relevant.

Sep 18

After conducting research on the current and future workplace, I used the STEEP V analysis to identify trends with opportunities for design. I was mainly focused on looking at how socials factors effect things like productivity, work culture, the environment, and more. Below are the four opportunities that I believe are the most relevant in regards to creating a happy and healthy workforce that can collaborate well and produce quality work.

  1. How can we maintain the value of work done online and establish a holistic measurement of productivity?

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Many employers fear that employees are not working hard enough and create meaningless targets and quotas to measure the worth of employees. They prefer using numerical values, like the number of calls answered, as they are easy to measure and lead to little conflict up the chain of command. However, arbitrary quotas can lead to many consequences for the organization, like a loss of quality of work produced or burnout in employees trying to keep up. These targets also dictate to employees that only measurable parts of their work are important.

But what if employees were rewarded for soft outcomes, like the number of satisfied customers? This could increase the quality of work and satisfaction of customers. It also would reward people based on competence, resulting in less burnout and less turnover of skilled workers.

2. How do we build/maintain a sense of camaraderie while being physically separated over digital platforms?

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Like many people, I too miss the small social interactions, like hugs, that create a sense of camaraderie between myself and the people who I work, learn, and socialize with. With the COVID-19 pandemic, we are more physically and socially isolated than ever. Social isolation takes a serious tole on both mental and physical health, leading quickly to burnout, often used as a punishment in prison. Definitely not something productive members of society should be subjected to on a daily basis.

Therefore, we need to find a way to reestablish coworker relationships and a sense of camaraderie within organizations that build and strengthen trust, collaboration, and creativity leading to benefits such as improving the quality of work and one’s pride in the work they produce to better fend off burnout.

3. How can we build an online work culture experience that improves collaboration and trust?

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The quick manner in which employees and managers had to switch to working remotely has caused serious rifts in the relationship  between the two.

When working at home, employers can no longer checkin and monitor the productivity of their workers. This has furthered managers’ fears that employees are not working hard enough, resulting in some organizations forcing employees to download spyware. These programs not only track the amount of time you work, but can also rank employees against their colleagues. This leads to a toxic competitive work environment which negatively affects collaboration. Spyware also strains the relationship between the employer and employee as it shows the level of distrust employers have, making collaboration more difficult.

The emphasis on improving collaboration and trust in organizations is vital as it leads to solutions that are more informed, creative, and relevant to the world we live in.

4. How can we better balance our work and life as online platforms continue to blur the lines?

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Working at home has also proven to be a double edged sword. While on the one hand, flexible scheduling has made it easier for us to run errands, it has also further blurred the lines between work and life. Many of us no longer have changes in environment to indicate and separate the time we work verses  like time for personal activities. For some, there will be consistant distractions of personal activities while others may find that they many hours of overtime without realizing it.

Proper work and life balance is crucial to help employees avoid burnout as well as maintain and improve motivation, creativity, productiveness, and the quality of work.

All the opportunities listed above focus on the idea of trust between coworkers and employers and employees and the need for good collaboration.

Sep 18

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Shown above are my personal notes on the Fast Company article “How the travel industry will survive COVID-19, but with big changes”, highlighting important insights and extra thoughts I have while reading.

One interesting example focuses on Steve Hafner, the CEO of Kayak and OpenTable. Many of Opentable’s initiatives during COVID-19 focus on applying reservations to new areas and capacity control. What interests me is how these two focal points will shape and change behaviour well after the pandemic. For instance, reservations enable not only contact tracing to be possible, but also eliminates waiting in line for a table. Restaurants accepting customers through reservations only will result in accidentally discouraging spontaneous dinner plans, a behaviour that prior to the pandemic generated business. We will be forced us to ask questions like, “how might we maintain the joy of spontaneity in a highly scheduled world?”

Reservations also make the food industry more environmentally friendly.

COVID-19 has had a detrimental effect on industries efforts to be more environmentally conscious. Coffee shops no longer accept refillable mugs and there is an enormous increase in the amount of disposable items (masks, gloves, wipes, etc.). But reservations and capacity control in restaurants could have a positive effect on the environment. If restaurants knew how many people were going to be eating the next day, they could more accurately gage the amount of food needed to be prepared, reducing both their food costs and food waste.

This reading highlights not only new opportunities and innovative solutions, but also makes you think about what will change if these practices continue well after COVID-19.

Sep 14
Group 3 STEEP V analysis looking at the future of mental health

Group 3 STEEP V analysis looking at the future of mental health

Today we looked at future trends for mental health in the next three years. This process allowed us to experiment with combining trends from six different categories to create opportunities waiting the sphere of mental health and treatment.