Our two Design Directors are very different personalities. One is a self-confessed introvert whereas the other is always the last to leave the party. When they come together we always know we can expect astonishingly creative design. The human experience, usually contained within the physical spaces they create, is now moving online in an unprecedented way. We asked each of them to reflect on their own experiences working from home and the questions that are arising about design in the future.
Christa Jansen, Design Director
Connection & Creativity
I consider myself an introvert who has the skills to adapt to situations where extroversion is required.
Days full of back-to-back meetings are exhausting to me. I relish the time between or at the end of the day where I can be by myself for a few minutes and recharge. In “real life” (i.e. life pre-COVID-19), working in an open office environment, I need to go into a focus room or work from home occasionally in order to get some heads down time and get certain tasks done. I enjoy my colleagues, but sometimes I just need to be in a quiet place by myself.
A few weeks ago, in response to the public health situation, our employer gave us the option of working from home, rather than closing the office and mandating it.
The number of employees working remotely steadily increased over the course of the past few weeks and we are now all working from home.
In the early stages, when we were still able to, I found myself looking forward to going to the office – for the social interaction, and the work environment. Eventually less than 20% of our staff was working in the office, but I still craved that interaction in order to fuel my creativity. I wonder if and when the loneliness will kick in?
I’ve noticed that when our project teams meet virtually, people are encouraging teammates to turn their cameras on so there is a visual connection (this is not commonplace). If a self-proclaimed introvert is missing social interaction in the office, how is this affecting the typical extrovert?
I wonder how this will affect how we work in the future.
One, will more employers realize that it’s possible for workers to be productive even if they are not physically in the office? Will it increase trust? And two, will workers be more invested in physically working in the office, and have a greater appreciation for that interaction? What effect will these experiences have on the way we design office spaces?
Stephen Busto, Design Director
Routine & Distraction, the new R&D
Routine, the daily grind, the things you do…in a post-corona WFH (work from home) world.
Distraction, the things that tug at your sleeve in that WFH world, that off-kilter painting, or bleaching those dishtowels...the lists linger and grow, in-home distractions, our lives and loved ones ever closer.
This isn’t my first time WFH experience, having consulted for a number of years, and also lived through the dot bomb, Fannie Mae Freddy Mac, and 911 tragedies, each with its own period of down time and challenging circumstances.
Gone are the glories of a reception area, a breakroom, and seven square feet of personal white laminate workstation, traded in for a dining table, a corner of the bedroom, a sofa, a kitchen counter, your automobile, another “workplace.”
A colleague at the office remarked last week, “are you enjoying the voyeurism of seeing other people’s homes on video conference?” Actually, I am. The setting, the lighting, the angle of the monitor, a little stage set for work and so much personality, it’s more personal, in some ways, more than “in person”.
For me, maintaining a routine is number one. The waking time, the morning coffee, the crisp bow tie. Yes, the crisp bow tie, or vest, or dress shirt. I dress for “work” even when working at home. It puts me in the professional mood, so to speak, and my video camera can always be on. A sort of dress rehearsal every day…just in case.
For me, it’s a reminder of those times at the office, those glassy conference rooms overlooking humanity, traded in for a temporary window on trees, birds, and neighbors.
My career has been about creating space that brings people face to face in the office, together in restaurants, or “alone together” in hotels. It comes as a shock to the system to think a about long-term separations, or potentially a whole new way of working.
Alone is the new together. How to collaborate and listen?
The video conference call is the new face time, and digital presence etiquette rules will have to be re-written.
Focus time for creating will be even more precious as we are continually drawn into the digital world. When I create, it’s with pen paper, tissue paper, markers pencils and pens, a computer, and mouse. This wholly focused time, the problem, the creation, the iteration of possible solutions. My personal creation space is now a quiet home, Miles Davis’s horns blowing faintly in the background, a great place to concentrate.
Perhaps the pre-made phone pods and meeting pods need to be available to all of us for home use, for the home office, as we all sequester in place and have time to create.
A Common Humanity
For both Christa and Stephen, very different personalities, there are common themes that fuel their creativity.
- The ability to connect with people in a physical environment and the need to recreate that in virtual world, most notably through a strong visual connection.
- The importance of creating the right environment for a specific task; whether that be quiet focus space or swapping the sofa for the back seat of your car!
- And, perhaps most importantly for the future, a newfound appreciation for the importance of physical space in creating those very human bonding experiences that we all crave.