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Workplace of the Future

This project was completed for a design mentorship set up by the Carleton School of Industrial Design. Working alongside a service designer from one of Canada's leading investment companies, my role was to design a solution which helps businesses to optimize talent and adapt to future changes post-COVID-19.

Duration:  9 weeks (completed September 2020)

Methods: Secondary Research, Affinity Mapping, Employee Personas, Prioritization Matrices, Reframing the Problem, How-Might-We, Prototyping, Storyboards

Type: Service Design Mentorship

Problem

Looking Towards the Future

COVID-19 has drastically changed the way that we work. Fewer people are going into the office, and higher health standards are likely to remain even post-pandemic. In response, businesses are looking to new strategies to improve how employee work and adapt to external shocks.

Research

Secondary Research

The first step was to learn about the back-office workplace environment, culture, and operations both during and prior to the pandemic. I also researched remote work strategies to supplement my knowledge on what has been working so far, and what may require further consideration.

I mapped and coded my user research to identify patterns in behaviours, motivations, decision influencers, pain points, and needs. These were used to develop employee personas.

Synthesis

Employee Personas

We wanted to avoid creating stereotypes with our personas, while providing enough detail from our research insights. The outcome was three personas in three different working scenarios: primarily in-office, primarily remote, and a hybrid of in-office/remote.  Each had unique behaviours, values, pain points, and needs according to their working scenarios.

Design Direction

Promoting a Flexible Work Culture

Next, we needed to identify what type of change might be most beneficial for attaining set business outcomes. Ideas for corporate transitions fell into three categories: cultural, technological/operational, and physical. We used prioritization matrices to compare the proposed ideas, and chose to design for flexibility and individual choice because of its increasing importance in the digital transformation of the workplace.

Business Goals and Design Directions

Business outcomes (grey) and design directions 

Reframing the Problem

Designing for Flexibility through Team Accountability 

We defined cultural flexibility as reaffirming individual choice over how to work. We then generated How-Might-We statements to outline more actionable design goals. Through research and collaborative brainstorming, we assumed that reaffirming individual choice must be preceded by team trust and accountability. The outcome was a new future scenario that supports team accountability as a means to build cultural flexibility.

Present Scenario

High value on doing work the way that is expected, and on ‘consistency’ in where people do their work

Future Scenario

High value on flexibility: individual choice (‘if I need to come in, I can’) as well as business flexibility and adaptability

Future Scenario Reframed

How might we guide team accountability to support individual decisions over where and how to work?

Ideation

Brainstorming for Accountability 

 

We began by outlining a framework for individual and team accountability to clarify the impact of our design. We then brainstormed and discussed ideas to support this impact. We decided to explore the concept of a real-time team dashboard.

Transparency of information

Improve team engagement

Shared Team Dashboard

Shift from individual to team goals

Criteria: innovative, measurable, clearly drives team accountability

Design Development

Prototyping and Feedback

I created wireframes, low-fidelity prototypes, and outlined how the dashboard might be used by different employee personas according to their needs and pain points. I continued to iterate on the design with feedback from my mentor.

Primarily in-Office

  • Reduce stress of being monitored

  • Review activities of remote team members

  • Build trust over in-office productivity

Primarily Remote

  • View upcoming training or events to attend in-person

  • Close communication gaps

  • Build trust over remote productivity

Remote-Office Hybrid

  • View upcoming events and notify team of attendance, whether in-office or remote

  • Monitor work progress to guide decisions over where/when to work

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Communicating the Design

I created a storyboard to illustrate how an employee might use the dashboard in a real work scenario. This was an effective way of communicating my design to team members in my final presentation. 

Final Design

Shared Team Dashboard

The final concept is a high-level solution for a back-office team that would be common in an financial company. Although metrics may vary between teams, the concept of a shared dashboard supports the company's objectives by:

Optimizing Talent

  • Empowering all employees to participate in  team decision making

  • Boosting team morale to improve work flows and reduce absenteeism 

  • Encouraging a culture of collaboration and flexibility to increase team engagement

Adapting to External Shocks

  • Allowing employees to practice flexibility to respond to future changes 

  • Moving away from reliance and towards confidence in the midst of uncertainty

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