The future of connecting with colleagues
The COVID-19 pandemic accelerated the shift to remote work for many knowledge workers. This raised new challenges, particularly around how to keep people connected while physically apart.
Craig Walker embarked on two separate but related programs of research to understand the implications of this ‘new normal’ in the Asia-Pacific region. One with DesignSingapore Council in collaboration with Agency, and a second with WorkSafe Victoria for Melbourne Design Week.
Using the research as a springboard, we were inspired to try to solve some of the key challenges ourselves. We designed a speculative device, the ‘Walker Talker’ to help keep people connected, even while working remotely. This device isn’t just another phone or device, but is meant to mimic the ways people connect when in the same physical space – especially the unplanned or spontaneous communication which happens routinely in office environments.
The project in numbers
3Projects across Singapore and Australia
33Ideas designed and tested
1Speculative design object
The Walker Talker is a new daily ritual to keep knowledge workers cool, calm, and connected.
Much like a walkie talkie, the device connects you to a colleague at random, enabling a spontaneous conversation. This helps combat the challenges of feeling isolated, including lagging motivation and screen-based anxiety. This is a device which encourages people to step away fom their screens, pick up the ‘Walker Talker’ and talk to whoever is on the other end while going for a walk.
Someone simply picks up the device, and others are alerted that someone is online, though they don’t know who. The colleague can then connect and go on a short walk ‘together’ and have a chat.
When you use the device, you also unlock a surprise. This will be a simple randomised link from a trove of interesting articles, which you can ‘unwrap’ after returning from the walk.
Building to learn: defining experience principles through prototyping
One particularly acute challenge we wanted to tackle was the anxiety caused through isolation and the lack of regular informal social moments with colleagues. Online tools existed to combat this, but nothing we had seen was able to create the sense of spontaneity or serendipity which mimics the experience of running into a colleague by the water cooler.
Through building, testing and iterating mulitple rounds of low fidelity prototypes, we developed a set of guiding principles. These principles, seen below, helped us get closer to achieving the kind of engagement we wanted, and wouldn’t create the anxiety of being yet another task to do.
The New Work State of Mind
‘The New Work State of Mind’ was a research project and live event, conducted for Melbourne Design Week 2021, in collaboration with WorkSafe Victoria.
This in-depth research was centred around three core challenges: Equity, Guilt and Motivation. The ‘flip’ to working from home for many knowledge and white collar workers turned work from a place to go to a mindset to adopt.
With over 200 attendees, this event brought together experts, legislators and designers to understand the impact of this flip, and design ways to protect the mental health of workers in the future.
We summarised our findings in a microsite and report.
This research became the foundation for developing the ‘Walker Talker’.
What’s next for Singaporean workers?
Craig Walker collaborated with the DesignSingapore Council and Agency to develop tools and approaches to help Singaporean workers navigate ‘what’s next’. We sought to understand some of the common challenges Singaporean workers are facing following the shift to remote work and its impacts.
Through our research, we spoke to people across all levels of organisations, from interns to business owners so we could develop an understanding of impacts across levels of seniority.
Together we published a research study and set of tools to help spark and direct conversation and action across organisations. Our research and insights also formed the foundation for developing the ‘Walker Talker’.
Creating a shared vision of working from home
We produced a toolkit to to help companies facilitate a design-first approach to remote work. The resource contains exercises that help build empathy, break down bias, and encourage openness while working remotely.
Each exercise is designed to help organisations reflect, and to convert these reflective conversations into actionable pathways they can implement right away.
The toolkit is available online or in hard copy, meaning it is accessible whether working remotely or face-to-face. It was designed to work in any level of the business, and across industries to help create a shared vision of remote work moving forward.
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What we do:
Using our Powers of Ten research framework, we facilitate your team towards a deep understanding of an issue.