In 2016, we heard about how millennials were going to change the workplace. It’s the start of 2017 and the online posts about how Gen Z will be the ones shaping the future workforce are starting to flood in. Yet as the office moves through a time of changes that for the most part mean more open environments and less assigned seating, the buzz should be focusing on how to make the office work for everyone.
As organizations increasingly rely on multi-disciplinary teams to tackle wicked and complex problems, collaboration becomes a must. With more workers on the go as well, collaboration, and face-to-face interaction is part of what makes the office special for them. This will often mean working with co-workers that are not only part of different departments, but also of different generations. Intuitive technology, and broader design for that matter should work for everyone.
(Pictured above: CardConnect’s Pennsylvania Office by Rapt Studio, Photography: Eric Laignel)
What is Intuitive Design?
The principle of intuitive design and technology is probably best displayed in many of the apps that we use today. Uber is a great example. The comparison was something that was initially discussed with figure3’s Head of Design Research and Strategy, Tyler Gilchrist, last year. The technology itself wasn’t groundbreaking but it provided a user experience that only involved a few taps of a button. The convenience that it has provided has disrupted an entire industry.
If certain app interfaces make navigating and performing tasks easier, natural and intuitive, what equivalent user experience tools are present in the workplace?
The Biggest Barrier
Often what hinders adoption of something new, whether it is an office design, new piece of furniture or technology or process is company culture and norms. As one example, we have seen a lot of companies adopt a basic technology that could have huge implications but was likely deployed incorrectly. Using a sit-stand desk is intuitive enough but having employees move between sitting and standing for work isn’t. Many have grown accustomed to simply sitting all day and have found their own way to deal with it – getting up for a coffee etc.
Recently, a colleague mentioned that the new message they were receiving around standing desks was to use egg timers to remind you when to sit or stand. Clearly the change was not completely intuitive or natural.
If we can focus on making people’s lives and work easier in a way that they can grasp and see, the design and technology will foster natural adoption of it in a workplace.
Making it Work
Wayfinding is one approach that can help employees understand how certain spaces should be used. This approach is what Deloitte Canada has used as they deploy their future workplaces, noting that these spaces will be in action for more than 10 years. A simple add was physical symbols that were intuitive and universally recognized. It helped set norms for how space should be used.
Intuitive Technology in the Workplace
To support this, companies also often use apps themselves, when it comes to using tech for intuitive design. Meeting room booking applications and iPad displays are disrupting traditional systems because of a lower cost but also a convenience. With clean and touch enabled interfaces, apps and displays can make collaboration easier in terms of finding a room to use. With spaces increasingly designed for casual collisions to spread ideas, finding a room nearby to continue work conversations is important.
Again, on the theme of collaboration, another example of tech utilized effectively in an office is more intuitive ways to charge during meetings. Google rolled out this out with ChargeSpot’s seamless charging system that allows users to charge by touching down their phone on a table. Even more traditional service organizations like TD or a Canadian law firm Lavery have outfitted their spaces with this technology. The differences in perceived demographics at two organizations in different industries, that were both able to have success, highlight how intuitive tech can enable productivity across an organization.
A modified version of this post originally appeared in Design Quarterly – view the original here.