Friday Faves is our weekly blog series highlighting a few select pieces from the REG team’s reading lists. You can catch up on past Friday Faves on the archive

New ways of working require new ways of designing work spaces

Anne says: We’ve been talking a lot about remote working and returning to the office. No one can really predict what 2021 is going to look like, but we’re all in agreement that for now, how we used to work won’t be the same. Accepting the uncertainty, there are ways we can prepare ourselves to manage working differently. Currently, the majority of discussions are centred on the workspace itself – that is, where we get work done. The articles I’ve selected for this week, all from the Work Design magazine, demonstrate how office designers are rethinking space, purpose and safety to reflect the return to the office in the future.

A key focus is about purpose – what should this space be used for, and how will people interact within the physical space? While we’ve managed to work remotely (from home) under forced conditions that no one had planned for, the need for proximity and interaction was replaced by endless video calls. Now, as businesses review their office space strategies, there is increasing acceptance of hybrid models combining time working remotely with time in the office. Underpinning the considerations are elements of culture, what tools do people need to interact, what furniture supports the design of spaces (with social distancing), while including design of remote aka home offices.

Two of the articles refer to the design of a new concept, the fourth space, defined as:

… a place that combines the functions of the first three: home, work, and public environments.

The public environments, or the third space, in many instances have become popular with the use of coworking spaces and cafes. Although, I wonder, under current pandemic conditions if this use of the third space will lose traction. The author of the article, NeoConnect: Defining And Designing A Successful Fourth Place, believes the physical workspace (the office) is going to provide a more personalised experience than previous designs – while needing to incorporate people who are working remotely.

The research conducted by Perkins Eastman, although US-based, provides some valuable insights into areas that will need to be addressed – presented in their “Digital Doggy Bags” (love this takeaway ideas concept). Overall, the observed trends included: the end of the working from home stigma; the changes in working hours and output (when work is being done); how to optimise the home office; and how to build resilience. The key impact points that will require addressing included: mental health and how to support workers; and how to create and maintain connections with distributed workers.

Finally, the article In A Remote World, We Are Still Designing For Social Creatures is, for me, the most critical, as it explores the issues of people and connections:

the human need to be together is as essential as ever for fortifying workplace community, social relationships, and a company’s mission and culture.

This is where we return to the question: when we meet, or need to get together in the physical office, what work is it that we’re intending to do? A single workstation, partitioned from others, socially distanced and isolated, might as well be the same place and type of work that can be completed from home. The article poses the question: “…Should we instead design physical places for meeting, collaborating, and socializing?”

Hybrid models are emerging, alongside designs of workspaces that adapt our current ways of working to incorporate more fluidity with collaborative spaces. How can we combine engagement with remote workers in elegant ways, while connecting with team mates in the office workspace? While uncertainty continues, it can be embraced. New ways of working can be designed and spaces can support people’s needs and the organisation’s culture. But, we will need to innovate and challenge traditional ways of thinking of the office and most importantly, we need to put people’s experience at the forefront of our design decisions.


Why your brain is so foggy

Jakkii says: I don’t know about you, but I am certainly still going through cycles of struggling with life in a pandemic – and that’s from here in Queensland, where things aren’t so bad, case-wise or restrictions-wise. Not that minimising experience on the basis of ‘others have it worse’ or even ‘it could be worse’ is typically an effective strategy – most of the time all it does is make you feel bad for feeling bad! A couple of days ago Anne & I were chatting about how things have been and we got to talking about some of the ongoing effects of work and ourselves during the pandemic, like focus (or lack thereof), writer’s block, fluctuating motivation, and, ultimately, brain fog, which prompted Anne to send me this article and I, in turn, to share it with you! Not least because, after a bit of fluff about background and the newsletter this piece is from, the author nails it for me with the opening:

I don’t know about you, but since the start of the pandemic it feels like my neurons have been replaced by pipe cleaners. So even though I was excited to write this newsletter, I was feeling a little sluggish and uninspired.

BOOM. Yes, me too! Excited by things – work and writing, in particular – but sluggish and uninspired. And just, struggling, which is the word I keep coming back to because it is a struggle, trying to get back to normal when, really, we can’t. We won’t. We keep talking about the ‘next normal’ (or ‘new normal’), but I don’t think any of us want that to include ongoing brain fog and struggle.

This is only a nice short read, but in it, the author takes a look at some of what’s going on in the body when we feel ‘brain dead’, and most importantly discusses some of the negative effects of stress.

There are all sorts of methods out there to deal with stress and anxiety and, while this background stress of the pandemic might not immediately strike us as stress and anxiety because it’s more chronic than acute, more humming than piercing, making a conscious effort to implement stress-reduction strategies is definitely something worth doing. The article suggests trying a meditative body scan, and links through to an article titled A remedy for sleepless nights under lockdown that takes you through how to do a meditative body scan, which is essentially a method to distract your mind, focus it instead on your body, calm your nervous system and help you to sleep. Although I haven’t had too much trouble with sleeping, I’m going to try it all the same and see if it helps with the brain fog as suggested.

At the end of the day, I think we all need to be a bit kinder to ourselves as well as each other. I think that was true pre-covid, but it’s especially true now. Keep trying new and different things to find what helps and what works for you, and ask for help when you need it. We’re all doing the best we can, and while objectively some circumstances and experiences are tougher than others, don’t fall into the trap of comparing yourself, and most especially anyone else – you rarely have the full picture of what’s going on for someone so how can you make a fair assessment as to whether their circumstances are ‘so bad’? It’s not a helpful approach, and if you’re struggling with a colleague, team member or direct report – or even a leader – who’s struggling at work, I urge you not to fall into the trap of judging whether you think they should be or not, or comparing them to their peers and whether or not others are struggling. Approach them with empathy and compassion, and work together to improve things, to find workable solutions, and to get things done.


Around the house

Source unknown

Jakkii says: This week’s wrap up of things to read and do from home is below. Have any tips or things we should share for our ‘Around the House’ segment? Get in touch and let me know!

Friday Funnies

“Let’s take it offline” from r/funny

Misinformation Friday Five

Bonus: Misinformation is ‘its own pandemic’ among parents

COVID-19 Friday Five

Work Friday Five

Bonus: ‘Integrators’ and ‘separators’: How managers are helping the two types of remote workers survive the pandemic

Tech Friday Five

Bonus: Facebook Connect 7: the 5 biggest announcements

TikTok in the US Friday Five

Bonus: How quickly can a girl go viral on TikTok?

Facebook vs Australia Friday Five

Social Media Friday Five

Bonus: How Oracle’s TikTok deal could shake up social media

Sydney Business Insights – The Future This Week Podcast

This week: the media hype around AI writing essays, and how to make clean meat innovation palatable.

Sandra Peter (Sydney Business Insights) and Kai Riemer (Digital Disruption Research Group) meet once a week to put their own spin on news that is impacting the future of business in The Future, This Week.

The stories this week

07:42 – This op-ed was written by an AI (or was it?)

22:20 – Gen-Z is not ready to eat lab-grown meat

Other stories we bring up

Global need for copper could increase by 350% by 2050

Can you run Doom on an Electronic Pregnancy Test?

Uber pledges to shift to ‘100 percent’ electric vehicles by 2030

China’s driverless car upstarts see robotaxis scaling up

Yandex and Uber spin out self-driving venture

LED face mask

Leather made from mushrooms could mould the future of sustainable fashion

Apple seeks damages from Epic

Our previous conversation of GPT-2 on TFTW

Text to speech synthesis

The Guardian’s GPT-3-generated article is everything wrong with AI media hype

A college student used GPT-3 to write fake blog posts and ended up at the top of Hacker News

AI experts and enthusiasts were cynical about the article

GPT-3 a massive act of cutting and pasting

Artificial journalism?

GPT-3 is mindless

Fox News hypes GPT-3

Clean meat to meet the demand for meat

Lab-grown meat as a mass-market option

Beyond Meat teams up with elite athletes

Redefine Meat is developing a 3D-printed steak

Lab-grown meat could leave some marginalised

The fake food future on SBI

Our previous discussion of meat alternative on TFTW, the fake food future and chicken wars

Our previous discussion of the Chicken of Tomorrow on TFTW


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