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

The Future of Your Office Is in a VR Headset

Anne says: Have you got your Zoom shirt on? (See last week’s Friday Fave if you don’t know what that is!) Or are you over video conference dress codes? If you’re still figuring out what to wear, stop! The rest of us have moved on and we’re already meeting in virtual reality (VR) where dress codes seem even less significant.

VR is not a new technology and VR headsets used in games have been around since the early 1990s. The more recent development of consumer grade headsets enables the current innovations to be applied for remote and distributed workers to interact in their workplace. The program featured in the short video is interesting as it attempts to create a “holographic collaboration platform” and uses avatars, developed from photos, to represent you more realistically. The CEO of Spatial, Anand Agarawala, describes the experience as a combination of Zoom and teleportation. Perhaps that’s a little more SciFi or wishful thinking – but it illustrates what these types of companies are attempting to do.

The Spatial example demonstrated in the WSJ video is intriguing. Allowing that I’m not participating in the scene through a VR headset, I’m watching them interact as an observer on video, there’s a sense of weirdness – not creepy weird, more awkwardness. The eye contact is fascinating – considering how much interaction and communication is created through eye contact – watch the avatars’ eyes, they’re close enough that you don’t react or need to look away. However, for me, that’s about where the realism ends. The mouths are like a rough animation and the hands are oddly shaped, and then there’s the legs – wait, what legs? So you’re in your VR workplace, moving around like floating upper torsos. It reminded me of Second Life (remember that?) but less engaging.

While developments in these types of technologies are exciting and companies like Spatial are creating new ways of interacting, I think we still have a way to go before working from home will be via VR headsets. We need to think differently about how we are constantly striving to replicate the office experience. Perhaps we could gain more from exploring how we could enhance our virtual in-person experiences by embracing these new technologies in different ways.

We’d love to hear from anyone that has used VR or similar technologies and would like to share those experiences with readers of Friday Faves.

Watchhttps://www.wsj.com/video/series/joanna-stern-personal-technology/the-future-of-your-office-is-in-a-vr-headset/774E11D3-C8F3-43B3-9674-C6B145650EF7?mod=followjoannastern

Moving beyond remote: Workplace transformation in the wake of Covid-19

Jakkii says: In partnership with GlobalWebIndex, Slack conducted a survey of around 9000 respondents across six countries that looked into remote work in 2020 – what’s working well, and what isn’t. This week, in conjunction with their conference Slack Frontiers (7-9 October, online for 2020), they’ve released the findings this week.

There are 5 key takeaways from their research:

  1. People prefer choice.
  2. Remote work is a net positive.
  3. But not for everyone. 
  4. Relationships matter.
  5. It’s time to work differently.

With an additional 6th takeaway added about the Future Forum launching a “Remote Employee Experience Index” that aims to “gauge remote worker sentiment worldwide”.

For me, the findings are more validating than illustrative. By and large, they reflect what we’re seeing and hearing from clients, peers, friends and colleagues, and of course, our Remote Working Meetup Group as well. One of the more important findings here is around relationships, connection and belonging.

However, remote working comes with drawbacks: Workers’ sense of belonging (-5) appears to be worse when working from home. This is the one area where most knowledge workers are less satisfied with remote work. By investing in strategies and technology that deepen employee connections, organizations can help improve the remote work experience.

The cynic in me sees the last line there and says how convenient for a company like Slack whose entire business model is technology that plays in this space to find that technology is needed. Despite that cynicism, the finding certainly rings true, anecdotally of course but also in articles like “Remote work is harming workplace friendships, survey claims“, and “6 ways connections create a sense of belonging anywhere with any workplace“. A sense of belonging is an important part of both community and employee engagement, affecting the overall employee experience. Whether continuing to work from home or moving to a hybrid model, building and maintaining connection and belonging for employees should be a key goal for organisations looking to retain talent – and look after their employees. As Anne mentions above, there are plenty of companies out there trying to push technology and tools to help us do that in our workplaces, but perhaps what we need are some approaches that look at the problem in different ways – is it really about trying to replicate in-office experiences remotely, or is it about making the experience of connecting and belonging in our organisations better, from wherever you work?

Readhttps://slack.com/intl/en-au/blog/collaboration/workplace-transformation-in-the-wake-of-covid-19

Facebook rebuts The Social Dilemma

Jakkii says: Over the past two weeks, Anne (25 Sep) and I (2 Oct) have shared opinions and a variety of articles on Netflix’s docu-drama – and now social tech topic du jour – The Social Dilemma. This week, Facebook published a rebuttal: “What ‘The Social Dilemma’ Gets Wrong.”

We should have conversations about the impact of social media on our lives.
But ‘The Social Dilemma’ buries the substance in sensationalism.

That’s a heck of an opening! They refer to social media platforms being a convenient scapegoat for “difficult and complex societal problems” (not wildly dissimilar to my discussion last week), and complain about not including people who currently work at Facebook (would they have been allowed to participate, one wonders?) or experts with a different view (not an unfair point). They take issue with the docu-drama not giving them credit for taking any steps to address the points raised in the film, and seem particularly put out that people “allowed” to comment haven’t worked at Facebook for years.

They specifically raise 7 points:

  1. Addiction (Facebook builds products to deliver value, not make you a ‘Facebook addict’)
  2. You are not the product (sure, Jan)
  3. Algorithms (they seem particularly upset by the depiction of algorithms as sociopathic in the film’s dramatisation)
  4. Data
  5. Polarisation
  6. Elections
  7. Misinformation

It seems to be the final 4 points for which they want credit for taking steps toward improvement. Without taking a deep dive into any of these, it’s probably fair to say that some steps have been taken as Facebook and other platforms grapple with these issues – and, let’s be clear, work to avoid regulation in jurisdictions around the world. It’s also worth noting, as CNBC point out in their report on the rebuttal, that Facebook’s business model is reliant on users returning to the platform, saying:

Facebook also argued that its product teams aren’t driven to build features to increase the amount of time people use its services. It said that it made changes in 2018 that decreased usage by 50 million hours a day.

Still, in every earnings call, Facebook highlights the metric of “daily active users,” which has increased steadily year after year. Those users are how Facebook makes money. Facebook needs them to keep coming back, whether it’s frequent or not.

Facebook’s rebuttal piece is undoubtedly at least somewhat PR spin, however, as we’ve seen in articles shared over the past couple of weeks, it’s also fair to say that some people well outside of Facebook or their interests also took umbrage with certain aspects of The Social Dilemma, particularly its oversimplification of how these platforms – and algorithms – work. It’s worth a read – it’s not super long – if only to get some insight into their messaging and thinking, but let’s not forget their vested interests here as we do so.

Readhttps://about.fb.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/10/What-The-Social-Dilemma-Gets-Wrong.pdf

How ‘awe walks’ could do wonders for your wellbeing

Jakkii says: Back in 2017, I shared a piece in our Friday Faves on why we feel awe after having seen a keynote at JiveWorld17 by Dacher Keltner, professor of psychology at UC Berkeley. In the keynote, Dacher discussed the power of awe as a mechanism for connection, and for letting go of our ego which enhances collaboration and a desire for helping others. He talked about spending time in nature and being mindful and intentional in taking in our surrounds and allowing ourselves to be inspired, get excited – and feel awe.

Clearly, the concept behind this article isn’t new, but I felt inspired to share it both because it brought back memories of that keynote (and the wonderful few days I got to spend in Yellowstone National Park afterwards), and because while we all continue to grapple with the pandemic and our current normal and the unknowns of the next normal, it seems all the more important for us to be intentional and purposeful in finding ways to look out for ourselves and our wellbeing.

Of course, things are rarely black and white, and there was an interesting piece in The Atlantic some time ago on whether awe is really good for us. In it, Keltner was quoted as saying:

“But if a significant number of awe experiences have fear as their central theme—if they make people feel stressful, alienated, or alone—then we have to be careful about suggesting awe as something people should practice regularly, like gratitude.”

It would seem then some care is needed to feel positive effects, and it may not work for everyone – if people feel a sense of awe that’s combined with fear, they may not see the positive benefits that awe can bring. In this week’s article, the study it refers to – while small, and specifically focused on older adults – found that “people who took a fresh look at the objects, moments and vistas that surrounded them during brief, weekly walks felt more upbeat and hopeful in general than walkers who did not.” I think this simple approach is one many of us could take in order to discover the benefits of awe for us and our wellbeing.

Not surprisingly, they found that the awe walkers seemed to have become adept at discovering and amplifying awe…Overall, the awe walkers felt happier, less upset and more socially connected than the men and women in the control group.

It’s worth noting that in addition to the fact the study was focused on older people, as the article points out emotions are subjective (and self-reported) so the effects are, in some ways, hard to truly quantify. But hey, a walk is usually good for us as it is, and I think for most of us it’s worth a try to get out there and try to find awe in the world around us, no matter whether it’s in the big or the small, the common or the unusual. It just might work!

Readhttps://www.brisbanetimes.com.au/lifestyle/health-and-wellness/how-awe-walks-could-do-wonders-for-your-wellbeing-20201007-p562oj.html

Around the house

Jakkii says: How’s everyone doing this week? Hopefully, we’re all feeling like we’re coping, no matter the state of restrictions where we are, and staying home, staying safe, and staying healthy! To help keep you sane at home, though, here’s another round-up of a few things to do, watch or read at home this week.

Friday Funnies

US election

Bonus: How the media has abetted the Republican assault on mail-in voting

Misinformation Friday Five

Bonus: Facebook keeps data secret, letting conservative bias claims persist

QAnon Friday Five

COVID-19 Friday Five

Work Friday Five

Tech Friday Five

Bonus: DuckDuckGo, EFF, and others just launched privacy settings for the whole internet

Social Media Friday Five

Sydney Business Insights – The Future This Week Podcast

This week: we talk about design and design thinking in an uncertain world, as we problem-solve our way out of the pandemic.

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

10:37 – Greece’s Chief Creative Officer, design and design thinking

Other stories we bring up

Why Netflix keeps cancelling our favourite shows after two months

China produces most of the world’s solar panels, wind turbines, electric vehicles, and lithium-ion batteries

The pandemic has killed cash (again)

Our previous discussion of cashless society on The Future, This Week

Our previous discussion of cashless Sweden and owl theft on The Future, This Week  

The wurst is over: Germans are eating less meat

Our previous discussion of clean meatfake milkthe chicken of tomorrowlab grown meat and plant based meats on The Future, This Week

Amazon’s new way to pay Amazon One (PayPalm?)

d.school’s getting started with design thinking

SBI on which institutions are at the forefront of the public discussion around design thinking

SBI on what is the narrative around design thinking

Design for the future when the future is bleak

Design with users in mind

The Chronicle of Higher Education’s design thinking critique

Harvard Business Review on shortcomings of design thinking

Listenhttps://sbi.sydney.edu.au/design-thinking-on-the-future-this-week/


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