Mixed reality concept, Interaction, UX design
Aman Bhardwaj, Jesse Gao, Abigail Auwaerter
Given the trends that the future work will be hybrid, we imagine how should the socialization be in that case? We proposed a Mixed Reality concept with digital and physical products which can help connect remote and on-site employees in order to enable organic interactions in the hybrid office environment.
Hybrid Socialization in Workplace
The final project will be exhibited in Dubai EXPO through Herman Miller
Challenge & Outcome
"Imaging the future workspace" is a big topic, we need to find an appropriate angle to cut into, then make a design decision. After almost 7 weeks of research, we recognize that the down of socialization in the workspace is the main fact that causes innovation depression among many companies. Therefore, by investigating the technology trends and human factors, we come up with the design intervention, a system called ORGO, with Hub and Portal two main components. Through the experience, ORGO could connect remote and on-site employees while in working hours, making the serendipity of communication happen smoothly in the workspace.
Remote or hybrid workspaces provide more flexibility in how people organize their day.
Over 4.7 million Americans work remotely at least half of the time (Reiners, 2021).
Socialization in Changing Boundaries
While professional digital tools are great in connecting people for formal interactions, informal interaction is not as high because teams are remote.
A recent CISCO report that showed that 64% of over 100 IT professionals surveyed they miss these casual exchanges (Dash, 2020).
The Importance of Proximal Relationships
Physical offices facilitate casual conversations which develop weak ties.
Weak ties are found to be more effective than strong ties at knowledge distribution & community mobilization.
COLLABORATION FOSTERS INNOVATION
And it is difficult to promote collaboration without socialization.
The Decline of Innovation
People are spending significantly less time collaborating regardless of the collaboration technology currently existing.
Prior to the pandemic, U.S. workers spent an average of 43% of their time collaborating. In 2020, workers spent only 27% of their time collaborating (Gensler Research Institute, 2020).
When employees collaborate: 73% do better work, 60% are innovative, 56% are more satisfied
Framing the Problem
What happened when people adapting to the new noraml?
The Future of Work is Hybrid
With a divide of preference in the workforce, the future of work is hybrid style workplaces (The World Trend Index, 2021):
73% Of employees want flexible remote work options.
67% Of employees want more in-person work or collaboration post-pandemic
66% of business decision makers are considering redesigning physical spaces to better accommodate hybrid work environments
Current solutions are mainly focusing on the formal and intended connections for hybrid socialization. For example, Meta horizon and Spatial provide VR space for workers to have a immersive working environment. Zoom and Microsoft team enrich the online virtual meetings. Mozilla hubs enables everyone could have a webxr experience for any events, exhibitions. All of them require the advanced schedule for every side of the participants so that everyone could get prepared for the "formal" conversations. Thus, the unintended and informal socialization space is still empty in the market.
Finding the Opportunities
Given the context, how should our future look like?
With all the insights from research, we come up with these two design principles to guide our design decision. We use a simple office model and user journey to illustrate the experience. And prototype in Unity to make the demos.
Create shared experiences between workers
Provide opportunities for informal interactions
Hub is a place that connects everyone in one place. Different from current online social media, e.g. Slack, which is focusing on text communication, Hub provides a visual way to show all the teammembers both in physical office and virtual reality. In this way, people will understand and get the latest status of others just in a glance.
Avatar bubbles on Hub can show people's status when they check in. The bigger one means the person is open to talking, while the smaller one means the person is in the focus mode—don't disturb. If the user wants to check one of the bubbles, they will know where the colleague be and their other interests to have a better understanding of new friends. Also, it has some filter functions to display a different group of people, which can help connect everyone in the company and have a better company culture.
Hub will be placed at the entrance of the office, every morning, the employee needs to check in at this place, the mirror-like box will be activated to show the personal avatar when a user steps into the area. Then he/she can review the personal message received; Also other circles on the hub will display other team members. All of these approaches would encourage informal communication later.
Portal is a physical device that can be placed anywhere in the office. It connects the VR room and the physical office. The on-site employee can see through the portal to the virtual room and talk to remote people there without wearing any VR devices.
There are two panels that can control the privacy of the talk, one-on-one or many-to-many. It all depends on what the user wants to talk about.
Portal provides a brand new online facetime experience. Remote workers who miss the feeling of working in the office can come to the VR space, watching the real-time, 360 streaming of the office environment, Also they can talk to anyone in the office, while both of the sides will be displayed as Avatar talking. The purpose of watercooler conversation is to share the information around, either good for the friendship or company culture.
Locate to "socialization" by brainstorming
Use PEST analysis and Era analysis to understand the context and trends
User interview to learn what happened
Synthesize the insights to Design principles
Ideation and validating the ideas of prototypes
Do the above several rounds