Carolyn Chandler closed UX Camp Winter 2021 with the keynote “Remotely Human.” Enjoy!
Director of User Experience, Eight Bit Studios
Carolyn Chandler has been working in the field of User Experience Design for over 20 years, after finding it due to a driving interest in psychology and anthropology.
As Director of UX at Eight Bit Studios, her areas of specialty include design strategy and leadership, interaction design, and user research and modeling. She co-authored A Project Guide to UX Design with Russ Unger (now in its second edition) and Adventures in Experience Design with Anna van Slee. Due to her work in teaching and mentoring students and start-ups, Carolyn was named one of “Chicago’s Tech 50” by Crain’s Magazine. She appreciates cheesy puns and words like spork.
The following transcript very likely contains typographical errors. Please forgive any mistakes!
Thank you. Thank you so much for us and hello everybody, thank you so much for making this last talk of the day, there’s been some really great speakers today, amazing ideas to keep everything lively, but I also appreciate it’s really hard to spend a lot of time and attention in front of a screen without the type of energy that we might have by being able to meet in person, and that’s actually what I wanna talk about today, how people have been feeling about moving to so many human moments into this remote and distanced world. And I’d also like to share some ways individuals and teams have been trying to stay meaningfully connected, there’s some common themes about the types of moments that make an impact and elements of rich experiences that we can use to connect in a more human way. I hope today is you’re gonna gain some ideas that you can use over the next few winter months, winter months are always tough for me, and during this time in particular, it’s already been so many months of us being distanced from each other, I think we could really use some ideas with each other and build on them together to keep connecting with our co-workers and with our friends and family, and the people that we’re trying to design products for, it’s finding…
We’re talking about this today because we’ve actually had a pander, say this week, a year ago, the US had its first diagnosed case of covid 19, and those of us in Chicago have been at different levels of stay-at-home and distancing orders since last March. Some of you might have already been remote first to remote only, and you may have already had some tools and practices in place that encourage human connection at a fit, we were very much office first, we did have things set up like 360-degree cameras. We even had a robot that Steve, who we mentioned earlier, would use to come in and get involved in some of our conversations since he is in California and we’re based in Chicago, but to be honest, it’s usually a pretty rich experience to be remote when most other people are in-person, you have audio connectivity issues that can kill participation, we have… A lot of activities were based on room energy, having posted notes well on the wall and collaborative sketching on whiteboards and in-person team building events, so it was a big challenge for us to try to bring the energy of culture and connection into a remote context.
So as I was trying to understand how we might do that, I started looking at some of the research on the remote experience for knowledge workers like I think all of us, and started collecting some insights from colleagues at companies like Slack and Cisco, and it’s not surprising that people have pretty complicated feelings about connecting remotely, but I was surprised to find out that a lot of the feelings are actually on the positive side, especially for folks who have had a chance to do it already and already have some processes in place and some practices that help them… This is something that a colleague at Slack point of me too, which is a remote employee experience index that they’ve been working on to release quarterly, that surveys different knowledge workers and helps them share with their experiences or like as they’re working remotely on factors like work life balance, satisfaction with working, arrangements, stress or anxiety about work and productivity, and you can see that most of these are actually on the positive side of the range, but one thing across all of the groups that was negative is the sense of belonging. Our sense of belonging is really taken a hit through this, and specifically when it comes to working remotely and feeling disconnected from our colleagues, this section actually, a sense of belonging actually looks even worse if you look at tenure and you look at the people who have been at companies for at least three months, but less than a year, so they’re past that glow orientation and they’re really realizing that they’re missing some of the relationships that others were maybe able to build when they were together in person.
So those new employees can be struggling sometimes even more than others, I started to ask them in interviews with colleagues that had posted things already about trying to connect humanly, by the way, so many great speakers today touched on this as well, so I’m definitely looking at following up with me not… And Margo, Megan and Amanda about some of the things that they talked about today in their approaches, but there’s been a lot of impact for the positive and negative of course, and as I started talking to people, it really started to take the form of a retrospective.
So I’m guessing a lot of folks here have participated in retrospectives, maybe follow the start, stop, continue format or something like this… Our retrospective ended up kind of falling into this pattern of, well, wanting to talk about the things that we feel like we’ve lost, and then some of the things that we’ve learned during this time, things that we’ve gained to the positives of the practices that we’re starting to put into place that have really helped, and then some of the things that we think we’re gonna carry forward as things start to open up and we move more to some in-person or beyond that, now there’s some findings that people are probably going to want to stay more remote than they were in the past, so I think a lot of these things are learnings that we will bring into the future. Some of the things I hear commonly when asking What do you feel like we’ve lost, this has probably the most variation with people I talk to, just based on what your home situation is, as you can imagine.
If you’re a parent then you’ve struggled with having that personal space and that ability to have energy coming back and forth specifically with your co-workers, but you’ve had a lot of human touch, you’ve had a lot of energy in the house.
Maybe you get that energy from pets to lots of pets just recently adopted during this time, but on the other side of that spectrum, you have the people who were living in isolation who had plenty of space but did not have that human touch, and some of those were also really heartbreaking to here because a friend of mine, for example, in the neighborhood ended a long-term relationship right before… About two months before covid became a household word and been Intertribal, not even walk around and visit people with the six feet of distancing.
And I remember there being a point where I basically was on the phone with her and just really wanted to give her a hug and finally just said to say, Can you grab a pill… Just grab a pillow. I know it sounds silly. Grab a pillow in huge, as hard as you can, and I’m just gonna make huge, big, huge noises for you for a while, and it felt really silly, but it actually helped her, it does not replace you in touch, but there is something about that that helps you feel that through a phone call or through Zoom. But again, this is a big gap, something we still have lost and have to figure out how to fill or open up again, body language now, this is a huge one for us in the UX field who are facilitating workshops. We used to be able to go into the field perform ethnography, getting some of this information when you have a few inches of somebody’s face, if you’re lucky, is losing one of our senses, you can’t see if people are uncomfortable, if they’re crossing their arms, if they’re feet are pointing towards the door if their legs are jittery, and it makes it really difficult to build that rapport to understand how they’re feeling, so we have to be very careful about asking those questions, making sure that we are listening to them, understanding it from their tone of voice, if they’re having some concerns or feeling defensive or things like that, that used to be a lot easier for us… This is an ambient availability is an interesting one too, that we’ve lost, where if you were in with people trying to work together, and you can kind of tell with that peripheral vision whether they’re really heads down and how I should just not even slack this person right now, I should send them an email because they’re in it, or this person is walking by me and…
Oh, that’s right, I forgot I was gonna ask them the question, or there’s a lot of people over in the kitchen talking and I really feel like a break, I’m gonna go and just relax and connect with them, we don’t really have any of that ability anymore.
A lot of our video conferencing tools don’t give us those hints, and even things that let us set our status doesn’t necessarily feel natural, it doesn’t feel natural to go and say, Oh, I’m focused, because by the time you focus, you don’t wanna pull yourself out of that focus to set that… And you’re never quite sure that people are gonna respect that. That’s your status right now. I think this is an interesting one too, that I’ve heard as a pattern is when you go to a party and you have four or five people who are talking and then a sixth person comes up, it’s pretty natural that the group starts to separate in those conversations start to happen independently, and then you can very naturally kind of move from one group to another, that’s a conversation, a fluidity, and it’s a very difficult thing to do on tools like Zoom, and by the way, that Zoom is what we use before this and what we use now, so most of my examples are zoom, but I’m sure there are other examples like this from any video conferencing tools you are using, where you have a case of 18 people on…
One person talking, 17 people listening, it’s a little awkward, and a lot of tools don’t yet have a good way for people to move fluidly from conversation to conversation soon by the way, has introduced something with breakouts now, fairly recently, where people can manually move between breakouts and see where people are, how many people are in each room, so I think that’s something really fun to play with to try to see if you can have topic areas during some kind of bigger meeting and allow people to flow, but it’s still not as natural, of course. As it would be if we were in the same room together or in a conference room to the area together.
Some of the things that we’ve learned through this… Well, this was a big one for me because as a director, managing people, I’m helping teams, if there’s team dynamic issues, my first gut with losing some of the body language, my gut reaction was to say, Okay, let’s just encourage everybody, I always turn the camera on when we’re in meetings. And it’s not that simple. I actually, I think it was mini was mentioning this with some of her contextual work, that it’s better to have people be able to set their own boundaries because there’s lots of reasons why somebody might turn their camera off…
Sure, it could be because they want a multi-task… And that actually happens a lot. I know the parents here who have kids that are learning remotely, especially high school students, I think they hate turning their cameras on, partly because they might like to multi-task, but probably because they don’t necessarily feel comfortable being on camera. Maybe there’s a trust issue there. Maybe they don’t want people to see what’s behind them, and so it’s much more comfortable for them to turn the camera off.
Research participants may also have the same situation.
And there’s also WiFi and other kinds of connectivity issues that might mean that video is gonna be too intensive.
\So it really can make sense for this to be off for some people, and we need to figure out ways to adapt omething else that’s interesting off of that, that was a big learning overall, is that you do… It’s so hard to be so rigid in front of a screen all day, and especially if you’re having meeting after meeting, you’re expected to be there right at the minute, it’s really easy to get into this back-to-back. I’m here, I can’t move, and that’s not how our bodies are meant to work, there’s actually a lot of information about having the ability to pace around to move there is a really interesting research done by Stanford a few years ago about the fact that being able to fluidly move your arms actually increased creativity, they did three different studies around it, and ideation was better at… Creative associations were better when they actually had people move their arms around first, so having something where you originally like this can actually inhibit some of that creativity, but people wouldn’t necessarily wanna turn their camera on and show that they’re doing some kind of activity where they’re moving around or if they’re pacing, they don’t wanna make everybody notes, so I think there’s a lot for us to understand and unpack here about our movement, and how do we enable that right now, when we’re really focused on screen shares and video to understand what we’re each saying, and I was really glad to hear the word intentionality and attention come up earlier too, I think that was Dianna, that we’re talking about it, that intention-based design and our products are really important, but it’s also really important when we’re talking about our human connections with each other…
And these are some of the intentions in particular that came up quite often in my discussions with people, where they said, if I’m trying to set up a situation for learning for support, to celebrate, to just give a feeling of presence and to co-create… It really became more impactful or meaningful, if I planned it ahead of time, I thought about it, thought about making it happen, but also the experience itself and some of the elements that would really have a wonderful impact in that experience.
Which is a lot of work I mean intentionality requires a lot of stuff, I’m one of those people who doesn’t really send birthday cards, I do look at Facebook, oh, this is… Who’s birthday it is today? I’m gonna wish him happy birthday, way to ad hoc than I would like, but a habit that I’m in, it used to be you’d have to know ahead of time that it was somebody’s birthday, get the card and mail it to them. Some people still do, I love that you do that.
That’s basically the kind of intentionality that we still need to do in these cases of remote connections to make them meaningful, looking ahead, finding opportunities to connect, planning a method that’s gonna be fun and useful for people and easy for people to join, maybe recruiting others, delegating scheduling it creating the experience, running it and sharing it. You don’t have to do all of these things, but it really helps to be thoughtful and intentional and how you’re going to have that connection happen. So let’s talk about some of the things we gained out of all that… Well, this is the number one thing I heard when I said, what has changed for the good for you, and it’s connection with people far away, I think there were a lot of people that said, Hey, I had this friend group, it was great. It was tight, we did so much stuff together, and then we had one or two people move away, and some of us still that together occasionally, but it wasn’t quite the same and then it fell off. There are whole friend groups that were in the same boat of wanting to reach out to people and having more availability to do it, and there were so many different family reunions that happened out of this too, and I think those are some of the things that have really kept people going through these hard times.
Part of that is also creating rituals and routines that help you…
With my friend group that I have right now, I host Thursday night web girls, Zoom and the Sunday night family Zoom. And one of the reasons why I think zoom took off. I know earlier, I think Margo was talking about how zoom exploded in a number of users is because they made it so easy to just have a personal room, have the same information… Hey, it’s the same link. It’s the same sign in. Every Thursday, I’m gonna be there at 530. Come if you can. No pressure. And every time I hosted the friends who joined say, I look forward to this all week, so… Those rituals are really important. Lowering the barrier of entry. Always a good thing from a UX standpoint, right? This is how we get people in reducing the number of times people are asking for… When’s this again? When can I join? I do, I have to say no. I think those things have been really helpful as well as building routines for ourselves, and this is where it gets to your space as well, What routines you need in order to get your mind set into the right space for what you need to do. The space where you are gonna have your morning coffee as you prepare for the day, the space where you go when you need to feel like you’re switching into work mode, there’s actually some people who I’ve heard of walking around the block in the morning when they would have been doing their morning commute because they missed that moment of shift in reflection and thinking about what’s going to happen along with that body movement that I talked about before.
So I think people have really discovered some interesting things about the routines that make a difference to them, and one of the things that I think people have discovered around this too, that I think really is gonna stick with me after this… It’s a phrase called profound interior, it’s from a book by Susan Stewart, who was writing about miniatures and other things like Dollhouse, and talks about doll houses as being something that’s a locket. It’s within, you go within and within, and we’ve all had to go within our spaces and really understand how do we use our space, how do we really focus on the details, how do we create a space that’s like the AV… I’m on camera area or the space where I need really need to decompress or a different space for I need to replenish. And I think people have also realized the need for those things as we’re sitting with ourselves more and not having as many distractions from the outside world, we’re understanding where we are getting stressed and boy, have we been stressed this year. I think people have found where they can be at their lowest, I know myself, I had a moment where I could tell my body was just reacting to the stress in the shut down way have never felt before, but I also felt this positive of a connection to music and an understanding of the mood and the mindset it was getting me into that I’m gonna…
Definitely take forward as well. So I think profound interior means our spaces outside of ourselves, but also our space within, and it’s been hard, and some people are having even more stress because of some of it, but we are gonna understand our boundaries physically and mentally much more coming out of this too.
And one of the things that started all of this thought to put these together for me was we’ve gained an ability to do some experimentation, this is… Not to put it lightly, but has been a grand experiment of everybody working remotely when everybody in the same boat for the most part, I know a lot of folks might have still visit some things like that, but having so many people remotely, how are we experimenting together to reach out to each other in these moments to be intentional, what tools are using… What kinds of experiences are we trying to design… And so these are some of the examples I wanna make sure to share it with you today in case it sparks some ideas, I think all of these are, Hey, steal it. If you need it, risen it, if you can. But they’re all doing things to try to bring some element of energy from what used to be in-person, like energy of playful co-creation. So this example actually was posted on LinkedIn by shahab, one our lovely organizers through active campaigns, so active campaign put this together as part of a celebration they did around Halloween, this isn’t the enemy gift, if it was, you would see all these cruisers flying around with a lot of energy of creation and basically, again, simply re-using one of the tools that people had an office which is pigmented, can work collaboratively on the same project, they…
Jack-o-lantern items that people could drag down and build their pumpkin together at the same time, so you have that focus of co-creation and that excitement, but you also can tell by looking around that there’s other activity going on and you can see how people are… Expressing their Hopkins along the way. So I thought this was actually one of the first times that I saw somebody posts something, I’m like, Man, that is so creative. It’s so nice that we’re solving problems like this with the tools we have in unique ways for this purpose, and it’s stuck with me, I’m gonna steal it for Valentine’s Day, you gotta come in up. They’d make it available if you search on Jacinto active campaign, by the way, and you have Sigma. How do we bring the impact of immersive support, so this is something that’s near and dear to my heart too, ’cause I love field research and ethnography, and to me, I’m like, I can’t member, I feel like I’m missing so much information this way, and the story that actually made me at least say, Oh no, there’s a rich area of opportunity here that can be remote, was the story of Lisa, my friend Lisa here, who qualified for the Boston Marathon through a charity, so if you raise money for the charity, you can run in the marathon, and she and a partner did sign up and raised thousands of dollars for house of possibilities in Boston, and then of course, that got post-phones and then of course, it got cancelled as a live event, they still encouraged people to run and to submit their times so Leander partner basically had to chart a marathons worth of distance around their homes, and they did three different loops, we… Sanchi ago and her partner in Boston. And then the organizers did something really nice, again, this is where intention and planning really can make a difference, they basically set up a running zoom and told the people that wanted to support recent her partner to sign in on the hour during the time of the marathon. And wish her inspiring, just wish her well and give her inspiring encouragement and things like that, and it was so lovely to be part of that because they had pre-recorded messages from the other partner to them that they would play during those five minutes when you turn or have the phone on, they had special guests, family that runners didn’t expect, and we were able to actually be in her ear, encouraging her, which is… I would love to be the person with the sign, the big sign on the sidelines or at the finish line, that’s something even more unique to be able to give that… Encouraged it to her while she was in the moment, we also heard her partner throw up at the end, and we heard Lea talk about how her legs were burning at the end, and I always could tell at the end of a marathon that somebody had really put a lot of effort in, but I have a brand appreciation for it now that I was actually able to be with her during this, how do we bring the warmth of inviting spaces…
This is another area, how do we give a sense of space and welcome when we’re remote? I think there’s an aspect of stumps that some people don’t really like in the design field, and if you don’t know that phrase, it’s when a design tries to represent the things in the real world and kind of a more literal way. But I’ve also seen some really beautiful applications of it, and this might not be one of those cases that folks that you might disagree with, but it was one that really made me smile. So this is the tension learning, this is a class for first, second, third and fourth graders, and the teacher here used Bitmoji classrooms as a way to represent her avatar and to create different personal touches in the room itself so you can explore, you could click to meet her, you can see she’s got photos of family wedding and things like that in here, so it helps create that, Okay, we’re in the classroom now, let’s come together and provide some of the tools that can be used in learning. And I think it’s one of those things that has really helped create that sense of space for students when it’s something like that and use, how do we help provide the joy of self-expression? Well, this is another learning example, zoom does have custom backgrounds, I think other conferencing tools do that as well.
One thing that’s fun about names that you can use video to, so there are some really fun things you can do with this, and this is actually based on a video from some Northwestern students, the first student here has actually created her background as her classroom for the class she was taking, and again, she said, this just helps me feel like I’m in that class, and you can see that the folks below have created things out of their interest, somebody’s big SpongeBob SquarePants fan, the other folks there have a friend from another class or puppies he doesn’t like puppies in the background, but the one that really made me smile was this one person who created a video of his own room and ran it for a minute, so it doesn’t look like anything strange is going on, but his video actually has himself walking around in the background occasionally and just kind of peering in, and so he had a lot of fun putting that together and also getting the reactions of the people in the classroom, so there’s this aspect of self-expression that I think you could really hear the joy and their voices, that they were able to do that.
And in some cases, storytelling, I’ve heard of people using this for research to bring a background of something that was an amazing moment for you or other things that might be relevant to the research you’re doing, and start them out with them telling the story of why they picked that. I think that’s something that does a really nice job of hiding the background so it doesn’t feel like people are being invited in that you don’t trust you, and providing a way them to engage in an ice breaker for them to warm up and put themselves in the context that will help them talk about their experiences and what you can really learn from… So this was something that actually that friend group, they were kind of my experimental friend group for a lot of things, and we wanted to see how can we bring some sensory richness to our time together and what does it do, does it ground us in the moment? And we did a wine tasting, so that was a lot of fun, but again, something you can plan ahead of time, people basically said, You know, I wanna learn more about Corona.
Okay, great, we’re gonna pick a certain ride, all of this, and then we’ll make sure that Vine carries it, because we have people in Florida to get people in Tennessee, people in Chicago.
Okay, cool. We found it, everybody get… Then we’re gonna get on down somebody’s friend who runs wine tastings and things like that, and we’re gonna talk about it and really learn, and this was the first time I was on a Zoom that went for two hours and we didn’t even get through everything because we lost track of time, it didn’t feel like we were just having to sit and talk, we were enjoying things and our senses were all really engaged.
A lot of places of worship actually also do a great job with this, where they have people like candles during a certain portion, so that people feel like, Okay, this is now a sacred space, and the candles also give… You want to give you light, you can see other people lighting candles at the same time, so you feel this sense of, we are here together for this purpose.
I think there’s a lot in this area in particular that would be interesting to explore in your interactions. Another example is when I’m on the phone with my mom, I love to fold laundry when I’m on the phone with my mom because that was my first memory, I was sitting on the floor while she’s folding laundry and I can smell the laundry and talk to her, and really feel like I’m in a moment with her where time isn’t as much of a concern.
And then the joy of the personal touch, well, of course, we can’t really do that directly, but having personal touches, really paying attention to moments that you can celebrate… This was something that I did see in a lot of the research I was doing about people enjoying remote work, but feeling a lack of sense of belonging, they said one of the things that really made a difference was the ability to give shout-outs, give recognition at least once every couple of weeks. We try to do it at a bit every Monday morning when everybody gets together, shout-outs from the past week, and it’s a great practice to get into, it just makes people feel like they’re seen. And that can be really difficult when we’re so remote, so some of the elements that really help with that, you know surprise ’cause, Oh, I did, that person is gonna give me a shout out, personal touches that their people are seeing you… We’ve also spent sometimes with making sure Peres are special, this is something we did actually with video ask, so I don’t know if everybody knows what video as is, but it’s a research tool that lets you do asynchronous in Q and A, I think type form, created it and so you can record a video and ask the question, and then people can record a video back and answer you asynchronously, you can also use it to gather videos from a variety of different people, so we basically did that for birthdays, and we picked some quirky thing about the individual like…
This is actually one for a co-worker who was the person that would always go and finish the food in the kitchen, and so he kind of was known as a food Hound and he was laughed about it too. So basically, the ask was, Hey, do a short Happy Birthday video for him and use something around the same of food, and that game just the right level of constraint for people to say, Oh okay, here’s something I can do out of my house. That’s just a few seconds and then I can with Happy birthday at the end and send it off, and it became something great for the birthday person, but it was also really rewarding as the co-worker who had something creative to do in a really impactful meaningful way, and meaning to do it. So I think this was something that actually kept us going in the earlier days in particular, to bring these out and make it not feel so much like people are just sitting at home in front of the screen… The ESA-friendly competition. So I have a big fan of games of all sorts, and I think that games are definitely one of the ways that you can connect with the people during this time, there are some really interesting ways of using video conferencing tools to do games.
There’s a lot of things that have been adapted for it, one of the ones I thought was really fun is having a mystery guest on for a meeting and then people have to… In this case, the birthday girl or somebody had to move back to England, would have to guess who it is, and then somebody that they had worked with a while back would come on, and in his case, he was… Because he was so in England, we had people do horrible British accents and then he had to guess, so was just… It was a lot of fun. And again, we got to connect with some people we hadn’t in a while. Definitely recommend Mr. Guest scavenger hunts are really easy. It can be the first person that brings back a bleach bottle, anything pretty easy in the House helps, and actually that gets people moving around to… And then one of the examples I had before actually has a link to somebody who’s adapted the game of werewolf, where people turn their cameras off, but turn them on if they’re the word will, for example.
So I think there’s a lot of great creative potential for figuring out how to adapt some of these things with the tools that we have right now and make them fund a novel, so that people will join… I do have to make a plug here, I don’t work for Jack box, but they are based in Chicago, I have a huge Canadair, and if you haven’t looked into them yet and you are looking for ways to get your team or your family or your friends together to play, this is already set up from years ago, really well for this situation, all you need is a person with the right party pack to have one of these games and run it and then have some kind of zoom or video conference people join, and then others can give their answers on their smart phones with just mobile. Mobile Web. So the ones I have here are some of the ones that are safer work, depending on the safer work-ness of the people playing, some of them are a little bit more on the creative expression side, at TKO is one where you can draw and then people… You draw a t-shirt design and then other people label it and then they vote on the funniest, and I hear I’m play lifesaver myself, but I hear that up to one 100 people can join that one, so if you do have a larger company meeting where you’re looking for something to lighten the mood and to get people playing together, that could be a good one to take a look at and T-lines that burden on you as an organizer to come up with some kind of brand new activity.
And then finally belonging through thoughtful collaboration, so I mentioned recognition and the importance there for people to be able to connect the thoughtful collaboration tools that come to mind are a lot of ones that I’m sure you have or have tried… I hear these the most common Trello whimsical, Miro Mural, we developed one in-house candor, which is a way to get some anonymous brainstorming going before a meeting, and I think… I know there’s a lot of other ones, I’m happy to hear what other people are using. This is an ongoing list.
But one thing I think that is just good to know about this is one, is regularity that ritual doing it at least once a month, if you can, to make sure people are feeling connected, especially if you have some new people on your team and to the preparation that doing a lot of that in screen time can be draining. So you might need to ask some of the questions ahead of time, that’s what we do with candor, people can ante, submit ideas, and then we can bring that in already transcribe to whatever format we wanna use for the discussion and decision making or ideation. So these are definitely ones I think that I’ve heard most people relying on at the moment, I would say that I feel like we still have a big gap when it comes to collaborative sketching in real time. I would love to hear if anybody here has some thoughts on that, but most things I’ve heard are you have to have special hardware, like your iPad and pencil, or even one person I talked to, you had a camera set up this way so that he could sketch and it would be caught on this other second camera, he would switch to pretty elaborate and he eventually went away from that ’cause he kept bumping his head on the camera, so I think there’s a lot of opportunity.
And since we have a lot of digital designers here today, hopefully that’s something that is planting a seed for you, other things that we’ve lost, like we mentioned before, fluidity, understanding of availability, the tools are evolving around this one that I used years ago was Sacco, another steric example… And as an Agile team, I actually really liked this one because you can pop into different class offices and you can see that two people might be talking that you wanna talk to, so you could just pop in that office and start to hear them their conversation or not unless they close the door and then you’d have to knock, so it definitely takes a lot of metaphor from the real world, but it was one of the only ones I’ve used so far that gave that sense of availability and fluidity that I feel like is still a big overall gap for connecting in the way that we used to connect remotely.
Another tool that I played with actually for New Year’s Eve is gather, and this one makes you feel like you’re gonna Mario Brothers, but you can move your avatar around and as you approach a group, their audio starts to become one for you.
And then as you move away, it starts to fade out, so you can move more fluidly from one group to the next, or you can move on to a private space like the carpet, and then you hear everybody on the carpet, but as soon as you step off you don’t hear anybody. It was really fun for the folks who used it, they also have larger office area versions of it, got the playful element, of course. So interesting experiment to try. If you’re looking for something like that, and another one that’s kind of in that same day is a special chat, if you were like me then, especially in the first few months of the pandemic, one of your movie Dick was trying to figure out how to do a game nights or not, again, I’m sorry, movie night where people could actually talk like mst3k style, and you could still hear the movie, lots of things kind of tried to do it, but it was always something that was tough to work out. I think spatial chat is onto something with the fact that you can share something like that, you can move to other groups and hear them move away and they’ll fade out, or you could just move to the movie if you don’t want to hear the peanut gallery and making jokes.
I can’t really talk about this stuff without talking about augmented reality or virtual reality, you would think that this would be exploding right now, I think that there were some issues with doing that at the consumer level going into… This time, I’m one of the people who really am excited about it, but I wasn’t ever really planning any time soon on buying a headset because I felt they were uncomfortable, the tethering was awkward, and I also would get motion sickness whenever I was trying it because of some of the way things were designed or if the video wasn’t clear enough… Again, I’m gonna sound like I’m plugging, but I picked up an Oculus Quest too, and as did other folks at EBIT, and we’ve started to experiment with that, and there are a few things that I know and really starting to see being useful for us to do collaborative creation in real time. And so that’s what I’m gonna switch over and show you a couple of examples of that in video, and I should be able to pause and talk over it, so hopefully that’ll be the case.
So this one is cubism, it’s just a game, it’s a one-player game right now, but I could see something like this being really nice for building something collaboratively with somebody in 3D space, it’s also got really nice sound design, so I won’t talk over this one, but I just wanted to show you some of the interaction and also how it uses sound to show you this nice way to share you if you’ve made an error and need to adjust something…
So very unlike thing to do made me forget that I even had the headset on, and the next one I wanna share you is spatial IO, and this is one where I’m gonna turn the sound down after the first part, because when I get excited about something, I get kind of loud and I don’t wanna blow your speakers, but what’s interesting about this one is all you have to do is take a selfie and it actually builds a model of your face to add to the avatar. Creepy. Yeah, and it’s still a little creepy, it’s still in that uncanny valley, I don’t know if you’re familiar with that, but basically it’s where if things look too human but not quite there, then it starts to create people out, but once you’re in there interacting with each other and you forget the fact that you don’t have legs and you can just teleport around, and it’s the closest I’ve seen to having some of that in-person collaborative energy. So I’ll play that and then I’ll tell you some of the things you’re seeing. Once we get in the tour, this is so… Wow.
So that’s Steve, who we were just talking about, who’s here today as well, and he brought in… You can bring in figma and bring in browser windows, and you can sketch… Writing is a little bit slow, but possible, and you know what that means, curses, not dead yet, because that’s really easy to do with this in particular. And the other thing that you might see in some of the post-its in the background is that you can work with a keyboard, but the thing I’m excited about here is that you can use voice dictation to create post it. So that to me, feels like something that’s gonna be really nice and fast for people faster anyway, to use in brain storms and things like that, so we already… The bug has kind of caught, there’s a bunch of us at even who’s gotten that, the quest to and are I’m gonna continue to play with that and post some of our experiments, but I definitely think there’s… It’s kind a long way, it feels much more accessible, it’s not tethered, it’s lighter, and the quality of the video is really nice and immersive now, so I do feel like we’re gonna start to find new ways to apply that to our field.
Alright, so what might we carry from all of these experiments and all of these learnings? Well, studies definitely show, as I mentioned before, a lot of people really like remote work, hybrid really seems to be the thing that’s the most of interest to people, 72% of people in the study of 9000 knowledge workers in six countries said they would prefer a hybrid approach, meaning that they work from home maybe half time and they have the office there if they want to for in-person collaborative work or for other kinds of team building exercises and interactions, and the US, we’re actually fairly evenly split between a preference for either working exclusively from home or exclusively from the office, so in most case is usually hybrid wins, I feel like that’s gonna be… Or even when we start to open up and offices become available, they’re probably gonna become more like collaboration, hugs, and I hate the word hotel in spaces, but something like that, where it’s a little bit more fluid use of the space, and that they’ll start to be more of a two, three-day at-home type workers, so what’s good to know about that is it means a lot of the things that we’re trying to do now to connect, it’s still gonna be relevant, we’re still gonna wanna build on that and create more and more tools for it.
So some of the things that we talked about today, becoming more intentional with learning moments support, present celebration and Cochin, that’s gonna remain really important, and I think some of the experiences that we talk about, some elements of experience be as user experience designers. This is a a lot in our work, but being able to apply that to these interactions to our research, to our teams, to our personal time with our friends and family, I think is going to be really rich and rewarding going forward, retaining… Or introduce some of the things that we’re learning or have learned are really important when people are remote those monthly rituals, like riches and brainstorm, regular recognition of team members, an awareness of that auto-pilot mode that need to move around, and I would think that in office spaces, I would still want to, having learned this, be able to pace around, there could be a lot of opportunities of being able to throw things on a screen share onto your phone so that you can do that more effectively.
I think one thing I would like to introduce when we’re back in the office more is advocacy for those not in the room, really knowing that that can be reached, and how can we bring those things together more intentionally, and of course, like I said, hopefully planting a seed new digital solutions to close some of those gaps, either additions to tools that we have now that are really helpful, or brand new tools we haven’t even imagined yet. So what to do for this year? We have these months now ahead of us, you’ve got a lot of great ideas from the full day. The number one thing I would say is, it’s okay to do nothing right now, still practice self-compassion. It’s still gonna be a hard time. And if you feel like you have to be productive, it’s one of the things that I think adds distress, but if you do actually want to be doing some things like this, I would recommend starting a new ritual, running a game night with those newer co-workers helping them feel that sense of belonging. Laing meetings with connection time or starting a little bit… Ending a little bit early so that you can chat or starting a little bit early so that you can connect with people, experimenting with virtual spaces, experimenting with using video in a way so that people can watch things and then join for the really core part of something so that they don’t feel that screen time drug, and most of all, design your own virtual or hybrid experience, your own remote experience, what have you learned during this time with our profound anteriorly that makes you happily productive and feel connected.
And how can you bring that into the future into your remote… For remote office or you’re in office experience and do that for others as well. I’d love to hear your ideas. I’m gonna be in the Slack channel, I know we’re finishing up now, but thank you so much again for spending some of your precious screen time today.