I’m one of those people that will literally work myself to death. I will do things to the detriment of my health if I think that either it will improve a project or it will benefit my work in some way. I have no real handle on my work/life balance, and its something that I have been struggling with for a little while—I’m getting there, but I’m not there yet.
I bring this up as I think its pretty easy to agree that the nature of work and its relationship with employees has completely changed with the evolution of mobile technology. Our inability to switch off or tune out has become a situation that many of us have trouble dealing with. Some people use it as an excuse to throw everything into work, and for others its turns them away from environments which promote the practice.
One of the huge things that struck me this week was the design communities insight into this huge cultural problem and use of it—although this “use” might sound nefarious, I think these attempts are more than just marketing or cold hearted capitalization. The opportunity to speak with certain companies like Herman Miller and Artemide, who are responding to this was fantastic. Herman Miller presents itself as a service able to help produce the “Living Office” a space somewhere between home and work, where the comfort of people and their happiness inevitably leads to a more productive and efficient workforce. Artemide spoke similarly about lighting conditions, ensuring that “Human Light” was present, which enabled people to live healthy lives.
So both of those do sound like marketing buzz terms, crafted to catch the eye of a well meaning office manager looking to create the best environment to have their colleagues work in, I think there is a little more to it than that. Looking at it from the positive end of the spectrum, I hope that these small nods to the user in those environments allow thoughts on employee welfare and health to permeate into the culture of the office.
I think in school we tend to narrow the scope of our perspective on the world, and so this insight into framing the problems that people face around a larger societal shift was a huge eye-opener. Hopefully I’ll be able to take this back with me and apply it to projects in the future, and also use it on my journey to creating a better balance for me, my family and my workplace.