From Workplace to Workforce: practical experiments in experience design by Rapt Studio

The conventions of commercial real estate and interior architecture have been disrupted for the foreseeable future. While some will draw six-foot circles around desks and quickly install partitions, we propose a reset to consider the unmet needs of the workforce

How can workplace design craft a better life for people, who happen to be working? At Rapt Studio, we believe that the workplace of the future is an ecosystem of spatial and virtual tools that support the creativity, productivity, and well-being of the workforce. Moreover, we see this system being distributed, shapeshifting in the near and long term as new needs arise and evolve.

Longer-term, we see the value of the workplace as its ability to bring us together, to connect us with each other and a shared culture and mission. No digital experience will be able to fully replicate that. But we also take a broader view, viewing the office as just one place in a series of spaces in which we will do our best work.

The workplace, like the workforce, is everywhere. It’s the café, the park, the library, the home office, all working in concert with a central HQ. We’ve designed for these use cases — with adventurous clients — for some time now, but in a climate of increased remote work, these fringe cases are starting to take center stage.

Workplace design by Rapt Studio
Workplace & workforce design by Rapt Studio

And because the pandemic has emotional and psychological effects on us all, and because quarantine has collapsed boundaries between our personal and professional lives, we believe it’s imperative that we design for the whole person. So we ask, how can workplace design craft a better life for people, who happen to be working?

The future of the office isn’t so much a question of space as it is of people. So, for this Workspace Week, we developed several hypotheses that probe the question: how do we meaningfully support a distributed workforce? 

While working on our own can be an effective way to eliminate distraction, it’s inherently less connected and can feel alienating. Where can we gather in person with our team to work and socialize? For now, we see small groups meeting in parks, obeying requirements around masks and social distancing. 

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Rapt Studio - Home office
Workplace & workforce design by Rapt Studio

Working from home requires a structured set-up with the appropriate tech hardware and accessories. As with many of our clients who are six months into working from home, we’re optimizing our set-up with the right accouterments, while looking to next-gen hardware — augmented and virtual realities — that can take remote collaboration to the next level.

In addition to incorporating new hardware and accessories, we’re examining the software tools we use and improving our relationship with them. How can they support project management, continued collaboration, and effortless communication? In many cases, we’ve brought physical whiteboards, calendars, and inspiration boards to the cloud. 

The accessibility of wifi, along with these tools, allows us to bring our work anywhere. We’re thinking about how we can transform places in the cityscape into places for work, and how experience design can help us improve the ability to be productive from anywhere.

Workplace & workforce design by Rapt Studio

Because we can no longer feel the vibrant culture made possible by being in the office with colleagues, it’s important to reimagine the old office perks in a new context. Beyond a stipend for a new desk chair, how can employers provide benefits that are both functionally and emotionally beneficial — and that are ultimately just plain fun?

Why not sponsor at-home cooking classes, and have employees share kitchen prep over Zoom? Why not coordinate wine kits for real-time tastings over the internet? Sometimes just sketching together at breakfast is enough to bring folks closer, to take the isolation out of remote work. 

Workplace & workforce design by Rapt Studio

Because quarantine has collapsed boundaries between personal and professional lives, and because transitioning to this new way of living and working has surfaced new challenges, it’s vital that we support the workforce in finding balance in their tech-dominated days.

At Rapt Studio, we’re promoting a more flexible work schedule and advocating for time off-screen. 

How and where we work will keep shapeshifting: the workplace of the future will occupy an expanded field of operation, yes, but it must also foster a deepened level of connection.

Workplace & workforce design by Rapt Studio

As we ideate and come up with fresh approaches to technical problems, we can’t lose sight of the fundamental human needs at play: we have the opportunity to make employees — many of whom have been touched by crisis — to feel more themselves, both at work and at leisure.

An employee who feels centered, and catered to as a whole human, will be more productive both professionally and personally, and perhaps most importantly, happier.

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