Hi - I’m wondering where people are working these days? Many people are working at home, but I assume some have gone back to the office. Maybe some never stopped working in their offices. Maybe some are working in co-working spaces. At Core77 we’re all dispersed to various homes around the country, and have been operating this way since March. But please comment to let me know where you’re working these days, and then what kind of company are you working for (small studio/agency, corporate, academic, freelance/independent, etc.)
I have been freelancing from a home-based office for the past few years now but with COVID-19, wow, I am the Cinderella amongst product designers. Companies don’t do physical meetings, public work spaces are only just reopening. I have a few Teams meetings a week at most. I need to get out more.
I moved from a rented (shared) office space to full time home office in March. Will not be going back to the cost of a “real” office until business justifies taking associates on board, which would require another setting. Personally I got to like having the dog on a pillow behind me and the kids in the basement. Doing product research, development and sales. (Self employed.) Thus getting around cutomers again since June. Corparete politics concerning visits of freelancers show a wide range from “nay” to “just drop by as you like”, right now.
Hey Stu. I’m in-house corporate, with about 200 people at our manufacturing-centered campus (five buildings). We office dwellers are primarily working from home, and have become heavily Teams dependent. As we design, engineer, and manufacture on-site we do need to go to the office periodically. Some of our colleagues HAVE to work on campus - making and testing THINGS - so if we can remain away, we should, because there will be a baseline of essential occupancy. One of our nicer conference rooms is being converted to a EE / software test lab. Test, manufacturing, machining & fabrication, some HR, and manufacturing engineering have to be onsite. Not ID.
I hate it. I’ve always liked cool office spaces as part of ‘being’ a designer. WFH sucks.
I’m similar to @slippyfish . Corporate, over 30K workers total, about 900 in my business unit. 600 manufacturing, 3 shifts, 5 days, some OT on weekends. Office is 250-ish. The other 150-ish is outside sales.
Manufacturing was essential, never shut down. We have had 9 covid cases, all community-acquired. Rigorous contact precautions at the office.
All office was sent home March 20. R&D is allowed 7 people in the building at any time. The rest of the office is allowed 3 (finance, marketing, inside sales, RA/QA, purchasing, etc). We need the R&D lab for making prototypes and testing. Access to customers is little to non-existent, making VOC pretty much dead in its tracks. While our 2020 and 2021 schedules are OK, 2022 and beyond will be delayed.
I have been getting ready to get back in the field for VOC when possible, I hope spring 2021, worst case is fall 2021. Prototypes, questionnaires, support materials, etc will be ready for at least 3 projects, maybe up to 5. Also been working on process - new methods, documentation, etc.
Latest and greatest is how do you recreate chance encounters virtually. Quite frankly, I’m stumped. I’d like to know what others are doing. I think R&D will suffer greatly if we don’t get back to the office in the long run. A leading cause of creative spark will be dead.
What does VOC stand for? Voice of Customer? What about designers who work for agencies/studios? Are any of those folks working in the studio yet or is it all from home? Not everyone has the space for a home shop, or the tools, machines and supplies that you’d have in a design studio.
Yes. Voice of customer research. We go to their place of work for the research and like our workplace, non-essential people are not typically allowed in. Although we found one hospital in the Quad Cities willing to let us in. Doesn’t do me much good because I am responsible outside the US. We keep in touch with key opinion leaders (KOLs) to maintain the relationship, but evaluations not done in person just don’t work. Assessments beginning with “It seems …”, “I imagine …” or whatever can’t move a project forward.
Anyone have good success doing VOC virtually?
Small/Medium custom sign/display/architectural products manufacturer. Our digital printing division kept us open through state mandated shut downs because we were serving healthcare clients around the clock for a few months. Also able to keep our other areas minimally open to complete a newly constructed hospital in St Louis. Most office personnel worked remotely, and have slowly begun returning. I came back in the office in July, and have worked about 3.5 days a week in the office, working the rest at home. I have an office with a door, so I’m more comfortable. But our semi-open plan cubes have been sparsely occupied ever since. Many PM’s trade days they come in the office so there’s no one working next or across from each other, and our shop area is spread out enough to be safe. We’ve had 1 or 2 tertiary exposures, and no positives yet. Hoping it stays that way, but I’m realistic about that…
School (remote learning) starts next week so we’ll see how much time I can continue to spend in the office any more. Going to be an interesting few months, for sure.
I agree now, WFH does suck. I thought I was going to make it work and developed a large space into a studio. 3D printed logo on the wall and everything. And you think - I’m ready to go to work. Then it appears - the ventilation and temperature is not well-controlled, it needs plants to prevent stale air, there are cable management issues, kids in the family come in and mess with stuff, parents come over and can’t find stuff they need, father-in-law comes over to urge you clean up the garage today otherwise he’ll get mad and think you’re a bad family member, can’t drill holes in the wall where I want them, there’s the pets, there’s the baby, no elevator for getting heavy furniture up there etc. It’s chaos theory Jurassic Park-style really. I ended up doing most work from the living room. It will never be the same as a company that had an architect do the interior. I wonder if anyone has really made WFH work.
About user research / VOC from home: forget it. In my experience, in order to gain truly valuable data, your potential customers need to interact with the product/system. A software product also requires co-locatedness for effective testing protocols in my experience, although it can be done remotely. It would be possible to send people your physical prototype and do some tests remotely I suppose, but the best bet would be to go for expert interviews over Teams. Philips had a nice testing environment where they wired a house up with cameras and other sensors, then had people come in and interact with the prototypes while the researchers stay behind the one-way mirror.
If covid19 has proven anything, it’s that the previous century idea that you need to be in a specific location for x number of hours to do good work is kind of bunk. Working from home is great, I get the same amount of work done, and I can be in town, out of town or wherever as long as I have a connection. Hopefully the idea that any type of job needs to be concentrated in a specific city dies a fast, painful death, because I really believe you can do just as good a job from Lincoln Nebraska or Ames iowa as you can from San Francisco.
Read a good interview with the boss of Netflix, who calls WFH a “pure negative”, and that they will be back in the office “twelve hours after a vaccine is approved”…which he later amends to six months, but you get the idea.
Reed hastings just has a power fetish. It’s going to be hard to get people back to wasting their lives in traffic and cubicles again. He’s probably worth more than he has ever been worth
I’ve mentioned before that my wife and I have worked from home since 2007 when I left SB&D. It took me 10 minutes to acclimate - my wife is still trying.
I’ve never embraced a corporate style of work (was always late for the morning meetings, took project calls from the car on the way in, hated being there just to be there, would go off and walk around the mall or take a hike to recharge and then inevitably feel guilty upon returning to the office for the afternoon).
You all know how it is, some days the creativity is simply not there, other days I need 12-14 hours to get it all out. I’m a night owl so I schedule calls after 10am and can work in the evenings into the early morning hours if that’s when the creativity in my head comes calling. To clear my head, I always have some sort of DIY or car project going on and will stop for an hour or two to work on it. I’m growing Japanese Maples so I’ll sometimes take a few minutes to go check in and trim them. I take our Golden out about once every two hours to play ball, walk the yard, get the mail, etc.
Back in my corporate days work used to be work and life used to be life but I never liked that - I love that the two are all wrapped up into one, they don’t have any set times…so COVID really hasn’t changed much for me, except not travelling for clients.
But since the wife is still trying I just wrapped up a project for her - our office needed to be ‘separate’ from the house more than it was…in her mind when she sits down to work she wants to be…at work. Then when the day is finished she wants to be…home.
So, I had some fun. There are two 4’ x 8’ openings between our office and a great room. I bought 2 sets of modern stainless 8’ sliding door hardware, mounted as one 16’ long rail. I made two 4’ x 8’ ‘wall panels’ to fit the style of the house and painted / textured to blend in with the wall with some chunky oversized door pulls. When the openings are shut, the work day is on!
As an aside, when I was a young designer I overheard someone in the hall talking about our boss’s boss running off during the day to go work on building his deck…the audacity, the waste of company time, pure heresy…I heard he was raked over the coals for personal time during a workday. Here’s the rub, we designed power-tools for f*cks sake. That’s corporate mentality at it’s finest (worst?)
I understand the feeling. WFH for 4 months was tough on myself, my work, my marriage, etc. I want work and home to be separate, and it took me a long time to realize that. However, now that I’ve reflected on it, I’ve always been that way. In high school, I left home to go to work. In college, same, and I’d spend hours at “work” in the studios and computer labs. Returning home to sleep and drink too much. And so it continued to years.
The end of my day, my “commute” home took 20 seconds, and it was so mentally jarring to just be thrown back into my home life in a matter of seconds without a short drive or bike ride to reset. It’s nice being back in my office, even though it’s weird, and there’s less people, and we still do video calls all the time between offices.
Something about visually and physically changing spaces that helps your mindset.
(Really dig that sliding door project, too, BTW. Fits right into the space!)
Thanks re: the doors - I think it’s helped my wife a lot (no effect on me except having to walk around the long way into the room). Your description of the reset time is exactly how she’s described it as well. I think its different for me because I seem to naturally slide back and forth between work and personal all the time so I guess my corporate experience just never jived with my ‘well being’!
I’m glad to see the office is giving you that balance - do you think your employer will scale back physical space and/or encourage work from home days?
I doubt it. Most are anxious to have everyone back in house. Senior Managers are having a hard time tracking productivity if no one is here. Things are getting done, but is everything? Can it happen faster? Bigger questions that speak more to our internal process than a pandemic.
Thanks for the insight, I’ve been particularly interested in this topic - we’re always looking for investment curves and this might be one.
I have a friend who works for our State’s Social Security Admin. About two years ago they offered a Friday flex (10hrs M-Th, off Friday) and he loved it. So when this pandemic hit he was looking forward to more time at home. They moved to all remote and instituted an “every 2hr check-in with project status” to make sure productivity was inline with expectations.
Those check-ins take approx. 1 hour of his time every day. He joked that when they’re in the office they can do little to nothing and no one cares but when remote all of a sudden everyone wants things on-track. lol
I work on the campus of a very large corporation and while I’ve been in the lab for months because I do prototyping, the buildings are total ghost towns. Dead silent rows and rows of abandoned desks.
They’re currently implementing a policy of everyone ‘moving out’ of their desks. Everyone that has a desk with personal belongings/decor/etc. signs up for a time of day over the next several weeks (so only a few people are in the building at a time) and leaves nothing behind. This is mostly stuff people haven’t seen in half a year, but it’s still got to feel weird moving out. The reasoning that is being broadcast for this is for cleaning/disinfectant purposes.
Now, if you want to come into the office, you book a seat like it’s an airline flight- and the time/space/equipment that is available is rotated and controlled for distancing. If this isn’t encouraging work-from-home, I don’t know what is! The re-opening of in-office work has consistently been pushed back, and was slated as early 2020 back in July. But now it looks a little different with people actively emptying every seat.
The design agency home-base I started at is a smaller office but it’s still very empty- just prototyping. They’re doing renovations and improvements in the meantime. I know they are extremely driven to open back up the office as collaboration is so important to their style of working. Miro is good but they need the real post-it experience.
Personally I’ve felt a bit more freedom when I start and end a work-day but it’s always been more project-based.