In a recent video interview with ZDNet.com, Belkin VP of Industrial Design and two-decade company veteran Oliver Seil shared a few interesting thoughts on the future of work and the research Belkin has done with their design team and workers within their own company to learn how their office is coping with the shift. You can watch the video in full here:
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We've cut a few takeaways from the interview that illustrate some interesting insights into the future of work and upcoming design trends related to the topic that might be helpful to designers taking part in shaping this new future.
1. Working from home is more productive than we may have previously imagined
If Seil's team at Belkin is any indication, it seems for many that WFH is here to stay:
"We find that productivity is really, really high from home. That has to do with the basic idea that you have a bit more freedom how to design your day. Some people start earlier, they end later, they have some more flexibility during the day. We would be foolish not to take some of this newfound learning about productivity at home into the future. I think it's clear that you can be very productive at home and you need to be in the office maybe only part of the time."
Working from home will likely evolve from a circumstantial necessity to a brand new normal, and designers ought to be ready to cater to these new workflows. As Seil mentions at another point in the interview, "Most people only want to be in the office for specific things. Few people need the technology there." Which may make you ask, what's even the point of having an office space then?
2. Despite the acceptance of a new WFH culture, designers' work in quarantine is suffering
"We've done quite a bit of introspection and research into what people are looking for in the office: Why are they coming to the office? Why is going to the office an attractive idea? While some folks can exist pretty much all the time working from home and it's not a big problem, we find that the design team really suffers to some degree from the lack of the serendipitous collaboration and also plan for collaboration. Designers need to be communicators. Designers need to be collaborators. Designers need to work with one another and the feedback loop of working with another person is an incredibly joyful and productive exchange, so the idea that as a designer, you need to be very hands-on, so coming back to the office for us is vital to collaborate and to really push each other forward in our thinking about what we are working on."
As designers, many of you in our audience can contribute to the dialogue expressed here—does collaboration and product development feel especially difficult in this new work from home structure? What are some ways in which companies can develop remote work systems that feel stable and productive for the designer set? Share your thoughts in the comments below.
3. WFH means companies like Belkin are focusing on consumer technology products that ease workflow and efficiency according to an individual worker's needs
Seil notes that the pandemic has shifted the team's perspective on important focus points for future product development, as demonstrated here:
"The home office is now a multiple of many compared to the size and reach of the headquarters offices, so now, instead of having one large office building for a headquarter, now you have hundreds and hundreds of mini offices. They all need to be equipped according to the user's needs, so we're finding that dock products are incredibly important because you want to avoid the amount of cables you have and the multitude of power adapters. We are finding ways to articulate the value proposition of products that relates more easily work from home in a more compact space, and be more ergonomic, all of those things matter. We want [our products] to be approachable and easy to use and we want to make you feel smart when you use them."
4. How do you key into future trends? Don't focus on products—instead, invest in learning as much about emerging technologies as possible to find future solutions.
"As a technology company, what we have accepted as one of our realities is we have to be really knowledgeable about future technologies and that's a bit separate maybe from future devices. The devices would incorporate new technologies and we often really have no clue what's happening until we hear it like everybody else does. The way we deal with that is we invest heavily in just being knowledgeable about all future technologies. We have teams of experts who could speak knowledgeably and be part of the industrial forums and the technology forums where these things are developed."
True to most good designer's nature is an inherent curiosity and desire to learn more and adapt their work to emerging fields within the industry. This quote is a great reminder not to get caught up in the latest technological fad, but instead to keep an ear to the ground about what's happening next.
A solid tip, and might I add, a perfect tie-in to shamelessly plug our Core77 designer forums that are full of helpful industry advice.
You can read Core77's interview with Seil in 2018 about the design of the True Clear Pro here