Human-centered design through play – what will working life look like in 2024?

Caitlin Baran19.3.2019DesignReading time 6 min

In cooperation with the Mothers in Business network we organized an event where we used a design game to map out what working life could be like in 2024.

In cooperation with the Mothers in Business network we organized an event where we used a design game developed by Frantic to map out what working life could be like in 2024. How could family life and working life be combined even more seamlessly in the future?

Designing together through play

In service design, the design process is done together – together with the end user, clients and their stakeholders, colleagues like developers and project managers, you name it. At our MiB x Frantic event we had, in addition to adults, a bunch of small children from babies to toddlers attending. What would be a better way to discuss a subject than a method specifically tailored to suit our wide range of attendees?

We began by going through how all digital aspects of our society have a very significant impact on our social realities. Our physical reality and concrete services cannot be adapted for the web directly, but even in the web the end-user is always a human being. This is why we should always keep the user’s experiences and needs in mind when designing anything. This becomes even more crucial when services are moved to a website environment and the user needs to navigate multiple services simultaneously and find what they’re looking for quickly and efficiently.

The Frantic design game has previously been used to gain information during the definition phase of client projects, in product design in cooperation with the client and as a co-operative method when gathering understanding of user needs. This time we used the game to further define and demonstrate what working life could possibly be in 2024.

The players were divided into five groups. Each group had a specific subject and the opportunity to concentrate on it for a little under an hour. Then each group summarized their findings and presented their ideas to the group as a whole. The subjects this time were technology, changes in work hours, learning and training, work communities and locations and spaces.

Diving in deeper

When the attendees began discussing the importance of technology in future working life, several important themes came up. Data was one of the main ones, but maintaining a focus on humans in the midst of both technical development and changes in ways of working was also an important topic. Similar themes were brought up in the group discussing working hours: self-direction and balancing working hours in a 24/7 society were mentioned multiple times. Many also agreed that one important motivator in managing one’s work time is how relevant the work itself feels.

The group that focused on learning and training had a vivid discussion about what sort of skills could be expected from future workers. Especially communication skills as well as understanding across borders were viewed as crucial both now and in the future. And what about work communities in five years? Many expressed their concerns about virtual teams that might lack the sense of community and presence that are important factors in well-being at work.

The same ideas continued when discussing locations and spaces. Thanks to technology, people might not have to meet face to face any more, but this reduces authentic human contact. Remote work will possibly be even more of a big deal in the coming years. Employees will focus more on the cosiness of their home office if physical working spaces no longer exist outside your home or, say, your favorite café.

A typical workday in 2024

The game culminated with a round of findings where each group had the chance to present their views to everyone. Maybe robot buses will pick your children up for school in the future, or you won’t be required to leave your home for work at all? Possibly we will all be able to take care of our work tasks from a remote office on a beach in Bali.

In one scenario, all social interaction was related to charging your devices, and human contacts happened at charging spots. “Charging devices and people” could be the slogan of a café that offers a charging service. Another one focused on working hours – do we need to follow any kind of pre-defined schedule, or could we move into an even more flexible direction in the future? A clear problem was identified right away, however: how about children’s daycares and schools that would still operate during certain hours? Nevertheless, maybe taking small vacations could become easier with the use of VR glasses – you could travel to a sunny beach in mere seconds.

And how about dedicating your mornings to alone time and learning, and communication with others would happen later? Maybe children would in this way be better integrated into working life when mornings could be a bit slower. Routine work could then be saved for the afternoon when your brain is already tired. The line between working and learning might become blurred, and on-the-job learning would be crucial. Learning, enabled by support from others and your own initiative, would motivate people even further.

Maybe data and robotics could be utilized to make information processing and recruitment easier and faster. Someone should still keep an eye on what the robots and AIs are up to, and our event attendees came up with the perfect job title for this: ”AI tamer”. In the future we will need an even stronger focus on human-centered design so that products and services are better tailored for real people and their needs and hopes.  

During the summary round many attendees felt that while the topics were challenging, it was nice to approach them through game play. It was also refreshing to meet people from very different jobs and organizations and notice that everyone ultimately had very similar hopes and goals in their working life. A game is the perfect opportunity to exchange knowledge, and during this event people got the chance to exchange both their knowledge and hopes about the future of working life.

If this sparked your interest and you’d like to hear more about our design game or service design in general, our service designer Kaisa Ruotsalainen would be happy to answer any further questions.