Improving the experience of working from home during the Covid-19 pandemic [Read more]
Team It is a virtual office platform that recreates the office experience
Team It is a computer-based platform that creates a virtual office environment in order to provide a better experience working as part of a remote team for young adults.
Team It is a virtual platform that recreates the office environment through a virtual office ‘map’ where co-workers’ avatars are displayed, creating a visual representation of who is currently working ‘around’ the user. The app uses features such as displaying everyones moods and allowing the users to send messages to the team to help recreate the social feeling of work. Other features are also available to help recreate the office environment, such as ‘background office noise’ or the option to visually represent virtual meetings by putting the attendees’ avatars in a meeting room together. A ‘private office’ option is also available, where the user is unable to see anyone else, in case they find this too distracting at any given time.
The Covid-19 pandemic has turned remote working into the norm and this is likely to continue for a long time. However, research shows that working from home in these circumstances is more difficult than it would be in normal situations. The aim of this project was to better understand the experience people currently have while working from home, in order to identify opportunities for improvement.
In-depth contextual research was conducted to better understand the current experience people have while working from home and identify the existing pain points. Due to the pandemic, all research had to be done remotely.
The methods used included:
- One auto-etnography diary where the researcher recorded her own experiences working remotely as part of a team over a week to better understand the problem space.
- Social media etnography to identify potential pain points to be further explored with participants.
- Semi-structured interviews with 6 participants combined with generative methods aiming to encourage the participants to mentally recreate a normal working from home day for them and reflect on the good and bad parts.
The data gathered was analysed using a series of techniques, most notably Affinity Mapping.
The key insights included:
- The people struggling most with working from home are those who are normally very social.
- Most of the pain points identified focused on missing the office environment and the social aspect of work.
- People found it more difficult to still feel like they are part of a team while working remotely.
HMW statements were then formulated based on the key insights and a prioritisation matrix was used to identify the most promising areas.
Based on this, an opportunity was identified in recreating the office atmosphere and the feeling of being ‘part of a team’ in a virtual environment. A number of concepts were produced using the Crazy 8s technique. Co-design workshops with users then helped combine the different ideas into an initial concept.
A set of experience design principles was then created and the MoSCoW technique was used to prioritize the different potential features mentioned in the workshop.
Prototyping and User Testing
To start turning the concept into a real, tangible product, an initial low-fi prototype was sketched on paper. The prototype was then tested in a workshop with target users, in order to obtain further feedback on the idea and answer a number of design questions. Once the initial version of the prototype was validated through user feedback, two more high fidelity iterations were produced in Adobe XD and tested with users before arriving at the final concept.
Team It is a desktop platform that recreates the office atmosphere through the use of visual, as well as auditory elements: a map shows co-workers’ avatars sitting at desks and working together or going to the break room, while a ‘background office sound’ plays.
I am a user-centred designer who particularly loves designing with interesting, emerging technologies and trying to change the world through design.
I am originally from Romania, but attended university in the UK, at the University of Birmingham, where I studied Computer Science. During my last year of undergraduate studies I discovered Human-Computer Interaction and through that became instantly interested in user-centred design, which later inspired me to enrol in the UX Design MA.
In my design work, I simply aim to always make things less complicated. I believe the key to good design is identifying the core needs of the user and focusing on fulfilling them without adding any unnecessary steps. I am especially interested in designing with emerging technologies such as AI and in designing for social innovation. While I enjoy user research, I believe my strength is interaction design, due to my desire to simplify the user journey as much as possible, as well as my interest in visual design.
Improving the experience of working from home during the Covid-19 pandemic
As part of a team of four, I worked on developing a project that received funding through the Ford Fund Smart Mobility Challenge. Our concept was WeFill, a sustainable food delivery service aimed at students that delivers the food directly to student halls in reusable containers and takes them back when they are no longer useful to the student. All the orders are delivered at the same time, on a day agreed by the student community via the WeFill online platform, helping to reduce the number of deliveries and improve mobility within cities by reducing traffic. Our project received good feedback and £2000 in project funding to help turn it into a real initiative, which is still a work in progress at this stage.