This is our final and 24th article on the Human-centric Work Environment series. Thank you so much for continuously reading this series for over a year. We felt your presence and attention, which encouraged us to keep writing. We’d like to look back on the narrative we generated, evaluate the current status of the Human-centric Work Environment, and present our future plans for making its features and tools more widely known.
The Narrative We Started to Write
We started this article series in order to show the power of work environment and how it can help individuals, businesses, and society thrive. Its power was especially important, though extremely under-utilized, when everyone suffered due to the COVID pandemic. We as a team, Yoko Kawai, an architect, and Yvonne Burton, a technology consultant, collaborated for this goal, because we believed that seamlessness between design and technology is vital now when people alternate between their physical and virtual work environments every day.
We took the human-centric approach that involves considering the senses and perspectives of the individuals, who will be working and moving in the space, as a guiding principle when designing the space. Inspired by Japanese spatial philosophy, we added the first person perspective to this approach to deepen the understanding of the human-space relationship.
This human-centric approach is crucial and efficient now that people work under the New Normal, in which workspaces designed for people’s wellness are requirements and the network of such spaces through remote work and the use of technology are being formed.
We proposed a large variety of actions people can take to create and interact with the human-centric work environment by examining the human senses (Kinesthesis, vision, hearing) and the natural elements of air, light, and water in spaces.
The Narrative Evolved
Some aspects of the human-centric work environment that we sensed were important yet did not know how exactly at the beginning of our series has become clearer and has evolved while we were writing. We recognized the importance of creating an ecosystem within a workplace by activating spatial nodes and connecting them with in-between spaces. We proposed the idea of Michiyuki (traveling and the path of travel) to understand and design such ecosystems. Michiyuki is especially helpful to compose a space that helps people being mindful at work.
Creating Michiyuki means designing experiences, such as soundscape and lightscape, for individuals who are moving. Technology now has become a prominent tool to curate experiences by monitoring, personalizing and engineering the environment.
We also pointed out the importance of the alignment between the “work” people do and the physical and virtual “environments” in which they do that work. Achieving this alignment requires detailed analysis and planning. Workplace design needs to be considered as a critical business function similar to strategic planning or budgeting.
The Narrative on a Large Scale
In the last segment of the series, we expanded the concepts around work environments to the scale of cities and regions. Now that people occupy multiple workspaces in various places under the New Normal, the work environment must include all of these spaces and places. They create the large-scale multi-place ecosystem connected by in-between spaces and traveled by people (Michiyuki in larger dimensions).
This system gives people three freedoms: Freedom to Choose places to live and work, Freedom to Create ways (space and time) to work and live that support and enhance their values in life, and Freedom to Connect with people and society both for work and living, in mobile and personally tailored ways. These three freedoms contribute to each other to enrich the lives people create, enliven the places people choose to live and work, and support and develop businesses.
What is Next for the Human-centric Work Environment?
The Human-centric Work Environment through design and technology, an idea that we developed, promoted, and have broken down into actions for over a year, has now become the norm. Its value has been proven and is a new standard people expect in their surroundings and in businesses. The prolonged pandemic made apparent and emphasized the importance of healthy work environments.
Businesses have become more willing to provide healthy work environments, because they not only realized that not doing so made them much less resilient during the pandemic, but also can see that it is tied to profit. The return on investment of building healthy workplaces has been proven to be quite high1International WELL Building Institute (2021) Investing for Health: Examining the ROI of Healthy Building. The stock prices of businesses that support their employees’ health could increase to as much as twice that of those that do not2International WELL Building Institute (2021) Investing for Health: Examining the ROI of Healthy Building.
In short, the value of the Human-centric Work Environment is being affirmed in general society. However, what constitutes such physical and virtual environments and how to achieve them, which we attempted to address in this article series, is relatively new information and is still developing. Few workers, businesses, and even designers are familiar with it.
People have the goal but are without the tools to achieve it. That is why we now want to disseminate the contents of our articles to the widest possible audience. We are planning to publish them as a book, talk about them in lectures, and teach them interactively in workshops.
Please contact us if you and/or your company are interested in such a service and please continue to refer to the articles.
Thank you again for reading our narrative.
(Written by Yoko Kawai and Yvonne Burton)