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3 October 2023

Researchers and artists are designing the future hybrid workplace  

The research project called ‘REWORK’ aims at developing the digital meeting room to make human interaction feel more authentic and personal, much like in a physical meeting.

Photo: Kulturværftet/Thinkalike

The digital meeting room has quickly become a common part of everyday life in many workplaces – a fast, easy, and convenient way to meet, regardless of one’s location.

However, the hybrid workplace has its limitations, and therefore DIREC has decided to fund a research project involving researchers from Aarhus University, University of Copenhagen, IT University of Copenhagen, and Roskilde University to work on developing the future of digital meeting solutions.

Participating in the project are also several large and small companies, and, as something new, three artists have been invited to contribute ideas and visions for the future hybrid workplace. These artists come from the Copenhagen art scene and each offer their perspective on how the digital meeting space can support the relationships and interactions between people, which are limited in today’s meeting solutions.

Seeing the world differently

Kellie Dunn is a PhD in Computer Science at Copenhagen University and has a background in the theater environment. Last autumn, she moved from the USA to Denmark, where she works full time on the DIREC project, titled ‘REWORK – The Future of Hybrid Work.’

“The artists selected for the project already work with the virtual space and, for example, virtual reality. They bring different perspectives on the challenges. How can the future hybrid workplace, for example, account for all the invisible things that happen between people – body language, shared imagery – all the unspoken elements that are part of the physical meeting between people. That is one of the themes that concern the artists,” explains Kellie Dunn.

When more people work remotely, it challenges traditional working methods in companies. For example, nuances are easily lost when we are not physically present together and cannot read each other.

“It’s a significant thing missing in hybrid work compared to the physical workplace, where it is easier for us to read each other’s body language, feel empathy, and see a situation from others’ perspectives,” says Kellie Dunn.

The project illustrates why it is essential to incorporate different perspectives in the development of digital solutions. Typically, developers design solutions that will be widely used, and often developers are men. To ensure that future solutions fit a broad majority of users, it is necessary to challenge the design process, according to Kellie Dunn.

“Collaborating with artists is not very common in research within computer-supported cooperative work (CSCW), whereas within human-computer interaction, similar collaborations have been successful in the past. It is still not common in work-related research, and that’s a shame because it provides entirely new perspectives on the world.

Artists come without a lot of preconceived rules about how things should be, and they are exceptionally good at imagining the future, whereas if you, for example, ask employees in a workplace – they will typically be limited by a practical focus on how their everyday life looks right now.”

The goal is to establish more collaborations across the (tech) industry and the art world to create better products and more productive work systems, she says.

Now we have the opportunity to create the future we want, instead of passively watching as we continue to do things the way we always have.
Kellie Dunn, PhD in Computer Science at the University of Copenhagen

About the REWORK project

Home and hybrid work is here to stay, but what should these work methods look like in the future? Should we simply try to improve what we already have, or can we take a bolder approach and design a different kind of future in the workplace? In collaboration with several companies, this project seeks a future vision that integrates experiences around hybrid work.

The project includes:

Aarhus University
University of Copenhagen
IT University of Copenhagen
Alexandra Institute
Culture Yard

Read more about the project