Ways We Work: Insights of the Modern Workplace

by Emily Powers & Craig Bryant

Craig Bryant, Founder and CEO of Kin, and Emily Powers, Director of Operations and Finance at Fresh Tilled Soil, have joined forces to uncover the mysteries of the modern workplace. The following is an introduction to an eight-part series featuring some of the greatest debates, struggles, and solutions surrounding how we work. Check out the entire series here.
FTS and Kin

Welcome to the contemporary workplace, which oftentimes isn’t even a physical place. We can work anywhere, anytime, and even sometimes without pants on. Over the course of three decades, the workplace has evolved rapidly, from a time when your physical location was the sole indicator of whether you were at work, to our current reality of 24/7 connectivity driven by a work-from-anywhere mentality.  

Historical census data reveals that Americans aren’t necessarily working more hours per week (in fact, there is strong evidence revealing a decline in working hours), however the nature of our work has changed dramatically – more and more people are working anytime, anywhere. In 2003, 19% of people worked from home. By 2014, that percentage jumped to 23%.

We largely have technology to thank for providing us the efficiencies and seamless, instantaneous communication that have contributed to a decline in working hours. These days we interview and hire people from anywhere in the world without ever meeting them in person. We collaborate asynchronously online to maximize productivity regardless of timezone. It’s never been easier to manage employee operations, as so much routine administrative work can now be automated or outsourced.

However, the notion that every technological innovation is a godsend for the workplace is misleading. We’re more isolated than ever as individuals dialing-in to remote workplaces, which decreases the serendipity found in physical workplaces that’s so crucial to creative collaboration. Our collective physical health suffers as well because our jobs demand us to stare into screens for hours on end, leading to higher healthcare costs. Today’s employers are faced with the question: How much technology is enough? It’s a hard question to answer. Technology has fully blurred the lines between work and home, requiring both employers and employees to completely redefine workplace culture and policy. The fast-paced, competitive nature of our industry means every company needs to stay just as relevant as a workplace as they do with their products/services.

In our upcoming series, we will be uncovering the nature of the beast that is the contemporary workplace – shaped by technology and a generation of rather determined Millennials. We’ll highlight the deepest challenges and share key insights from long-tenured, independent companies which have experienced the ebb and flow of workplace trends over the years. From required time off and wellness programs, to best remote-working practices, to ideal organizational structures, to the rise of the almighty perk, we’ve got a great series lined up. Stay tuned.

About Fresh Tilled Soil

Fresh Tilled Soil is a Boston-based user interface and experience design firm focused on human centered digital design