Reconnect with working life part 1
Back in January 2015 I designed a DIY ethnography kit as part of the tools Fieldwork uses with its clients. We’ve now produced hundreds of these kits and they’ve been used in multiple companies to help employees get to know their own work and company in a way they hadn’t done before.
I am driven by a core purpose, to humanise work for more than the lucky few. To do that, we need to learn more about how humans feel at work. I believe Fieldwork and my other projects are helping with this, but I want to do more to spread our ideas as far and wide as possible.
The first small step is offering our DIY Ethnography kit as a digital tool anyone can use, followed by a digital version of our DIY Exhibition Workshop kit. These tools are aimed at anyone interested in humans at work, but more specifically, HR managers, leadership teams, well being practitioners and internal comms teams.
Capturing stories about work
This DIY ethnography kit will help you notice things that may have been hidden in plain sight for a long time in your work and workplace. You can use it to document your own working life or someone else, with their permission of course. I want you to use it to unearth the beliefs, behaviors, rituals and values where you work. It will help you bridge the gap between what you think is happening, and what is really happening. The picture that emerges will help you with design, culture, leadership, innovation, recruitment and other challenges you might be facing right now.
When we dig deep enough, behaviour that might at first seem arbitrary, surprising, or idiosyncratic usually has an insightful explanation.
— Jane Fulton Suri — Ideo
To get started you are going to need 5 things:
A short amount of time, maybe 15 minutes
Notebook and pen
DSPO enables you to create a time limited camera on your iPhone (I suggest 7 days), add captions to each photograph you take, and at the end of the time period, download all the photographs and captions together.
But, any camera will do. I suggest limiting yourself to 30 or so photographs to keep the reviewing manageable and to keep yourself focused on what to capture. The reason we use film cameras in our kits is to stop people immediately reviewing, editing or maybe even deleting photographs they have taken. I strongly suggest not reviewing your photographs until the end of the documenting process.
Notebook and pen
I suggest something you can keep with you at all times. I like pen and paper, but feel free to use a notepad or audio recorder on your phone.
You can choose to refer to this guide on your mobile, but I’ve found it makes life much easier if you print out this handy guide and stick it in your notebook. Download the guide.
At Fieldwork we believe that to really see the invisible and automatic in working life takes a different kind of looking. Over the next week I want you to spend some time photographing your working life. Capturing the story is more important than a perfect photo — the important thing is that this process helps you observe, explore and tell the story of your working life in your own way.
I’ve included a number of prompts below to help you. Feel free to take the photographs in any order, but keep a note of which photograph relates to which prompt and notes. You can also add to the prompts if there is something in particular you need to photograph to tell your story.
You now have everything you need to start documenting working life. Set aside some time each day to work through the following prompts. As you take each photograph you may find it insightful to note down a couple of things:
1: What was in front of your eyes when you took this photo?
2: How were you feeling when you took this photo?
3: Why did you take this photo?
- The first thing you do when you arrive at work
- A bookshelf in the workplace
- An example of the company caring about people
- Favourite place in the workplace
- Something that’s broken
- Something that’s brilliant
- Your number one attraction if you were a tour guide
- Where you do your best work
- An example of flourishing leadership — in any way or interpretation
- The reason you work here
- What do rules look like here?
- An example of “the way we do things around here”
- What’s outside the office?
- A sign that’s useful
- A sign that gets ignored
- If your company has layers, photograph something that represents the bottom layer
- If your company has layers, photograph something that represents the top layer
- The person you go to for help
- The person you trust the most
- People communicating
- Something that represents your current job or the last project you were involved in
- Something you feel only you can see
- Something that represents a major disaster
- What gets in the way of your job
- Photograph a specific example of a typical behaviour
- Something that makes you feel good
- Something you feel you should be doing more of
- Something that inspires you
You already will have taken some notes about each photograph, but whilst the process is fresh in your mind, write a little about how it felt to document your working life. Did anything surprise, excite, upset or worry you? Write down any initial learnings from this exercise. If you are documenting someone else's working life, ask them these same questions.
Now move onto the DIY Exhibition Workshop tool.
Fieldwork bridges the gaps between humans at work. Our work enables companies to work on strategy with clarity and focus, saving time and money whilst really supporting the humans in the workplace. We give companies a clear and objective picture that helps with leadership, internal comms, recruitment, innovation, well-being, induction and the broader short and long term strategy.
Get in touch — email@example.com