Design your way out of an isolation meltdown

Humans love routines and some people deal with a changing environment more successfully than others. People with small children are, in my experience, not in the first category.

The stress level was high Wednesday evening when the Danish prime minister recommended people to stay home and announced that kids were to stay home from the following Monday.

We have a three-year-old at home, and the stress of dealing with online meetings (coordinated with my better half), datelines and trying to stimulate our kid, all while making sure that the house didn’t burn down and no one got hurt (us having it easy with one kid, I mean she was outnumbered after all)

When the first panic had subsided and we saw some patterns in the new situation, it got me thinking — Can I use a Design Thinking process to optimize and develop work routines, when my family-life and work-life suddenly are entangled?

The chaotic Fuzzy Front Phase: Day 1 went by, trying to balance important meetings with making sure that our daughter was okay in this weird situation. Overall not an effective workday.

Empathize phase: Living in chaos is exhausting, and a lack of structure resulted in loud voices and stressful situations (and too much sugar as bribery). Change of pace was needed. The first step was to empathize with each other and to see when we worked best — Also researching the number of playgrounds in our area!

A lot of pain areas emerged itselfs as day two went by, and patterns got more visible:

  • People have a tendency of booking meetings at the same time, which resulted in both of us having meetings at once
  • Our apartment is 54 m2
  • The day was not normal and how our daughter expected it to be (frustration)
  • Uncertainty regarding what was going on outside and how we were going to behave in terms of shopping etc.
  • My daughter loves video chatting — Daily stand up meetings were no exception

Three clusters appeared in the list of pains:

  1. The physical surroundings
  2. A child who sees mom and dad home and therefore thinks it’s a vacation
  3. Datelines of two different individuals with different projects

The Defining and prototyping phase:

Next step was to define a How Might We:

HMW find a space for both work and play, so that we can meet our datelines and our daughter will get a great experience”

It was clear that wee needed to move ourselves to another location, so we went to a vacation house near the sea. A schedule for all three was necessary, with meetings, datelines and daily walks by the sea. Also, we highlighted when we were the most productive. I have a hard time functioning in the afternoon, so it was natural that our daughter and I went for a walk in that interval.

The physical surroundings were the catalysator because it created space for play and work, but in scheduled intervals — lucky kids like knowing what’s next.

The test will come in the next period of time and I’m sure it will be adjusted multiple times. It’s interesting to see how creative you get when you are thrown off your daily routines. Find some pen and paper, make a Kanban wall and make some fun.

For me, Design Thinking is not a specific framework or process, it’s about reflecting on your actions/solutions/services, adjusting and testing so that you ultimately will meet the need of the user. By adjusting our life to fit this new situation, maybe new and better ways of working will surface!




Design Thinking is all about the user, reflection and using failure as a positive steppingstone for your next move

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Sara Marie Højgård

Sara Marie Højgård

Design Thinking is all about the user, reflection and using failure as a positive steppingstone for your next move

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