I have spent two long evenings attending the WORKTECH 20 GLOBAL CONFERENCE, from my home office, surrounded by my children learning from home and my husband working from home. The conference was inspiring, well-organized, on a well-designed platform.

The feelings are mixed. Great opportunity for me to escape and actually attend a global workplace conference BUT in the same time it felt like a lost opportunity, since I really missed the interactions and live discussions that follow presentations, the debates and comments that emerge new ideas and generate new relationships, collaborations and exchanges.

For example I would really like to meet in person and go on discussing with David Firth on his empathetic narrative and my feeling on how we are being collective super-heroes/heroines. I would really like to exchange insights with Timothy Ahrensback about the role of play in the workplace and learn more about Lego’s vision. I would definitely meet Julie Chakraverty to learn more about her insights on people’s need for support that is unanimously further expressed on Rungway’s supporting employees platforms and show a different position and difficulty for women. I listened carefully the panel discussion on HOW CAN ORGANIZATIONS MAXIMIZE EMPLOYEE HEALTH & PERFORMANCE IN THE MIDST OF A PANDEMIC with Julie Chakraverty, Jackie Cooper and Paul Smith.  I would exchange ideas with Katie Shima and her practice’s design ideas on how to facilitate emerging people’s needs in public space and workspace.  And of course I would like to share my coffee break with Professor Sir Cary Cooper and talk about diversified needs between employees and the balance needed between technical and people skills for successful leadership and the core role of culture bottom up and top down. I would make an effort to join the discussion Philipp Ross, Raj Krishnamurthy and Brian Marchal would probably continue on lunch break about how workplace stakeholders will support return to office processes. On the same time I would try to have an ear on Mike Pilcher, Kasia Maynard, Doug Lowrie and Dominic Dugan keep on discussing about psychological space in the workplace and reinvented equality after virtual collaboration experience.

I am sure that I would have left the supposedly live in situ conference exhausted and satisfied in the same time from all the information and interactions, but definitely empowered and more optimistic. The most probable is that I wouldn’t have the chance to attend live and I would never had that experience, travelling from Greece to whichever destination the global conference would have taken place. So eventually I am being grateful for this opportunity to have the experience of a Worktech Global Conference and I am looking forward to a next live or virtual one. I just miss the smiley faces and the warmth of human interactions that can evolve after meeting in person and have the experience of the other..

Now that I write this I realize that this is the employee experience that many presentations referred to and we should focus on taking care for the transforming purpose of the workplace and the future of work. The pandemic was a great opportunity for companies and employees and workplace stakeholders to realize that WFH can happen and be successful after some fine tuning depending on the specific conditions. But something is definitely missing and this can only be realized after the first shock and adaptation period.  This something is the power of live and serendipitous interactions, people meetings and sharing common experiences in common physical spaces. Gather around a table, standing or sitting, share a coffee or a lunch break and connect. The power of human interactions and sharing.

A new challenging period is ahead of us to explore the present of work and plan for the future of work. Of course, like before, there is no one solution that adresses all the workplace cases that as expected are complicated, differentiated, special and unique, according to business, culture, size, localities and humans involved.

Human-centered has always been the key for design practices. Well-being goes with human-centered whatsoever. Culture is the driver for employees and companies well-being. But isn’t well-being the ultimate purpose from everyday life, work life, health-wise, philosophical point of view?