The Pursuit of Authentic in a Virtual World

With the cataclysmic turn of events of early 2020, mankind has been forced into an abrupt shift in many habits due to the restrictions needed to combat the Covid pandemic. One very significant habit change has been the increase in dependence on technology and the internet to shop, socialise and share knowledge. The virtual world is all around us: on our wrists, steering our cars and controlling our home.

Despite the increased convenience and breadth of scope that technology brings, it fails to replace aspects which are fundamental to a person’s satisfaction and well-being. Consequently, we have witnessed a desire for what is more tangible and authentic; face-to-face interactions, handcrafting, gardening and the natural world.


What is authentic?

Virtual reality, artificial intelligence and 3D printing are just a few of the developments that have emerged in the last decade, becoming known cumulatively as the Fourth Industrial Revolution. As new developments spiral, we find ourselves in a seamless landscape where the real and unreal blurs indistinguishably. Virtual has become so realistic, it can often be hard to distinguish the two – despite being polar opposites in essence.

However, running in opposite parallel to the technological advancements of this age is the quest for the authentic, genuine and unique. After mid-century mass-production and the increased plasticity of products; crafted, artisan products made on a small scale are rising to fame. The exploding craft beer and gin scene sums it up well: short-run, unique and desirable.

Authentic is what is uniquely ‘myself’. The dictionary definition is “of undisputed origin and not a copy, genuine” – hinting at the core attributes of good people – integrity, honesty, value, reliable. All traits which the internet and the virtual world are woefully lacking in!

Now to explore how ‘authentic’ translates in the workplace


How does this influence the workplace?

With the advancements of online communications and collaboration via platforms such as teams, zoom and google hangout being tested to their limits in the last few months, it wouldn’t be untoward for business leaders to continue these practices. Hold all meetings virtually, minimise or eradicate the physical workplace and work from home where possible. In reality, it’s doubtable that business leaders should fully endorse no more face-to-face meetings; they may find themselves with staff retention issues! However, a recent article reported by the BBC reveals workplaces are initiating AI measures on a scale never previously witnessed, following the pandemic. From apps that tell you the optimum time to arrive at work based on air quality and headcount, to AI monitoring of people distribution and flow to minimise ‘pinch points’; advancements are developing on a seismic scale.

However, amid the fast-paced haze of the virtual world, we crave reality – just as it’s been evidenced in the retail world with the rise of artisanal products. Our innate desire for interaction is irrepressible. We need personal contact, physical conversations and human intercommunication to successfully achieve a sense of belonging and team spirit – something the virtual landscape cannot engender. How can the balance of both be achieved, without compromise?


What has the workplace become?

Consequently, the workplace is now not just a place of work, but a destination where employees can reconnect with fellow teammates, work life and the company itself – a welcome change to the now-normal work from home. It’s been interesting to witness the evolution of office design post-pandemic – not only with our clientele but within our move to agile at Rhino. The primary feature emerging is that workspace has to be non-allocated, flexible and clutter-free. It is modelled primarily around staff coming in on pre-arranged days, mainly to conduct meetings or carry out collaborative tasks requiring input from other team members. Additionally, changing work location regularly can increase productivity, a change of scenery acting as stimulus and erasing the danger of monotony!

However, the implementation of post-pandemic measures requires caution, forethought and strategy. It is safe to say everyone is different; it’s unrealistic to expect all employees to unquestioningly oblige and fit in with new rules. As a species we are territorial – our own personal space is something we innately gravitate towards. Change management is a sphere in itself, but no less important than any other aspect of the office fitout or refurbishment. Consider staff positions: after weeks and maybe months of forced isolation, the craving for authentic reality (in the shape of physical interaction) has never been greater.


In conclusion...

Society is navigating the choppy waters of change with hesitation and caution. We believe creative resilience is required to conquer the recent challenges. Listen to your people – ultimately your biggest asset – and consider what aspects of authenticity you are reintroducing into your office after our weeks of forced virtual life. The balance lies with embracing genuine tradition and values, while still offering the right level of tech to be efficient. Get in touch with our experts to ensure you are in safe and experienced hands when negotiating the journey of workplace change!


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