Graduate Rhianna Smith raises awareness of loneliness in the workplace, designing for the new era of hybrid offices.

22 September 2023

Lonely hybrid workers whose offices resemble a ‘ghost town’ will be welcomed back into the workplace by ‘Balance’ a contemporary coat stand which lights up to greet them.

‘Balance’ aims to build a sense of belonging in hybrid offices, announcing an employee’s arrival and getting brighter as each colleague hangs up their coat. The lights symbolise the feeling of community, signalling who is working in the office each day and providing a fun, joyful counterbalance to the loneliness of remote working.

The design was a response to the increasing epidemic of loneliness following the COVID-19 pandemic.Rhianna wanted to explore design and wellbeing in the office following a year-long work placement. She undertook a variety of observations in offices to look at how people interacted, and interviewed office managers and employees.

“I wanted to create something to make people feel more welcome in the office when they arrive. Working from home can be isolating, but when the office is empty, it makes you question the point of coming in” said designer Rhianna, a product design graduate from Nottingham Trent University.

“’Balance’ is intended to be a talking piece for staff and a way for employers to show they care about wellbeing, and that they want their staff to come into the office, but without forcing them.”

Paul Kennea, senior lecturer in Product Design at Nottingham Trent University, said: “Rhianna has shown how design can be used to help support people through social issues such as loneliness in the office.

“Her design demonstrates how a product as simple as a coat stand can be rethought and used to help influence human behaviour, and help contribute towards the rebirth of an office community.”

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