Team Rituals in Human-Centric Design
The individual is core to human-centred design and the emphasis of a singular “human” is in its very definition, but ultimately, there is no denying that most offices house teams rather than solopreneurs, so the collaboration dynamic is likely to influence productivity and well-being. And team dynamics have certainly shifted with the integration of remote and hybrid setups.
For Treacy, building rituals that reinforce team dynamics is that missing puzzle to human-centric design. “As we move into a new reality of how we're all interacting with each other – not just in the office, but socially, too – I think we've kind of lost a sense of what ‘team’ is,” he says. “I think the rituals that help to build a team are almost the key to everything we speak about around human-centric design.
Indeed, such rituals can be key to community-building in a workplace, and companies that not just celebrate them, but also account for them in their office design, might be holding on to an advantage.
Treacy brings up the espresso breaks that employees collectively take at the neighbourhood cafe in Italy, or long lunch breaks in France. Such cultural rituals might reinforce how people feel about being in the office and what he refers to as the “the happiness factor”.
Group rituals, however, are not necessarily culture-specific, and many companies intentionally schedule meal, clothing, or game activities in an effort to formally introduce new ones. “Casual Fridays” is one popular activity that workplaces worldwide have long implemented. Other common organisational rituals include birthday celebrations, pizza lunches, and yoga sessions.
The social scientists Smith and Stewart argue that group rituals are important because they provide meaning, manage anxiety, exemplify and reinforce social order, communicate important values, enhance group solidarity, include and exclude, signal commitment, manage work structure, and prescribe and reinforce significant events.
Much like they consider employee processes and routines, interior designers can consider factoring in preexisting rituals into the office design process – or providing ample space for new ones to naturally and independently take form.