Using the Five Human Factors Framework to make sense of the Dayshift

Have you ever noticed how often things are well designed these days? Think of the world of choices that are readily available where every item seems carefully made to fit into your life, one need at a time.

This is what design wants to do for people, making use of the bigger picture to make things work for you, in the moment. As if you shouldn’t need to pay attention to the small things that can fall over or come apart when you use them.

Now try flipping the question over, and ask yourself: why does the world of work feel so strange these days? And why do so many of the things we took for granted not seem to be working out for work? 

Remote, Hybrid, or Everybody Back to the Office, it no longer matters.

It’s axiomatic, once a few of your team members are working remotely for the day, everyone is affected. If we’re working with knowledge work, we’re all ‘hybrid’ right now. And nothing feels normal about working hybrid, not yet anyway. We only have a glimpse of the world changing around us, but we find it hard to bring the big picture, that designers often refer to, into focus.

Let’s zoom out for a moment and ask why things seem so well designed for most of life, but not so much for the hybrid experience of working in a distributed team. At the Dayshift we’ve broken down this bigger picture into five broad categories of the human experience. It’s how we connect the dots to help designers meet human needs.

Christopher Alexander first introduced this approach, proposing that design is the process of fitting product form to the next larger context of daily life. Addressing human needs one element at a time until all significant entities of a design are related to all human needs at issue. But there’s a challenge of understanding what people need when they’re different from us. For decades, designers kind of forgot about this step, making things that looked good and were really well made, but they only worked out for some of the people, the people who live life much like the designer does.

To remedy this disconnect, Patrick Whitney and Vijay Kumar introduced a design framework called the Five Human Factors: Physical, Cognitive, Emotional, Social, and Cultural needs. Their approach enabled designers to harvest information about the broader human context, generating novel design ideas about a diverse range of human experiences. Making it a natural fit for our work of mapping the human context of a massive global phenomenon we call the Dayshift.

Because ‘what is normal’ about work is shifting all around us at the moment. Understanding the intricacies of professional life can be a challenge. 

At the heart of The Dayshift is a free service that we call Talk Parties. The experience feels like an informal conference about work, because we’ve learned that people need to talk about work right now, and they have no better place to do so. 

The Talk Party offers a trusting, straightforward avenue for individuals to gather and reflect upon the complexities of their own work experience. It’s a casual setup where people can openly discuss the highs and lows of their professional journey.

Once each Talk Party concludes, the Dayshift team analyzes a participant’s situation using any of the five human factors that show up. Our analysis highlights areas of personal innovation, and pinpoints aspects that might be causing difficulties. 

The product of our analysis is presented as a Dayshift diagnosis—a personalized summary of findings. It becomes a practical tool for participants to move forward with, offering them insights into their lived experience that guides them about where to focus, make adjustments, or enhance their physical work place. The evolving workplace is no longer an enigma; it becomes a canvas for design, grounded in a profound understanding of the diverse human needs that go unnoticed.

As we’ve recently heard from one participant “Many thanks for the report you shared, I’m so impressed by how deeply you connected with who I am as a designer and with my current needs. Thanks also for sharing applicable suggestions, you helped me renew the momentum.”

Perhaps you have some questions of your own about the future of work such as what products can help create your best workplace? How do you spend quality time with colleagues, when there isn’t a project to discuss in a formal setting? How does your distributed team share similar values, and thinking habits at work? How does your team sense when you need to feel more connected? 

If these or any other questions about the emerging world of work are on your mind, reach out and request a Talk Party, or read more about what we’re learning from Talk Parties here. Experience for yourself how the five human factors of design can help you tame the confusion that surrounds the new world of work.