It's generally acknowledged that great work improves wellbeing, while low quality business are detrimental to wellbeing. Flexible working, that is laborer's command over when and where they work, has expanded significantly over the course of the years across most industrialized nations. This situation has become the norm rather than the exception in the context of Covid-19. Although remote work is considered to bring freedom, flexibility and comfort, along with which is longer working hours, loneliness, and the disappearing boundary of work and life. Individuals need to perceive and deal with the high pressure environment that work from home can make for some individuals.
Taking this scenario into account, it's noticeable that Augmented Reality (AR) is a promising technology concerning work and it has the potential to enhance engagement. Augmented reality simulation provide another layer that augments users' experience of reality by overlaying virtual graphic on physical environment. It is a calm technology that makes human-computer interaction become hidden and invisible. Through the contextual knowledge of the user, the user's attention is minimized and the computing device is functioning in the background.
We propose a work-life balance system based on augmented reality in the context of pandemic, aiming at assisting users to maintain healthy time management as well as wellbeing while working from home. It outlines the design research through a narrative of the development of Nurturally, an ambient, glasses-based augmented reality gamified simulation designed to support balanced work from home. Our goal is to understand the potential of augmented reality simulation system in the context of remote work while also proposing the idea of an application concept — a nature nurturing system which can be used for incentivizing work-life balance. This system includes growing plants that visualize the user's work-life regularity. Physical rewarding is also designed to motivate users in terms of balanced lifestyle. Nurturally is an AR-based system that transforms your work-from-home day into a balanced, productive and enjoyable experience. It aims to enhance remote workers' self-management and innovate a sustainable, beneficial and inspiring lifestyle.
Personallustration creation: @Hanyuan Xue
System initiating: sync with calendarScreenshot from video Nurturally, video creation: @Xiying Bao
The plant is growing while the user is focusing on workScreenshot from video Nurturally, video creation: @Xiying Bao
Two butterflies come to remind the user to take a breakScreenshot from video Nurturally, video creation: @Xiying Bao
The flower grows up at the end of a balanced work day(Screenshot from video Nurturally, video creation: @Xiying Bao)
Personal planet with self-management progress and nurturing visualization of each month Screenshot from video Nurturally, video creation: @Xiying Bao
Screenshot from video, video creation: @Xiying Bao
The user is exchanging the chamomile with 100 seedsScreenshot from video, video creation: @Xiying Bao
A new plant is unlocked(Screenshot from video Nurturally, video creation: @Xiying Bao)
Service blue printllustration creation:@Hanyuan Xue, Table creation:@Xiying Bao)
To deeply understand the problems of remote work and users' digital life at home, 16 interviewees aging between 23 and 30 were invited to do a phone call interview. To assess their attitude toward remote working and their wellbeing status, we asked interviewees via telephone, "What has changed in your life since you start to work from home because of Covid-19?" We also asked them to discuss what make them inspired and engaged in their work and life.
Generally, people's attitude toward remote working are positive. "I prefer remote working. It saves time and energy. It is not necessary to make up and dress up, and I don't need to spend time on a crowded metro." (Yolanda, personal communication, Oct 1, 2020) Remote work makes it possible for people to do what they like in their spare time, "I'm planning to use the rest of my time to work on projects I'm passionate about (documentaries)." (Kya, personal communication, Oct 2, 2020)
However, some concern about online communication and time management are also threw up by the interviewees. "It is quite different when contacting my colleague. I prefer communicating face to face."(Henry, personal communication, Oct 2, 2020) "I have troubles sleeping and my arms became numb at night. I began to worry about my health which adds more anxiety on top of work stress." (Rere, personal communication, Oct 1, 2020) Cases are worse for those who live alone, "I live alone and I'm single, so sometimes I feel really lonely." (Jo, personal communication, Oct 1, 2020)
To summarize, although our interviewees pretty much enjoy the comfort of work from home, they've encountered different levels of physical or mental health issues due to long working hours, lack of exercise, and staying in a single environment all the time, etc. In the persona we summarize, the user often works for too long and forgets to disconnect, which leads to an unbalanced lifestyle and health issues. As we're welcoming more flexibility at work, self-management becomes increasingly important for our self-development and well-being. Based on the research above, how might we create a service that helps future remote workers maintain work-life balance? We promote the design process with this question.
The design process
For this work, the problem was how to innovate a work-life balanced lifestyle that bridges work and life in the same system. The brainstorming session, the idea selection phase and the creation of the application sketch composes the creation session. The outcome was then sent to the interviewees so they could validate this initial idea. Finally, the concept was defined using the initial as starting point and taking the interviewees' feedbacks into consideration.
This study attempts to innovate a new model of work-life system and to lead a post-pandemic lifestyle. It is destined to create a rewarding culture embodied by share values, and time to focus and create. Instead of separately dealing with work and life, this service actually bridges the two, putting them in the same system and connect them with a nurture mechanism. Therefore, the interactive working medium developed is an AR application based on glasses that transforms remote worker's working process into a balanced, productive and enjoyable experience. The purpose is to help remote workers balance work and personal life at home, and eventually to form a new lifestyle in the context of Covid-19.
Werbach and Hunter identify 15 important components, among them are avatars, badges, leaderboards, points and teams that are usually represented in a gamified application. Here, four types of corresponding components will be described: (1) performance graphs: plants, (2) meaningful stories: creatures, (3) points: seeds, (4) badges: planet. The functionality and the promise of motivation of elements in this wellness nurture system are described as followed:
1. Plant as performance graph: The virtual plants illustrated in AR interface are designed to accompany user's working day, which will grow along the progress of the user's working schedule. It's planned to give data about the their presentation contrasted with their initial performance during the working time frame. By graphically and three-dimensionally showing the users' presentation over a fixed period, they center around enhancements. Motivation theory hypothesizes that this encourages authority direction, which is especially advantageous to learning and cultivating propensities.
2. Creatures as meaningful stories: The creatures (bees, butterflies, birds, etc.) illustrated and animated in AR interface are designed to remind the user to take a break. The creatures fly around the plants waiting to conduct pollination so as to remind the users to take down the AR glasses and relax themselves. The plants grow better as a result of pollination, which is also the result of taking proper breaks and maintaining balanced lifestyle, altering the meaning of real world activities by adding a narrative 'overlay'. This story setting in which this AR application can be inserted contextualizes exercises and characters in the experience, and gives people significance past the simple journey for focuses and accomplishment.
3. Seeds as points: the virtual seeds collected during the plants nurturing process are designed to reward the users for successful accomplishment of taking proper breaks, which means the users have lived a work-life balanced life. The seeds collected can be used in exchange of rewarding activities in the real world (yoga class, audio books, corresponding real plants, etc.) Quite possibly the main reasons for points is to give feedback.
4. Planet as badge and teammates: The personal planet is a visual representation of achievements where all the plants are grew and collected by the users. It affirms the players' accomplishments, represent their benefits, and obviously show their achievements of levels or objectives. Meanwhile, in the group planet, a mutual goal of a project group in the company visualize the cooperation and competition between colleagues. The vegetation coverage of the planet represent the user's balanced life progress of a year. Earning a rich planet are dependent on a specific amount of seeds and on particular activities within the work-life system.
The user journey
The user journey along with how this system incentivize and motivates people in psychological need perspective will be described in four steps:
(1) Prepare for a productive day
Users begin their work day by taking on the AR glasses and begin the Nurturally system. The system will guide the user with a morning reflection, which encourages them to become mindful during the day. Users are guided to choose and plan what they prefer to do during the breaks. The system will automatically provide recommendations of a suitable break cycle that batches their tasks according to different types of work.
(2) Focus on work
The user starts to grow a plant when they begin to work. With the accumulation of balanced working time, users gain seeds. The need for competence can be addressed by points (seeds), which could provide granular feedback that is directly connected to the actions of the user. The growth of the plants visually indicates the users' progress over time, thereby providing sustained feedback.
(3) Take proper breaks to nurture the plant
At the settled break time, friendly creatures will come to remind users gently to take a break. If the users choose to stop working, the creatures will pollinate the plant to make it prosperous. In this way, user can gain seeds and keep the balance of the nature, which also meet the need of autonomy in terms of psychological need satisfaction. At the end of the break, the AR device will give a mild light or vibration to remind the users to go back to work. This pollination story can help users experience their own activities as significant and volitionally captivating, regardless of whether or not decisions are truly accessible.
(4) Finish your work day
At the end of the day, the plant will lead the users with a quick reflection with several questions, followed by a reminder of their evening plan. A new plant grows up on the personal planet that marks the users' work-life balance achievement. In this system, a narrative frame is created in which the user is given a meaningful role.
Validation and evaluation
This AR system is prototyped and visualized in the form of a video. After watching the video of how this service works, the interviewees were asked to complete the online questionnaire using their mobile phone or computer. All the interviewees are from 23 to 30 years old who are working from home during that time.
From the questionnaire data, it's obvious that interviewees have given a positive response to this AR remote work wellbeing system. Most interviewees consider this system to be enjoyable and motivating. 70% of the interviewees are likely to use the service when they work from home. Half of the interviewees are willing to recommend this system to their friends or colleagues.