There’s a great desire for authenticity in the air. Many of us have lost trust in politicians, in institutions, in the media. Furthermore the rise of fake news, coupled with general worries about internet addiction, have left others of us more wary of technology. Sometimes it can feel like the real world is disappearing behind the virtual world of our phones and tablets and computers. For these reasons and more, authenticity and trustworthiness are more valued than ever, in all spheres of society. For instance, the day that I write this, the Guardian has just published a long read titled, “‘It’s genuine, you know?’: why the online influencer industry is going ‘authentic’.”
In the workplace, a more authentic environment is not only relaxing, but helps to encourage reflection and introspection. It helps us to reconnect with our roots, and to ask ourselves how we can improve ourselves, and be more true to our life and our work. So, in this essay we’re going to explore ways of making your workplace more authentic.
Return to the Familiar
There’s a lot of nostalgia around, signifying a shared desire to return to simpler times. We’re increasingly drawn towards products and materials that have an air of familiarity and comfort. Humble, natural materials like hemp, jute, plywood, rattan and sisal are becoming more popular, as they’re uncomplicated, and help to connect us to nature. They’re also highly sustainable, which is very important these days.
We’re rejecting throwaway culture, and seeking more timeless designs: for instance, classic furniture is being re-editioned, and vintage pieces are being restored. One of our favourite trends has this kind of authenticity at its core: Wabi-sabi is the traditional Japanese philosophy of finding beauty in imperfection. It’s about accepting the passing of time, grounding oneself in nature, celebrating traditional craftsmanship, and making sure to appreciate the simpler things in life. Its aesthetic of roughness, asymmetry and ageing, its use of natural materials, and its palette of browns, blacks, greys and earthy tones are all inspired by a yearning for what is real. At heart, Wabi-sabi is all about understanding the value of authenticity.
Touching things also helps us to connect with the real world, and feels good too; tactile stimulation helps release oxytocin, which gives us pleasure. As such, it’s good to have lots of pleasing textures in the workplace: brass finishes, waxed plywood, handmade ceramics, porcelain tiles, marble, stone and thick recycled paper, for instance. It’s also great to include interesting textiles where possible: thick wools, heavy linens, woven and embroidered fabrics. Having a dog to stroke in the office can spread a lot of joy as well. And it’s important not to forget the world outside. A good office should have lots of plants, large windows and plenty of sunlight. Likewise, natural materials and patterns and colours have a happy, calming effect on all of us.
Likewise, as seen in the current Industrial Design Trend, we’re also drawn towards buildings with a history: with unpainted walls, worn floors and exposed structural elements. Old factory buildings tell a story. The workers and their machines may no longer be there, but their authentic spirit lives on.
In these busy, overworked times, having spaces in which to restore and replenish ourselves is vital. Hence many companies are turning parts of their premises into what we like to call a Serene Sanctuary: a place to calm down and unwind, and forget about the modern world and all its stresses. A place to meditate perhaps. This brings us onto wellbeing, which is a huge social trend these days. Mindfulness, in particular, is a means by which we can learn to pay attention to things, and live in the moment, rather than allowing ourselves to be caught up in distracting thoughts. It’s about striving to remain true to one’s self. By practising mindfulness, staff can learn to live more authentically.
Similarly, every workplace should be designed in a way that accurately reflects the company and its values. And there’s more; not just the office, not just the staff, but the whole company culture has to be authentic these days. In this new age of authenticity, companies have to display passion. It’s vital to care about what you do, and to communicate that sincerely and honestly. It’s also vital to have integrity. Companies have to respond to their consumers, they have to be answerable to them, and they have to show that they’re authentic all the way through, in everything they do. In 2019, it’s all about keeping it real.