Unit 203 Maling Exchange Hoults Yard Walker Road Newcastle‑upon‑Tyne NE6 2HL

Enabling better remote working through User Centred Design

Katie Carnie

Opencast have gone to great lengths to ensure our people feel supported during the Covid-19 pandemic. 100% remote working is new for the company. Before lockdown our consultants generally worked at Opencast HQ or on client sites. Recently, everyone has been working from home.

I recently joined the User Centred Design (UCD) team, a new discipline that Opencast has added to its capabilities. Our team is keen to share how we work with the rest of the company and to help others understand our roles. What better way to show what we can do than to run some user research and design ideation sessions with our colleagues?

Our leadership team are keen to discover the different perspectives of people across the company. During the summer, they asked the UCD team to run research to understand people’s experiences of remote working. This was to give them insight on how it was affecting people. It was also great way to introduce our team. We discovered that people were finding it hard to establish boundaries between work and home. Some told us they were working longer hours or found it difficult to “switch off” at the end of the day. 

To gather ideas for how we could create better boundaries, we ran a design challenge. We asked people to come up with as many ideas as they could for how to separate work and home. There were lots of great ideas, but which ones were worth pursuing?

The original ideas our team came up with

We grouped and sorted these ideas into themes and refined them down to 32. We then ran a remote card sorting activity using Miro and Teams. We asked 10 people to rank which ideas they felt were most and least beneficial

The scale and cards we asked participants to sort

Every participant sorted the cards differently and there was no clear winner or loser. After the sessions, we tried to determine how beneficial the idea was by noting how far to the right the participant placed the card. This got complicated when people grouped things together. 

We noticed people tended to sort things high, low or around the mid-line. We decided if the participant placed the card in the top 25%, we would score it “high”. If it was in the middle 50% it was “medium” and the bottom 25% was “low”:

How we analysed the cards

We noted this in a spreadsheet. Doing so gave us a clear picture of how often the cards were placed in each section. Some cards split opinion – one ranked high eight times, but two participants hated the idea and put it at the bottom. 

Because of this, we applied a weighting, much like a football league table. If the participant ranked the card high it received a score of two points. If it was in the middle it got one point. If it was at the bottom it got zero points. This gave each card an overall score. We counted the scores in our spreadsheet then sorted the cards into a ranked order, before visualising the data in a stacked bar chart:

Our stacked bar chart helped us determine which ideas were most and least beneficial. The above version with the card names removed shows in practice how this looks 

Weighting the cards showed us which ideas were winners and losers. It allowed us to provide the Leadership team with a clear steer on which ideas are worth pursuing. We also found out which are definitely not! Already we have seen the feedback be considered and some new changes are being implemented. We’re looking forward to seeing more of the ideas considered and solutionsimplemented soon. 

Doing this research and seeing the results has shown me how committed Opencast are to listening to their people. It has also shown how valuable our new UCD capability is to Opencast and our clients. I’m looking forward to seeing what we achieve in 2021!

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