12 December, 2021

Wrapping up the Year

‘Tis the season for hyper-consumerism. Even if giving is your favorite holiday tradition, there are many ways to be smart and sustainable too. In “On Our Minds,” we wave the flag for thrifting and regifting, among other savvy suggestions.

On our minds

This holiday season we’re thinking about reducing, reusing, and recycling. In addition to supply chain issues, we’re all dealing with imminent inflation. Simultaneously, record number of Americans say they’ll be opting out of gifting altogether.

Buying local, donating in someone’s name, making personalized playlists, and choosing virtual gifts are all ways to sidestep shipping snafus and chip away a tiny bit at your own carbon footprint. Some of our favorite online gifts include Masterclasses, a virtual language class or, for the curious kiddos, Codespark Academy.

Browse your local consignment and antique shops, or check out online options for used outdoor and electronics gear, vintage home goods, and clothes.Browse check out online options for used outdoor and electronics gearvintage home goods, and clothes. Choosing secondhand, handmade, homemade, or free items (check out #4 and #22, as well as our 2017 gift guide) helps you avoid hyper or “fast” consumerism, which overloads our landfills and comes with a host of other problems. (Fast fashion is resource-intensive, significantly raises our global CO2 levels, and is a breeding ground for unfair and unsafe working conditions.) 

Want to give a favorite coworker a kitschy coffee mug? Your local thrift shop has one—or fifty—on offer! Want to give a favorite coworker a kitschy coffee mug? Your local thrift shop has one—or fifty—on offer! A plant cutting in a tiny pot makes a cute thank-you for a teacher or service provider. Or pass along a favorite read from secondhand books in your own neighborhood, at the closest Little Free Library.

If you know someone who’s home office needs a complete overhaul, set them up with an ergonomic, refurbished workstation. You can find supplies at local liquidation warehouses or at sites like Rework. (We’ve written a lot about home office hacks, and last year’s gift guide offers fantastic suggestions.)

Physical office spaces have also changed in recent years, to put more focus on collaborating over cubicling. But even as workplaces focus on “we”, each of us is individually recalibrating a range of returning stressors, like commutes, set work hours, and office restrooms. So a little self-care (and self-gifting) might be in order. Make an appointment for a massage or try a home massage device or acupuncture mat. Gift yourself permission to grab a short afternoon nap, rather than powering through with caffeine. Rest can make a huge difference to your productivity and wellbeing—which is why companies should offer in-office space to relax. In the spirit of multisensory design, science shows that elegant essential oil diffuser may really help you relax or focus. Our 2018 guide included an entire section on multisensory gifting.

While de-acquisitioning is critical for corporate offices, as they shift to hybrid models, t may be just as important at home. As we ask our living spaces to do more with the same square footage—to be our offices, our gyms, our entertainment centers, and our classrooms, the holidays can be a great time to mindfully declutter. Do you have a family heirloom tucked away that you love but never use? Gift it to a close friend who will use it and genuinely appreciate its sentimental value.

Speaking of doing more, these days nothing is quite what it seems. In addition to your kitchen being your office, currency has gone cyber, real estate is virtual, you can meet with your lawyer in the metaverse, and you can cowork at the department store. If you want to embrace this new, augmented reality through your holiday shopping, consider VR gaming sets, smart light bulbs that kill bacteria, an AI personal trainer, or, for the nostalgic millennial in your life, the latest version of The Sims

While new strains of COVID-19 coupled with increased employee demand mean work-from-anywhere is here to stay, that doesn't mean indoors! A state or national park pass plus a bikepack with a laptop pocket will help a loved one get there. While a laptop power-bank, portable phone stand, canopied camp chair or pop-up privacy tent will make it easy to set up a remote office. With the open-offices filling up, that privacy tent or phone stand may enhance the in-office experience, as well.

Looking for worthy philanthropies to support this season? In PLASTARC’s backyard, we have Young New Yorkers, an incarceration diversion program that provides New York youth artistic outlets and leadership training. We're also fans of the Storefront for Art and Architecture, which has organized events at the intersection of art and architecture for nearly 40 years.

Meanwhile, Planned Parenthood provides free and low-cost reproductive and sexual healthcare for people of all genders nationwide. (Think abortion isn’t a work issue? According to a recent poll, two-thirds of college-educated workers say state abortion bans will impact where they accept jobs.)

From the archives

Last December, we were thinking about how some of our pandemic-related workplace changes have been improvements. In 2019, we spoke at an AIANY event about using AI to collect data that allows us to design more useful and pleasurable workspaces. At the end of 2017, we made some spot-on near-future work predictions.

Happy *INSERT THE HOLIDAY YOU CELEBRATE*! Cheers to all the feels, even if they’re virtual! Meanwhile, enjoy this roundup of the best Tiny Desk holiday concerts since 2009. See you next year!

In Case You Missed It

Last month we talked about the very particular multisensory experience of workplace restrooms. We also spoke at events that examined how senses affect our movement through the world, and how the data we collect can help design more pleasurable experiences.

Designing with Acoustic Pods Essential for R-to-O

In our latest piece for WorkDesign Magazine we discuss designing for density, diversity and desirability using acoustic pods, AKA phone booths.

Curious About how AV Stimuli Affect our Experiences?

Sally Augustine writes for OfficeInsight, highlighting key findings from ANFA’s 2021 conference on neuroscience for architecture.

Data Shapes Emergent Spaces for Learning and Working

PLASTARC teams up with Ennead at this Tradeline event to discuss new methods for collecting and leveraging smart-building data.

AI Helps Understand Which Therapy Works and Why

Once difficult to understand why some conversational therapies get better results, now AI is helping translate this phenomena into measurable data.

Looking Ahead

This time of year, there’s a lot competing for our attention. Here are a few things you may want to make space for.

Automation and Flexibility with VentureBeat

The future of work involves increased agility and tech-literacy. Find out how AI can help. Online Jan. 12.

Giving Seattle Workers What They Want

Brush up on topics such as offering paths for career advancement and how to take a holistic view of your employees in this one-day conference. Happening in-person in Seattle and online, Jan. 18.

IIDA NY on JEDI and Racial Equity

This free workshop helps your organization create a plan to uphold the Equity Council Design Industry Pledge. Happening online Jan. 27.

How is Prop-Tech Changing Real Estate?

Explore smart real estate, through the lens of 22 Bishopsgate, the most people-focused, high-tech building in London. Online Feb. 24-25.