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Inspiration for Action
The Newsletter / Edition 009
From Sylvain Labs, this is Progress Report.
In our Off-White Papers, we provide practical guidance on how to respond to our rapidly-changing world. This weekly newsletter explores those topics in real-time, with information and action steps on how to make progress now. 

In today’s newsletter…
  1. The (Zoom) window into ourselves from Sherry (Sherzad) Rahmatian
  2. The secret superpowers of silence from Marije Roodhof
  3. Art as desperately needed inspiration from Cole Nielsen
And as always, our illustrations from Katie Sadow.
From the Field

01 / A (Zoom) Window Into Our Authentic Selves 

From Sherry (Sherzad) Rahmatian
COVID-19 may actually improve professional culture by uniting workers. Though remote work has killed in-person closeness and communication, it has given us a unique and unprecedented view into the real (and often vulnerable) lives of our colleagues—an opportunity for empathy and connection that would not have been accessible in another time.
Why It Matters
While WFH has proven effective, the downsides of physical separation from our colleagues have changed—or as one researcher put it, 'What it means to behave professionally.’ Being apart could make us feel emotionally distant or less creative—but it could also do the opposite. Seeing the sometimes-messy, full lives of our colleagues creates new opportunities for authentic exchange, empathy for what others are going through, and even creativity. Bringing your whole self to work isn’t a new concept, and the benefits to creativity and business are well-documented by author and speaker Mike Robbins. Could this be the year we bring our realest selves to work(ing from home)?
One Thing You Can Do Right Now
Create the conditions to allow for personal moments to cultivate meaningful connection.
  • Consider introducing an ‘energy check’ at the beginning and end of meetings, where people can share about what’s happening in each other’s lives outside of the meeting context.
  • Set an example by sharing openly about what’s happening in your work setting, and when possible, keeping your background open and camera on.
  • Form interest or support groups in the company—some companies are creating parental support groups as well as Black/BIPOC groups to give space for teams to share and support each other.

02 / Shout-Out for Silence!  

From Marije Roodhof
Along with the pandemic, societies around the world were struck by a wave of silence; empty roads, quiet town squares, and a plane-less sky reduced our noise pollution significantly in 69% of public places. According to the BBC and the Guardian, less noise reduces hearing loss, blood pressure, stress, depression, and may even increase mental performance by generating new brain cells.
Why It Matters
We’ve paid little attention to the gradual increase of noise in our lives, as our cities became more crowded, our restaurants louder, and our ringtones the stressful soundtrack of life. People adapt to noisy living environments, but scientists predict that we will react adversely to the return of noise after the most drastic sound-drop ever. Beyond long-term physical and mental benefits, silence has an instant calming effect, enabling us to separate the essential from non-essential things in life. This new silence benchmark creates momentum for companies that consciously design for and with silence. 
One Thing You Can Do Right Now
Find ways to create more silence in everyday experiences and products.
  • Reduce noise by investing in sound-canceling product materials and mechanisms - from quietly zooming electric toothbrushes to silent electric airplanes with a less disturbing toilet flush.
  • Orchestrate silence within the user experiences. (e.g. Google balances their sound design with silence to compose a well-tempered, sensory UX.)
  • Designate a place, time, and opportunity for silence in cities, hotels, parks, offices and even at home. (e.g. some transit organizations like the Dutch Railway company have introduced Quiet Zones in their trains for their passengers to rest, work or sleep undisturbed.)

03 / Art of the Revolution  

From Cole Nielsen
Last week, the NYC Department of Cultural Affairs announced its 2020 Public Artists in Residence cohort. In this moment of enormous cultural upheaval, the city is both asking and empowering artists to be actively engaged in imagining and implementing “creative solutions” to the civic challenges at hand.  
Why It Matters
Sociologist, poet, and writer, Dr. Eve Ewing said that, ‘the role of the artist is to create the symbols and stories of the revolution before its triumph so that we know what we’re fighting for.’ In these difficult times, we need to remember what progress can look and feel like. It’s inspiring to see New York City invest in artists because they do the thankless work of showing us our better sides and, with a platform, can help us all envision a better way forward. 
One Thing You Can Do Right Now
Invest in the power of art—for progress, catharsis, and inspiration—in your company culture. 
With galleries, venues, productions and more largely brought to a halt, 2020 has been an exceptionally challenging time to be an artist. And yet, their influence has never been more needed. While business budgets contract and expand, consider the impact of prioritizing supporting the art community: highlighting the power of artists to inspire, uplift, and energize the communities and teams we are a part of. For example, if your company is in the process of interrogating its DEI policies, bring in a poet to translate the emotional poignancy of ‘otherness’ to help move team members to better understand how their actions impact those around them. Or contract artists on challenging projects that need fresh perspectives. 

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