Resting Workface is a Thing. Fix it in 2018.

It’s happening, actually it just did.

Your body and face are in default mode. It’s that expressionless but slightly “step off!” look that keeps people far far away from you at work. Worst part — you don’t even know it.

In short, Resting Workface is bad Social UI that radiates to others around you.

What constitutes good Social UI and why do I care?

Good Social UI shares many of the traits of thoughtful App Design:

1 — Carefully Consider your Typeface

We’ve all heard of IQ (think Mensa people), then came EI (Emotional Intelligence). But AQ (Approach-ability Quotient) is different and seriously important. In includes your composite visual and experiential traits that create Accessibility.

The simplest way to influence this for the better is to smile, laugh, be happy, curious, interested, excited, motivated, and inspired more. Don’t be fake, just flow-state your happy. When you heighten self awareness for AQ, it is easier to manage “resting workface.” This is vital for individuals in leadership roles as it is typically 10X scarier for reports and passers-by to randomly strike-up conversation.

Without self intervention, an impenetrable force-field surrounds you and kills creative access.

2 — Use Color and Contrast Properly

We cloak ourselves everyday in the creative innovation potential of others.

The way we dress is important. You want to be professional, but it need not stop there. Think bigger. Dress with intention to emote warmth and approach-ability.

One way you can do this is by intentionally choosing to dress from a pallet of color emotion. For example, blue, green and light purple have the ability to calm and soothe. In fact the color green is said to spark creativity in a study published in the Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin. “Participants who saw green came up with more interesting, imaginative answers.” We all want that!

Image Credit: Classic Fit Khakis
The only line that Tyler Durden got wrong in Fight Club, is that you actually Are your Khakis.
Unfortunately — everyone around you is too.

3 — Know your Users

Show personal interest through authenticity and action. Learn all you can about those you work with, stakeholders and sponsor users. This will improve your Social UI based on learned psychographics and help gain access and influence more at the human than reporting level.

When working with users, know that All elements of your being (IE behavior and dynamic persona) are a vector possessing both magnitude and direction for impact. Therefore check your posture, tone of voice, spacial positioning in a meeting and be aware of the people or cohort you roll with. These steps ensure empathy grounding.

4 — Set UI Expectations through Visual Queues

Be explicitly visual whenever possible to help emote who you are, which facilitates connections.

Have you ever read the default “Best Regards, Cordially, and Sincerely” closing at the end of an e-mail? They are not sincere and do not facilitate authentic relationships.

Why not close with a Visual Empathy Imprint (*VEI) instead?

Make sure you use pictures that tell the personal story of you, and not in workface mode.


Other options for visual queues within traditional work environments include designing your individual area for access. Passers-by look for visual clues that you are inviting conversation. Why not have a guest chair ready and waiting? You can even create added permission by posting a chair sticky that proclaims “ideation wanted!”

Other options include conversation provoking pictures (image of Mr Whiskers), and social props on your desk to elevate psychological safety. Not all informal interaction is productive, but it increases the probability for generative events.

Lastly, be sure to position work spaces for meaningful collisions during daily migration patterns. This may not be available in all work spaces, but experiment and optimize. The goal is to create engineered serendipity among Varied groups. Try and get between agnostic operations stations, IE the Water Cooler, Lav and similar.

5 — Use Appropriate Design Language

😃 Apply emoting instruments whenever possible, such as emojis. Emojis are the only true Universal Intuitive Language (*UIE). Emotional proxies enable us to better express tone of voice and virtual body language, thus filling in emotional cues — asserts Vyvyan Evants from an August 2017, New York Post article.

Try and write in the same vernacular as you speak by using Human as a First Language. A good test to see if you hit the mark is to read an e-mail out loud before sending. If the intended recipient would likely run away weirded out, consider using more Real words and less highly Processed ones.

Other areas ripe for expressing empathy and applying culture code or code switching is with phone messages, out-of-office notifications, profile detail, and Slack conversation. Use warm vernacular and include words that show personal interest, engagement, mindfulness and presence. These efforts create trust and early relationship formation (emotional prebiotic). In today's workplace, it’s common to work almost entirely among a 1D team, so Empath Mods are necessary.

When we optimize Social UI, we create nodes for organizational innovation that pervade ecosystems, similar to the structure of the internet. Our personal connections become the building block of strings and chains that ultimately create an Innovation Network.

⬆️ Social UI = ⬆️ Connections = ⬆️ Innovation (it’s science)

Image: Visualization of the network structure of the Internet by Hal Burch and Bill Cheswick.

OK, I care about Social UI now — any final tips?

Yes. Each achieved level of Social UI mastery is rewarded with quantum improvements in teaming and innovation. Invest in Social UI to be better at work and win at life.

|*I just made this acronym up|

Parting Items

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About the artist [Resting Workface Banner]:

My 10 Year old daughter Hannah prototyping.