Reconnect with working life

Reconnect with working life

Back in January 2015 we designed a DIY ethnography kit as part of the tools Fieldwork uses with its clients. We’ve now produced hundreds of these kits and they’ve been used in multiple companies to help employees get to know their own work and company in a way they hadn’t done before.

The DIY Ethnography Kit in use at Capital One

The DIY Ethnography Kit in use at Capital One

As a company we are driven by a core purpose, to humanise work for more than the lucky few. To do that, we need to learn more about how humans feel at work. We believe Fieldwork is helping with this, but we want to do more to spread our ideas as far and wide as possible.

The first small step is offering our DIY Ethnography kit as a digital tool anyone can use, followed by a digital version of our DIY Exhibition Workshop kit. These tools are aimed at anyone interested in humans at work, but more specifically, HR managers, leadership teams, well being practitioners and internal comms teams.

Capturing stories about work

This DIY ethnography kit will help you notice things that may have been hidden in plain sight for a long time in your work and workplace. You can use it to document your own working life or someone else, with their permission of course.

Working Artefacts   

Working Artefacts


We want you to use it to unearth the beliefs, behaviors, rituals and values where you work. It will help you bridge the gap between what you think is happening, and what is really happening. The picture that emerges will help you with design, culture, leadership, innovation, recruitment and other challenges you might be facing right now.

Hidden in plain sight

Hidden in plain sight

When we dig deep enough, behaviour that might at first seem arbitrary, surprising, or idiosyncratic usually has an insightful explanation.
— Jane Fulton Suri — Ideo
Fieldwork DIY Kits — Photograph by  David Charbit

Fieldwork DIY Kits — Photograph by David Charbit

Getting Started

To get started you are going to need 5 things:

  • A short amount of time, maybe 15 minutes
  • Digital camera
  • Notebook and pen
  • This guide

Digital Camera

If you have an iPhone, the best app we’ve used is called DSPO, you can download it here:

DSPO enables you to create a time limited camera on your iPhone (we suggest 7 days), add captions to each photograph you take, and at the end of the time period, download all the photographs and captions together.

But, any camera will do. we suggest limiting yourself to 30 or so photographs to keep the reviewing manageable and to keep yourself focused on what to capture. The reason we use film cameras in our kits is to stop people immediately reviewing, editing or maybe even deleting photographs they have taken. We strongly suggest not reviewing your photographs until the end of the documenting process.


Notebook and pen

We suggest something you can keep with you at all times. We like pen and paper, but feel free to use a notepad or audio recorder on your phone.

This guide

You can choose to refer to this guide on your mobile, but we’ve found it makes life much easier if you print out this handy guide and stick it in your notebook. Download the guide

Working life at BDG

Working life at BDG

At Fieldwork we believe that to really see the invisible and automatic in working life takes a different kind of looking. Over the next week we want you to spend some time photographing your working life. Capturing the story is more important than a perfect photo — the important thing is that this process helps you observe, explore and tell the story of your working life in your own way.

We’ve included a number of prompts below to help you. Feel free to take the photographs in any order, but keep a note of which photograph relates to which prompt and notes. You can also add to the prompts if there is something in particular you need to photograph to tell your story.

You now have everything you need to start documenting working life. Set aside some time each day to work through the following prompts. As you take each photograph you may find it insightful to note down a couple of things:

  1. What was in front of your eyes when you took this photo?
  2. How were you feeling when you took this photo?
  3. Why did you take this photo?


  1. The first thing you do when you arrive at work
  2. A bookshelf in the workplace
  3. Breaktime
  4. An example of the company caring about people
  5. Favourite place in the workplace
  6. Something that’s broken
  7. Something that’s brilliant
  8. Your number one attraction if you were a tour guide
  9. Where you do your best work
  10. An example of flourishing leadership — in any way or interpretation
  11. The reason you work here
  12. What do rules look like here?
  13. An example of “the way we do things around here”
  14. What’s outside the office?
  15. A sign that’s useful
  16. A sign that gets ignored
  17. If your company has layers, photograph something that represents the bottom layer
  18. If your company has layers, photograph something that represents the top layer
  19. Lunchtime
  20. The person you go to for help
  21. The person you trust the most
  22. People communicating
  23. Something that represents your current job or the last project you were involved in
  24. Something you feel only you can see
  25. Something that represents a major disaster
  26. What gets in the way of your job
  27. Photograph a specific example of a typical behaviour
  28. Something that makes you feel good
  29. Something you feel you should be doing more of
  30. Something that inspires you

You already will have taken some notes about each photograph, but whilst the process is fresh in your mind, write a little about how it felt to document your working life. Did anything surprise, excite, upset or worry you? Write down any initial learnings from this exercise. If you are documenting someone else's working life, ask them these same questions.

What Next

This section contains everything you need to help you explore what your DIY Fieldwork kit assignments may have unearthed. You are going to create a mini exhibition that tells the story of your working life. You can do it alone, but we’ve found it really useful to get together with a friend or colleague to talk through your story with.

Picking a place

Your exhibition can be displayed anywhere, on a large wall, on a tabletop or on the floor. The only stipulation is that wherever it is, it remains undisturbed and on show for a few weeks. We suggest picking a space you will walk past and look at over the next few weeks, this will give you more opportunity to interact with the findings.

Time and day

You will need around 2 hours to create your exhibition. It’s important that you can focus during that time so we strongly suggest a time when there are no big project deadlines, client work or other things that may take your mind away from the task at hand. We also suggest picking a time when you feel full of energy.

What you’ll need

Around 2 hours of time

Your DIY Fieldwork Kit Photographs printed no smaller than 5x7”

Your DIY Fieldwork Kit notes

A stack of post it notes


Bluetac or way to stick photographs on the wall

A notepad and pen

Creating your exhibition

Start by reviewing each photograph and it’s associated notes. Stick it up on the wall with a post it that summarises the most important feelings and thoughts about this photograph. If you are working with someone else, talk through why you took this photograph and note down any important ideas that come from these discussions.

Repeat this with each of the photographs. You might want to group certain photographs together to tell a particular story, or you can just organise them randomly. Most people find the photographs fall into some kind of order.

When you’ve placed each photograph on the wall, look to see if there are any patterns or obvious themes. Note these down and rearrange photographs if you need to. If there are themes, you might want to add some post it note headings to your exhibition.

Over the years of using these kinds of techniques we’ve found many people have found it useful to end with writing down any practical or physical actions that might need to happen. These may not be immediately obvious, which is why we suggest leaving the exhibition on your wall for a few weeks and keeping your notebook handy.

After a few weeks, review your exhibition and notes. Have you had any other thoughts that you need to reflect on or do something with? Before you start taking your photographs down, take a photograph of the your ethnographic study of working life.

We’d love to hear how you used these instructions and what happened. Send us an email to let us know how you got on, or to ask us a question.

Fieldwork bridges the gaps between humans at work. Our work enables companies to work on strategy with clarity and focus, saving time and money whilst really supporting the humans in the workplace. We give companies a clear and objective picture that helps with leadership, internal comms, recruitment, innovation, well-being, induction and the broader short and long term strategy.

Get in touch —

Perspective Shift - Tricia Wang

Perspective Shift - Tricia Wang

Something About Work

Something About Work