• Ali H.

Advancing data in our psychologically supportive workplaces.

For many of us, the arrival at the office means a place designed to work over the day – it's rare we give the environment much thought unless it stops us from working. Yet, there is a new angle in our approach to the design and operation of our workspaces, and that's the advancement of spaces that are psychologically supportive to our people.

In our quest to protect resources and optimise positive mental health, our spaces should be more than places of work. We should be able to recognise and tell the story of how our buildings are actively responsive to our human needs and goals. For example, in our modern ways of working, we know work-related stress is a problem for many. So we would create spaces to give people an opportunity to psychologically detach and lower their sympathetic activation. We should then be able to evidence this interaction for people.

Furthermore, we understand that individual people profiles and preferences play a part in this – people will interact with their environment and perceive patterns of stressors differently. Therefore, we need to understand the stressors, situations, and effects (short and long) based on people's profiles. Ultimately this might establish new ways of us working; for example, we might find that we design-in people profile working locations configured to specific profile needs.

Ultimately, it needs to be measurable if we want to get anywhere close to building level intervention and population health improvement. Whilst the interactions have been researched, and we are seeing a growing evidence base, most building data points aren't being collected with the view of health improvement at the employee level. If you can't measure it, you can't improve it.

Firstly, for us to evaluate the why and how effectively, we need to understand what we are measuring and for what reasons. In the context of workplace wellbeing, a shift from building KPIs to HPIs (Health Performance Indicators) allows us to narrow down on what needs to be measured in relation to improving people's quality of life through work. In doing so, we move away from a concept of building metrics into business translatable language; we're still talking about air quality, thermals, and lighting, but it's more obtainable to the business, and it tells them how our spaces improve our people's health. Secondly, workplace employee wellbeing/experience is a construct that isn't directly measurable. In that sense, we could consider it a latent variable - it's not directly observable; rather it is inferred from other variables that are observable data. This gives us the opportunity to explore the interactions of our available data points.

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