This project is exploring whether tools such as MyAnalytics can have an impact on wellbeing at work. The premise behind the design of the project is that through being presented with data about how they spend their time and given the opportunity to reflect on whether the reality is aligned with their needs and intentions, workers may feel able to have more control over the way they work.
Doing so may help workers establish healthy boundaries in a range of areas of their work life – for example, giving themselves permission to protect time to focus on specific tasks, not accepting back-to-back meetings, taking appropriate breaks to maximise their productivity, and saying no to additional workload when they are already at maximum capacity. Or, conversely, recognising where there may be pockets of inefficiency in the ways they work thus creating increased capacity.
When designing this project, an initial concern for our team at the University of Hull was that this intervention could place too much focus on individuals to manage stress, and not on organisational responsibility to prevent it. Our approach to work-related stress management and wellbeing is underpinned by the view that employers have a duty of care to understand, control and mitigate root causes of stress at work, not just treat the symptoms. Therefore, interventions that place the onus on individuals to cope better with stress can feed into a narrative around wellbeing at work that fails to recognise the ultimate responsibility of employers to tackle root causes of stress at an organisational level. However, as we worked with Microsoft and the partner local authorities, we began to understand the possibilities for MyAnalytics as a proactive and preventative tool that can address work design.
Asking a small number of individuals to use this tool within an organisation that has an unhealthy culture and approach to work-related stress would indeed place an emphasis on employee responsibility within an unhealthy system. However, if used in teams or organisations who seek to get the best out of their people by preparing them for optimal performance at work, there is likely to be a recognition of the need for healthy boundaries to facilitate wellbeing and productivity.
Tools such as MyAnalytics have the potential to help workers recognise where those boundaries should be. It provides individuals with data about their individual working practices, and its functionalities currently rely on individuals to make their own judgements about what to do with that information. However, if rolled out within an organisation that is committed to a cultural shift towards healthy working, it gives individuals permission to advocate for their own needs to protect their health and wellbeing at work. This, in turn, is likely to contribute to the promotion of an organisational culture that values healthy working practices.
As part of a holistic package of wellbeing offerings that also includes preventative approaches such as risk assessments and mitigation strategies, and support with symptoms such as Mental Health First Aid and Counselling, tools like MyAnalytics have the potential to make a meaningful contribution to the wellbeing landscape. By gently nudging employees towards healthy attitudes and behaviours around work, it may transform organisational culture and increase productivity in ways that enhance the sustainability of the workforce. The Future Work Design team is immensely excited about what MyAnalytics and similar tools may offer in the coming years.