We are a multi-disciplinary team of academics who are linked by our interest in the ‘Digital Society’ and ‘Data’ and a desire to make a multi-disciplinary contribution to advancing knowledge and practice in this area.
The seminar series was funded by the ESRC (Nov 2015-Oct 2017) and aimed to critically explore the possibilities of Big Data in assessing health and wellbeing risks within organisations and for advancing knowledge on health and wellbeing prediction. It explored the potential to asses the health and well-being of staff (and their organization more generally) via the vast amounts of data that are collected on their IT use. Organisations are required legally to record data relevant to employee health including working hours, absence and accidents, but modern digital devices capture enormous amounts of information which may also provide insights to employee wellbeing. Analysing patterns across a range of datasets to find indicators of health and wellbeing will involve analysis of different systems and different databases, some of which will be structured (like HR systems) and others not. Examples include log-in and log-off times, employee input data, network traffic data, web access, phone calls, room sensor data and emails and much more. This data might provide indicators relating to issues such as: Do employees routinely log in after work hours? How many hours a day are they logged in for? Do they take a break/holiday from logging in or are they connected to their organization 52 weeks per year? Do they spend too long at the computer screen? Such data when combined could provide additional insights to employee health and wellbeing beyond other indices of wellbeing such as sickness absence rates or employee satisfaction surveys. This constitutes ‘Big Data’ because it is large-scale (terabytes or larger) complex and cannot reasonably be managed by traditional data management or analytical tools. The seminar series thus primarily focused on IT working practices (particularly amongst knowledge workers) and explored this via current knowledge on health and wellbeing, the employee perspective and also the legal and ethical aspects.
The seminar series therefore took a multi-disciplinary, and critical perspective to consider the psychological, social, technical and legal aspects of this area. it explored a range of issues related to IT use and well-being as well as the difficulties of assessing wellbeing in this way, with a view to developing ideas for future research and practice. The seminars involved 4-5 speakers and provided plenty of opportunity for discussion. The seminars involved academics from work psychology, management, information science, law and sociology, as well as organisational representatives.
To read a summary of the series’ findings, please Click here.
This seminar series is also supported by the Digital Society Network at the University of Sheffield