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August 10, 2017

Let employees create their own favorite workplace with smart software

Did you know that a chameleon communicates through its skin color? Most people think these creatures have a huge ability to adapt. But in fact the opposite is the case: a chameleon’s color actually reflects its mood. A brightly colored chameleon is quite stressed, and a black one is irritable. This communication is always accurate; if a mood changes, the skin color can change within 20 seconds. What if you had continuous insight into the mood of your staff?

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 One thing is certain: if you knew how your staff felt, creating the ideal workplace would be a whole lot easier. Unfortunately, it’s not that easy to read human moods and needs from their physical appearance alone. In fact, you’re often not even aware of your own needs yourself. And when it comes to the ideal workplace, things are even trickier: here, our needs and preferences are changing throughout the day. For instance, if you’re reading a complicated report, you want a calm environment, where for routine tasks it’s actually the activity around you that you may feel is pleasant. To gain a better understanding of these changing preferences, environments, and employee health, several Dutch organizations launched a pilot project, including Hanzehogeschool Groningen, ENGIE, Health2Work, Measuremen, Menzis, and Planon: Healthy Workplace.

Research into a range of factors

Various office environment factors were measured during this pilot, including noise levels, temperature, humidity, and the carbon dioxide emissions in an area. Employees are generally not aware of these factors, although they do certainly have a significant effect on their well-being. For example, in an area with high carbon dioxide emissions staff may feel drowsy and may have greater difficulty concentrating. That’s why the research also uses questionnaires to chart the mood of employees. For example, possible links become apparent between external factors and employee well-being. By wearing a Fitbit (a type of activity tracker watch), staff also gain insight into their physical reactions, such as heartbeat and calorie consumption.

Digital dashboard

Ultimately, all the data from the environment is translated into a digital map. Not only does the building manager gain insight into the availability of spaces, but also into the various environmental factors in each space. This information is processed in a digital dashboard, which also can be consulted by staff. In the near future, employees will also be able to use this system to discover what type of workplace suits them best for a specific need at a specific time. It will be mainly up to them to make the connections between the measurements and their well-being. It’s only when employees become aware of this themselves that they will discover which factors are their own determinants.

This way the employees themselves can give form to their own needs, and the organization will reap the fruits of this. Among these will be higher employee satisfaction with their working environment and increased productivity.

This is how ING achieved a 200-million-euro sales growth in the relevant business unit with its employee well-being program. Just as with the Healthy Workplace, the focus of this program is on recognizing and measuring the emotions and health of employees.

So would you like to be able to measure the emotions and health of your colleagues? Until we can tell how people are feeling by the color of their outfits, think about ways smart software can improve the employee experience at your organization.

Geert-Jan Blom
Business Consultant Planon Netherlands