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A personalized healthy workplace

  • Healthy Workplace

Justin Timmer is our In-House Researcher. Contact him via

In February 2017, seven partners signed a contract to collaborate on a project called the Healthy Workplace. Measuremen, Menzis, Health2Work, ENGIE, Planon, and Hanzehogeschool Groningen are dedicated to make the regular workplace a healthy workplace. Health is of primary importance for both the employee and employer. Employees want to be healthy, feel energised and reach old age. While every organisation wishes for the benefits of energised and healthy employees by increased engagement and less absenteeism. Personalized healthy workplace for better health and awareness of self behaviour.

Research has shown that with every hour of sitting (on top of 7 hours), the risk of early mortality increases by 5%. This is a striking statistic that makes sitting almost as dangerous as smoking. Secondly, environmental influences such as CO2, temperature and humidity do affect every employee’s productivity, comfort, health, and stress level. However, many employees and employers aren’t aware of these risks. I think these are the first findings coming from our Healthy Workplace collaboration.

We at Measuremen believe that awareness is the first step to (sustainable) health behaviour. To change behaviour, one must know how many hours he sits, walks, and stands during his workday, and must be able to compare this with the means. With technology, this has become much easier. Wearable technology like Fitbits and other devices can track you and your environment every minute and can show exactly how many steps you take, the minutes you sit, and the temperature of your environment.

In this blog: Justin Timmer, a researcher at the Hanzehogeschool in Groningen, the Netherlands gives us critical data and insights on a personalized healthy workplace, its benefits and how every individual can improve their health with the help of technology.

A personal analysis with personal data

I am a Quantified Self’er who tracks his own behaviour quite thoroughly using data. With the use of data, I analyze my own behaviour to become aware of myself. (published on my own website). A human mind is smart, but I’ve learned that I am very bad at remembering what I did last week, last month, or even last year. Therefore, additional data really increases my personal insights. Tools like wearables and apps help me to tell me objectively how I am doing, where I can get quick wins, and can stimulate me to achieve them. With the use of my personal data, I will show you how my data helped me to understand my workplace health behaviour better. Using my Fitbit Charge 2 I have been tracking my physical activity over the last 6 months. Additionally, I have been tracking various data about my workplaces through an app. A personalized healthy workplace with the use of apps is possible.

I looked at my steps over the past six months and I seem to hit my 10.000 steps goal quite often, but not all the time. My first reaction to this graph would be; “Justin move just a little more to hit that goal!”. However, a more detailed analysis might give me more tailored feedback. That could help me more.

Quick Wins

I used the data that I track with my app to get a more detailed analysis. One of the things I track in the app is, where I am working each day. These workplaces are: at home, at Zernikeplein 11 (the Living Lab), at Wiebenga (another work spot), a combination of multiple workplaces, or at other places (mostly when travelling somewhere while working). I plotted the data and found an interesting result (see the graph below). In most workplaces, I reach about 10.000 steps. However, when I am at home I walk only about 6000 steps which are 40% steps less. There is a lot to gain there!

Of course, in hindsight, I know that I am walking less when I am at home. I hardly have to walk far to the toilet, break-rooms and don’t need to walk to meet colleagues. This data prompts me to reflect on my own behaviour and to see the (exact) massive effects of working at home on health behaviour.

Using this data it is easier to find personal advice to get easy wins. I am walking all right when working at my workplace, but I can gain a lot if I would walk more when being at home. Using data, it is (easily) possible to give tailored advice with easy actions that will make employees more active and more aware of their own behaviour.

Combining more data

This personal analysis was only using steps and workplace data, but imagine if we would use more data to give employees tailored advice. If we combine environment data (like CO2, type of desk and temperature), and personal data (like focus, stress, heart rate, etc.), we could have much more detailed information that can help the employee to find his own quick wins.

Experiment and personalise

With the use of data, we can advise employees what to do during their workday to increase their steps, focus, or reduce sitting time and stress. However, usually, every workstation is similar within a workplace. The temperature, the noise, the chairs, and the desks are often the same in every workplace. The employee has nothing to choose from. But we know that the demands of every employee are different. Therefore, within the Healthy Workplace space, we want to provide every employee with the opportunity to experiment with their workstations and work environment. We are incorporating persuasive furniture, for example, sit/ stand desks, wobbly chairs, and other equipment that differ between workstations. An employee can choose for himself what to choose. Secondly, we want to personalize workplaces for every employee. For example; we know that personal comfort temperatures differ quite largely between persons. Personalized heated chairs have a heating system in the seat and/or back of the chair that employees can adjust by their own desire. If we provide these chairs, the employees can do the rest of the personalization. Plus, personal heated chairs will reduce energy costs because the whole work environment doesn’t need to be heated.

All together personalized healthy workplace

We are just getting started with our Healthy Workplace collaboration. We are very motivated because there is a lot to gain. Awareness of the dangers of prolonged sitting is one. Gathering data to give employees personal advice is second. Lastly, by providing employees with the opportunity to experiment and personalize their workstations we can increase their health, increase company engagement and reduce high costs due to absenteeism. The personalized healthy workplace offers many gains for your business.

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