Jessica Sieff | February 15, 2018
Mobile devices help individuals monitor various aspects of their health and wellness, from heart rate to nutrition to sleep. Now researchers hope to find out if mobile sensor technology can also help individuals improve effectiveness at work.
Researchers at the University of Notre Dame are conducting an extensive $7.9 million, 21-month study focused on working professionals in cognitively demanding positions, such as engineers, programmers and managers in high-stress occupations. The Intelligence Advanced Research Projects Activity (IARPA) is funding the study.
“Survey assessments and qualitative observations made by researchers and supervisors have long been the way to address the question of what factors underlie outstanding performance in the workplace,” said Aaron Striegel, associate professor at Notre Dame’s Wireless Institute and leader of the study. “Using mobile sensor technology in conjunction with environmental sensors, we can now uncover in a more objective fashion basic differences that may have gone unnoticed in the way people approach their day-to-day activities in the workplace.”
Even Stephen R. Covey, the best-selling author of “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People,” relied on observations filtered by his intuition and judgment to come up with a compelling list of behaviors, Striegel said.
During the study, 750 participants will wear an activity tracker that is paired with a smartphone app to gauge biomarkers like heart rate, sleep, physical activity and stress, as well as daily patterns — things people normally track for their own personal health. All of these factors contribute to overall well-being and workplace performance. Passive sensors will also collect information about the workplace, such as ambient noise and light levels, to contextualize participant activity. Research began in June 2017 and will continue through May 2019.
The team at Notre Dame, along with researchers at Carnegie Mellon University, Dartmouth College, Georgia Institute of Technology, Ohio State University, University of California Irvine, University of Colorado-Boulder, University of Washington and the University of Texas, will analyze de-identified sensor data addressing activity and behavior within the context of the workplace.