A Toolkit for Living in a New Building: a visual post-occupancy evaluation of Bristol Business School

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How does a new university building change the behaviours of the people who work and study there? Today marks the launch of the report A toolkit for living in a new building: A visual post-occupancy evaluation of Bristol Business School’, the culmination of a ground-breaking two-year collaborative study between architect, Stride Treglown, construction partner, ISG and researchers from the University of the West of England. Using participant photography, Instagram and image-led discussion groups as a data generating methodology, the report details the value of taking a sensory approach to the post-occupancy evaluation (POE) of new buildings.

Going way beyond more usual ‘technical-functional’ analyses of how new buildings operate, our report provides an in-depth, user-centred account of how the transparent, collaborative, flexible and open building affects working and studying practices. It ends with a set of future-focused recommendations and value propositions for stakeholders involved in commissioning new university accommodation.  Using innovative visual methods including Instagram, participant-led and participant-directed photography, alongside image-led discussion groups, data was collected over a full year cycle with over 250 participants contributing to the study; 30% staff, 60% students and 10% visitors. Building users were asked to submit photographs and captions of their spatial experiences in the building that addressed two questions:

How do you feel about the building?

How are you using the building?

Only 10% of our findings replicate areas covered by traditional POE, suggesting there is great utility in employing more qualitative approaches to deep dive into the value offered by contemporary campus architecture. Instead, social and psychological topics including health and wellbeing, the rhythms of food, drink and sensory experiences, reflections on identity and belonging, unexpected delights and the ‘wow’ of the building set against the reality of working in transparent and visible ways are presented alongside captivating images from the project.

Given the current Covid-19 crisis, the Bristol Business School building is currently closed – as are most university premises – and the lessons we are learning about ourselves as we work under ‘lockdown’ conditions might have implications for how generative buildings are designed in future: e.g. blending physical presence with digital connectivity more extensively. Even though this research was completed before Covid-19, there are valuable lessons in this report. Attending to the sociability of work and study in different spaces, and the psychology of location-independent working may prove to be especially significant as we navigate through the current pandemic.

The full report can be downloaded from www.myuwebbsview.com

Home-working during COVID-19

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Harriet Shortt

Harriet Shortt is Associate Professor of Organisation Studies at The University of the West of England, Bristol. Harriet’s research focuses on organisational space, artefacts, the materiality of work, and visual methodologies. Her research has been published in journals including Human Relations, Organizational Research Methods, Management Learning, Visual Studies and the International Journal of Work, Organisation and Emotion. Harriet has led research projects in both public and private sector organisations, such as the Environment Agency, the NHS, Stride Treglown Architects, and ISG Construction. This is a guest blog from Harriet. 

We are all currently experiencing a situation we have never been in before where society has had to change and adapt beyond recognition, and one of the biggest changes we have had to make is the one associated with our work spaces. Many of us are now working at home and this has meant a complete shift in where we work and left some wondering how to cope with these changes. I have been asked to put together this blog with some thoughts and reflections for those people who have found themselves unexpectedly working from home.

Before we think about space, it’s worth thinking about work more broadly first. I have seen the use of the word ‘productivity’ floating about a lot recently. Be cautious of using this word (and this goes for employers/organisations/team leaders as well as us as individuals!). Whether it’s to ‘prove’ you are being productive at work or being productive in other ways – like taking up a new hobby or learning a language or suddenly taking up running – we need to remember we are in the middle of a pandemic and we are not out of it yet. Trying to set never-ending targets for how you are going to self-improve and working to unrealistic expectations is not good for your mental health or work – it is known as ‘toxic productivity’ and we need to recognise when this creeps into our working lives. Productivity does not look the same as it did before Covid-19, so adjust your goals, your boundaries, and your breaks from work to reflect this challenging period of time.

Let’s now turn our attention to home spaces. Our homes have now become a complex shared space. It’s an office, a gym, a place to relax and for many of us, a classroom. This can make it hard to find a ‘dedicated workspace’ that also encompasses everyone else’s needs in your household. Even for those who are used to working from home, this will be a new challenge as the routine of perhaps working at home alone will have likely changed and you’ll be sharing your ‘work’ space with others. This is going to require negotiation and open conversation about how, where and when we work with a house full of people. Be mindful that everyone’s boundaries have been broken and need to be re-established carefully.

Finally, it’s worth reminding ourselves that this is going to take time. We have all been dumped into this situation and working from home is more complicated than just finding a dedicated workspace, so don’t expect to get it right straight away. Try working in a particular space and if it doesn’t work, that’s ok – try somewhere else. Some work activities may work well in some home spaces, and others will need alternative spaces, so don’t feel you need to stick to the same place every day.

So, some thoughts on creating and thinking about our ‘new’ home-working spaces:

Free up different spaces for different tasks

This might mean adapting or re-appropriating your home spaces at different times of the day, for example, currently my dining room is a classroom by day and a family area at the weekends. I often take work calls in the kitchen or the garden so I can keep an eye on daughter, but my work that needs concentration is done is quieter spaces.

Think about your space creatively

Could you use liminal spaces (these are spaces ‘in-between’, like landings, hallways, stairways) in your house as a make-shift office, a place to take private calls, or as a place to find a few moments of quiet and reflection? I recently wrote a blog for Work Wise UK that explores this very topic and how the liminal spaces of our homes can provide some important and unexpected uses whilst we’re working at home during this crisis.

‘Own’ your space

Wherever you do choose to work from, make sure you make it yours, even if this is just temporary. Research shows that the more you are able to have a sense of ownership over your workspace and create a sense of identity, the more positively it will impact your sense of wellbeing and connection to your work.   

Re-claim your ‘normal’ spaces

If you are having to appropriate a ‘normal’ space (like a kitchen table) into a workspace, try to turn it back to a ‘normal’ space at the end of the day. This might help you to manage the boundaries between work and home, and with your sense of work/life balance.

Visual communication tools and ‘being on show’

For many people, technology has enabled them to make this transition to working from home easier. However, this still comes with its own problems. It has been clear since the majority of UK businesses have adopted remote working, that being ‘visible’ and ‘on show’ in our home spaces has brought many advantages and disadvantages. So, it’s worth reflecting on some of these issues as an individual or as an employer; having your camera on for meetings is a great way to connect socially with your colleagues and the backdrop of your home can be a conversation starter! Lots of people have been commenting on the backgrounds of their colleagues’ homes, the pets that accompany the meetings or even the children that might make a brief appearance. Having spoken to a lot of people about home working spaces over the past few weeks, there is a real sense that this has made us all more ‘human’. Seeing inside other people’s homes has made them more ‘real’ and people have enjoyed seeing this informal/ private side, rather than the typical traditional/formal interactions we are used to in the office. It is this that has brought people together.

Nonetheless, let’s be conscious of privacy and visibility when using these audio/visual communication tools. Others I have spoken to feel they are inviting people into their home spaces that perhaps they would not choose to. The blurring of the work/home boundary has been emphasised by our current use of technology. So, be respectful of asking colleagues to turn on their videos during meetings – there is a case of being social and connecting, but there is also a case for privacy and managing boundaries so that we keep some of the sanctuary of our homes to ourselves.

Capturing this experience in photographs

Apart from workspaces, my other area of research involves visual research to explore the everyday lives of workers. I use an approach called ‘participant-led photography’ and this includes asking people I work with in my research projects to take photographs based on a brief e.g. ‘what work spaces are important to you and why?’ and then they talk to me about their images. This method elicits rich stories from participants and gives them the opportunity to talk about what is meaningful to them at work. Over the past 8 weeks for so I have seen so many images being shared on social media that picture what its really like to work at home. Social media platforms are a rich source of data at the moment and images captured and posted by workers all over the world depict the complexities, the joys, the difficulties and the juggles of working from home. I think this could be a great opportunity for organisations and employers to do their own visual research:

  • Organisations can collect data about the complexities of employees working remotely. Ask your team to take pictures of what it’s like working at home, where are they, how are they sharing their workspaces, what do they enjoy and what are they finding difficult. This could be a creative way of engaging your team, but also getting feedback. Remote working is here to stay in some form, so the more information and data we have about how people are doing it and how they experience it, the better.
  • During the current crisis, these images could be part of weekly catch ups and individual conversations with your line manager or be part of a PDR session. Or, they could be collectively posted on a virtual team noticeboard and discussed as a group. Either way, it might help people to reflect and share, and for organisations to sense-check how their employees are coping with working from home.
  • Post Covid-19, these images could also help us learn from this experience, as part of our recovery – teams or organisations could hold an exhibition of people’s images that document what working from home looked like for them. We will, at some point, need to come together to reflect and heal from this experience and a good way to do that might be through the eyes of employees and their photographs.

If you would like more information or to get in touch please email bbec@uwe.ac.uk.

Future Impact Webinar: Supporting women in male-dominated industries

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You can now watch the recording of the latest of our Future Impact Webinars on the topic of supporting women in male-dominated industries.

In this webinar our main speaker is Stella Warren, Research Fellow at Bristol Leadership and Change Centre, who gave a detailed presentation around this topic and set the context behind the issues faced by women working in a male-dominated industry.

Our other two panellists are founding members of alta (an online mentoring platform to support women in aviation) Judith Milne, Specialist Aviation Executive and Ros Azouzi, Head of Careers at the Royal Aeronautical Society (RAeS).

The webinar gave way to some positive discussion about this subject and we were able to answer several audience questions live.

To view our previous webinars in the Future Impact Webinar series visit our website and to view the most recent webinar head to the recording here.

Case Study: Empowering women through mentoring

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Over the next few weeks we will be sharing some case studies of our academic research from across the Bristol Business School. This case study looks at Professor Sue Durbin and  Empowering women through mentoring.

Written by Jeremy Allen:

In the UK, there is a distinct lack of women in engineering roles and this is prevalent in the aerospace and aviation industries. A project led by UWE Bristol that is four years in the making is helping women to move up the career ladder and to seek support by receiving mentoring from other women in the industry. This work hopes to change the way females are perceived in male-dominated industries and aims to put an end to gender inequality in engineering.

“The UK is the country in Europe that has the least amount of women in engineering and this includes the aerospace industry, where there is a chronic shortage of females,” says project leader Professor Sue Durbin, whose research specialises in gender inequalities in employment in male dominated industries. “Through this project, we want to empower women to gain confidence by receiving non-judgemental female-to-female advice and support, thereby enabling their careers to take off.”

Called ‘alta’, the project enables professional women to access an online platform to help them link up with a suitable female mentor. Based on their answers to online questions, the website’s algorithm then matches up the mentee with the most compatible mentor.

Volunteering mentors are also required to answer questions on the platform to determine whether they have the right skills and personality to oversee someone else’s career development. As well as helping women receive career guidance, alta is beneficial for the mentors, as it helps raise their profile in the profession.

After initial contact, both parties are free to arrange when, where and how often they meet, although they are advised to meet for one to two hours every six weeks.

Under the aegis of the Royal Aeronautical Society, alta is working with Airbus, the Royal Air Force and other partners across the aerospace industry. By signing up to alta and paying a small joining fee, companies can help their female professionals receive mentoring from across the industry – not just from someone in their company.

Such assistance can help women feel valued, to assist them in getting into leadership positions, and increase female retention in the industry. It might also help them gain confidence, receive assistance when they are returning to work after a maternity break, or reduce their suffering from ‘impostor syndrome,’ whereby they feel they don’t deserve to thrive in a male-dominated workplace.

“If we take the Royal Aeronautical Society, it has 25,000 members but just 1700 are women, while in the UK only four percent of pilots are women,” says Professor Durbin. “This puts a lot of pressure on women working in the industry.”

The mentoring project comes at a time when many young women who take STEM subjects are failing to enter the engineering workforce, given the gender stereotyping that can exist in the sector. Professional women engineers also often drop out of the industry or fail to return after maternity leave. This phenomenon is sometimes referred to as a “leaky pipeline,” a metaphor used to describe the continuous loss of women in STEM as they climb the career ladder.

Prior to alta’s launch in June 2018, the team organised focus groups, interviews and a survey to decide how the scheme could help professional women in the aerospace and aviation industry. After contacting 250 women, they discovered that existing mentoring was extremely limited in the industry and often did not include women as mentors. They also discovered that women were actively seeking female mentors in senior positions.

“You can’t be who you can’t see,” says Stella Warren, who is Research Associate in the Bristol Leadership and Change Centre and also works on the project. “If you don’t have a female mentor who is a leader in the industry, it is hard to aspire to reaching that same level.”

One mentee who has received mentoring through alta says it has really helped boost her self-belief.

Case study: Eliminating Uncertainties and Improving Productivity in Mega Projects using Big Data and Artificial Intelligence

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Over the next few weeks we will be sharing some case studies of our academic research from across the Bristol Business School. This case study looks at Professor Lukumon Oyedele and the power of big data in relation to Mega Projects. 

Written by Jeremy Allen:

A series of projects at the Bristol Business School combining cutting-edge digital technologies could potentially revolutionise the way industry tackles management of Mega Projects at the bidding stage. These innovative technologies include Artificial Intelligence (AI), Big Data, Virtual Reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR).

Professor Lukumon Oyedele and his team of developers have created software that harnesses the power of big data and artificial intelligence to help companies accurately plan and execute Mega Projects (large-scale, complex ventures that typically cost hundreds of millions of pounds).

The software uses advanced analytics to predict a whole range of complex project parameters such as three-points estimates, tender summaries, cash flow, project plans, risks, innovations, opportunities, as well as health and safety incidents.

The project, whose flagship simulation tool is called Big-Data-BIM, is part of a partnership with leading UK construction contractor Balfour Beatty, to help it plan better power infrastructure projects involving the construction of overhead lines, substations and underground cabling. By using the software, the company is able to improve productivity and maximise profit margins.

“When planning a tender for a project, companies often plan for a profit of 10 to 15 percent, but on finishing the project, many struggle to make two percent profit margin,” says Professor Oyedele, who is Assistant Vice-Chancellor and Chair Professor of Enterprise and Project Management.

“The reason is that there are many unseen activities, which are hard to capture during the early design stage. Besides, the design process itself is non-deterministic. This is why when you ask two quantity surveyors how much a project is likely to cost; they often produce different figures.

“With Big-Data-BIM, we are bringing in objectivity to plan the projects and taking care of uncertainties by engaging advanced digital technologies, so that a tender estimate remains accurate until project completion, with minimal deviation from what was planned at the beginning.”

The tool taps into 20 years of Balfour Beatty’s data on power infrastructure projects and learns predictive models that inform the most optimal decisions for executing the given work. The tool informs the business development team at the beginning of the project whether it is likely to succeed or fail.

One of the functions of the software is to create a 3D visual representation of project routes to understand complexity, associated risks (like road and river crossings) and opportunities (such as shared yards and local suppliers). For this purpose, the software taps into Google Maps data and integrates data from the British Geological Survey and Ordnance Survey to discover automatically the number of roads, rivers, and rail crossings.

The tool performs extensive geospatial analysis to find out the optimal construction route and measure distances between route elements with a high degree of accuracy. “This all happens within a twinkle of an eye. Without leaving your office, you can determine the obstacles on the planned route of the cables, or whether there is a river in the way,” says Professor Oyedele.

By mining the huge datasets of health and safety incidents, the software can also determine what kind of injuries might occur on a project, and even produce a detailed analysis of the most probable body parts that could be prone to injury. This can help prepare an accurate health and safety risk assessment before the work begins.

The software provides an intuitive dashboard called “Opportunity on a page” where all predictions are visualised to facilitate data-driven insights for designers to make critical planning decisions.

As a contractor, Balfour Beatty uses the tool to enable it to submit the best bids to clients so that it can have a high chance of winning them. The software is also set to be provided for other industries carrying out linear projects. These are to include water distribution networks, and the rail, roads, as well as oil and gas sectors.

 

Case study: Healthcare manufacture brought closer to home

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Over the next few weeks we will be sharing some case studies of our academic research from across the Bristol Business School. The first case study looks at Professor Wendy Philips research on redistributed manufacturing. Written by Jeremy Allen: 

Health services around the world are under pressure to deliver affordable healthcare while addressing the needs of an aging population and deliver cost-effective, right-first-time treatments close to the point-of-need.

Fortunately, innovative manufacturing technologies such as 3D printing and advanced robotics mean that in the not-too-distant future, we may be able to make medical products in our home, or have print-on-demand personalised medicines made at the supermarket while we shop. Bespoke devices such as prosthetics and orthotics could even be ordered online and delivered to our door the next day.

Paving the way for such a future is a research network called ‘Redistributed Manufacturing in Healthcare Network’ (RiHN). Led by Professor Wendy Phillips at the University of the West of England (UWE Bristol), RiHN has been investigating the implications and challenges involved in the Redistributed Manufacturing (RDM) of customised healthcare.

RDM is defined as technology, systems and strategies that change the economics and organisation of manufacturing, particularly in relation to location and scale. It supports smaller-scale precision manufacturing, enabling more efficient use of resources, reduced environmental impact and more resilient supply chains that are less susceptible to global shocks.

“The RiHN aims to deliver a collective vision of the research needed to position the UK at the forefront of healthcare manufacturing,” says Professor Phillips.

RiHN is the first dedicated study of RDM in healthcare and the findings have been of particular value to policy-makers and funders seeking to specify action and to direct attention where it is needed.

The team includes researchers involved in manufacturing, healthcare technologies, management and human factors from the Universities of Loughborough, Cambridge, Cranfield, Nottingham, Newcastle and UWE Bristol.

Professor Phillips and her team have produced a White Paper that explores applications in promising areas of healthcare that could benefit from RDM. The UK has a strong network of pro-active research-orientated universities, especially in the fields of medical research and manufacturing engineering, and the UK is well-positioned to become a world leader in this type of manufacturing.

One practical application for this type of manufacturing is likely to be in locations where there is an acute and urgent need for medical supplies, for example during humanitarian crises, natural disasters or even in conflict zones. The first hours are critical for saving lives or reducing the chances of debilitating conditions; this new model of manufacturing could enable rapid diagnosis, production and testing in remote conditions.

As advocated by the 2017 Industrial Strategy Fund, RDM presents an opportunity to shape new industrial capabilities, attract international talent, and advance new science and manufacturing capability. It can also incentivise investments in infrastructure and exploit the potential of digital innovation. Future research and investment in RDM is likely to improve health outcomes for patients and ultimately benefit the UK economy.

 

Case study: Claiming back our data

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Over the next few weeks we will be sharing some case studies of our academic research from across the Bristol Business School. The first case study looks at Professor Glenn Parry’s research on personal data. Written by Jeremy Allen: 

In a world where we are generating more and more data using online maps, on social media and soon in our homes through the Internet of Things (IoT), Professor Glenn Parry wants to help individuals take control of their personal data.

“Our goal is a lofty one: we are trying to revolutionise the world of personal data and change global data business models from company-controlled to personal controlled data,” he says.

The information we give out on a daily basis creates a stream of personal statistics that subsequently becomes an asset for big corporations like Apple or Facebook.

Professor Parry argues that we should at least be able to retain a copy of our data and be in a position to make it work for us. By collating all our data sets in one place, he and other partners have developed the Hub of All Things (HAT). The digital platform can capture a cross-section of all our activities in cyberspace pertaining to shopping habits, photographs, travel modes etc. that can be linked to specific points in time.

“The HAT helps you manage and organise your data, combine it how you want and decide how to share it with others,” says Parry. “HAT will give you back some control of your own data, letting you decide what to share, with whom and how much detail they receive.”

Increasingly, individuals will produce more data due to the IoT, whereby our household appliances are likely to be connected to the internet.

To determine some of the data that the IoT could generate and re-enforce why it is increasingly important for us to control our own information, Professor Parry and colleagues have conducted experiments in their homes, as part of their research.

Taking bathrooms as a place where there are lots of ‘things’ that can generate data, the researchers set up humidity sensors, movement sensors in towels, motion and light sensors, and scanned shampoo bottles regularly to determine how much of its contents had been consumed.

Experiments helped indicate when we shower, for how long, how much water we consume, how often we use towels and how external factors affect all this data.

One area of Professor Parry’s ongoing research with the HAT involves examining how individuals perceive their vulnerability in cyberspace. By analysing how people perceive risk, he has been able to create a measure of this perception. “People give away quite a lot: a large group tends to underestimate the risk, while many others are aware of the risk yet embrace it,” says the academic.

He advises that there are ways to stop giving away our data and that we can therefore turn off a lot of what is broadcast out. One option is to turn off the location setting on our smartphone. Another is to be vigilant when downloading free apps, as by agreeing to terms and conditions we often open up our contacts list or divulge our location to third parties.

“Following the Cambridge Analytica revelations, people are starting to understand how data can be misused but many are still unaware of the dangers. Our research highlights that our information should be in the hands of individuals, and by working together we can create better e-business models,” says Professor Parry.

He and his colleagues are also working on other business models that could bring good to society. For instance, they are looking at how the technology behind cryptocurrencies – the Block Chain – might be used to help achieve the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals.

“The future doesn’t have to be like Blade Runner, it could be more of a utopian future where technology works with us and could perhaps even stop us polluting the seas and help us live a cleaner, healthier life,” says Professor Parry.

What’s happening in the world of research?

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Originally posted on Business Leader.

Professor Glenn Parry of Bristol Business School talks about his research on business model Innovation through the Internet of Things, and the privacy concerns it raises: 

The research Dr Alex Kharlamov and I have been doing at UWE in partnership with colleagues at other institutions has been focused on personal data.

In the first major piece we developed the Hub of All Things. This is a place where you can store all your personal data. What we developed is a personal data micro-server; a platform that allows you to store, analyse and send out data, giving individuals more control over their digital labour. My research relates to how personal data from the home might help inform business models. IoT (Internet of Things) provides an opportunity to gather direct data from the home on how we use products and services.

We gave a group of people different IoT devices and they allowed us access to their data. We analysed what resources there  are in the home and created four categories of associated ways they can be measured, which we named use visibility measures; depletion measures, consumption measures, experience measures, and interaction measures. So, if we consider a tin of beans, it is a depletion resource with a very long shelf life. The home owner may have several tins in their cupboard.

The supplier currently has no visibility of the number of tins in storage or the rate and time of consumption. With the power of the IoT and user permission, it would be possible to track this and replenish in a smart way such that when a tin is consumed another is automatically delivered. This changes the business model for the retailer and the nature of the resource moves from depletion to consumption. It also offers possibilities for more sustainable supply.

IoT data allows us to see how a resource is used. For example, does the homeowner microwave or stove heat the beans, how are they used in combination with other foods, what times of day are they consumed and by whom? Access to such detailed data reveals opportunities to create new offers and for the provider to engage in dialogue with the homeowner to improve their experience.

However, data sharing at this level raises concerns about privacy and vulnerability. Our current research is addressing this important issue.

We started researching in the domain of medical data, as we perceive this as the most sensitive data and the principles of privacy and confidentiality are paramount. With medical data, we have found that people do evaluate the risk and benefit of sharing.

However, we find that the majority of patient’s share their medical data. Some of the possible interpretations of this finding is that individuals neglect the potential risk or over-estimate the potential benefit. Another possible interpretation is that patients do not fully understand the implications of sharing and quite how many people can access it. There is more work to be done here.

In a different study, we focused on assessing perceived individual vulnerability towards sharing personal data. We find that people overestimate the likelihood of rare types of data loss and underestimate of the most common  and most likely types of data loss. When it comes to data relating to their finances (credit card or bank account details) or account access (passwords to different websites, or social media) people are rightly careful.

This was met with challenges as we found that individuals tend to be generally risk-taking, and do not feel vulnerable with regards to  their identity data, email address, affiliation, etc. Identity data can be used to masquerade as someone else and causes one of the most common and eminent threats today. .

Our latest work seeks to measure individual risk-taking and risk perception for data, and we created a psychometric scale Cyber-Domain-Specific Risk-Taking Scale (CyberDOSPERT). Institutions tend to judge and model data loss from a financial point of view. Our findings show this differs from consumers who do not assess their information privacy from a financial point of view, but rather from an ethical standpoint.

The work suggests modelling risk associated with consumer data loss purely on financial terms is wrong and models needs to factor in the ethical judgements made by the consumer in the case of data breach.