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.

Alta case study: the importance of mentoring platforms

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Due to Covid-19, we are all facing uncertainty and change in our personal and professional lives. It is more important than ever to stay in touch with people in your professional circle and get support from mentorship programmes. We recently spoke with Susan Durbin and Stella Warren who are founding members of the alta mentoring scheme, a bespoke industry-wide mentoring programme designed for women/by women, in the aviation and aerospace industry, and also Rosalind Azouzi who is a key member of the alta Steering Committee, also offering administrative support for alta, on behalf of the Society. They have answered our questions about the platform, the importance of having a mentor and their advice in these unprecedented times.

Susan Durbin is Professor of Employment Studies/Human Resource Management, at Bristol Business School, UWE Bristol. She specialises in researching women’s employment in male dominated areas. She has published her work in a number of leading academic journals and is the author of, Women Who Succeed: strangers in Paradise? (2015) published by Palgrave Macmillan. Susan works with organisations in the public, private and not-for-profit sectors, to improve gender equality and support for women. She is also an active member of the Bristol Women’s Commission Women in Business Task Group, a Trustee with Fair Play South West, the gender equality network, and a member of the Women in Aviation and Aerospace Women’s Committee at the Royal Aeronautical Society. She is a Chartered member of the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development.

Stella Warren is a Research Fellow in the Bristol Leadership and Change Centre with a background in applied social research. She supports a wide range of research project teams within Bristol Business School and also teaches research methods at both undergraduate and postgraduate level. Her expertise includes social marketing and the understanding of psychological pathways for behaviour change in health; gender and inequality in organisations; the gender pay gap; and women working in male-dominated industries. She is a member of the British and European Sociological Association and on the board of the Research Network ‘Gender Relations, Labour Markets and the Welfare State (RN14).

Rosalind Azouzi is Head of Skills and Careers at the Royal Aeronautical Society. Rosalind supports the talent pipeline into the industry, from outreach programs for school children, to careers advice and support for early career professionals. Rosalind has a remit over the wider skills agenda, with a focus on diversity and inclusion. She sits on a number of committees and groups, including the Women in Aviation and Aerospace Committee, The Women in Aviation and Aerospace Charter and the Aerospace Growth Partnership.

What is the alta mentoring scheme?

Launched on International Women’s Day (8th March) in 2019, the alta mentoring platform is the first scheme of its kind operating in the global aviation and aerospace industry. It is the result of a one year, ESRC-funded Knowledge Exchange project and the matched financial and in-kind contributions from the industry partners (The Royal Aeronautical Society, Airbus and the Royal Air Force). The year-long project involved research led by Professor Susan Durbin and Stella Warren (UWE Bristol) and Dr Ana Lopes (Newcastle University) to design and launch a mentoring scheme designed, ‘for women/by women’. The aim was to provide a mentoring scheme for professional women across the industry, based upon what women wanted from mentoring with an industry wide mentoring platform, to provide career and social support and build a community of women across the industry.

In practical terms, any professional women in the industry wishing to join alta, registers to join with the Royal Aeronautical Society and the request is moderated by RAeS staff. Once the applicant is accepted, they will receive an email and asked to sign in (creating a password) and complete a series of matching questions. The in-built algorithm sorts through the mentee’s answers to these questions and comes up with the top three mentor matches (mentors also complete the same set of matching questions). The mentee then decides which mentor to approach and makes a request through the system. Once the mentee and mentor are matched, they decide how and when to meet. Alta is a safe and secure environment, through which communications and meeting dates can be organised. There are supporting materials, such as an alta handbook, videos and mentor/mentee training.

What are the benefits of having an online mentor/what does online mentorship usually involve?

There are a number of benefits to having a mentor, especially for women who work in male dominated environments, such as the aviation and aerospace sector. The sector has a skills shortage, which could be partly addressed through the recruitment and retention of more women (women comprise just 4% of pilots and 10% of engineers in this industry, with very few occupying senior leadership positions). Mentoring can therefore be a key retention tool as women who have mentors can feel a sense of belonging, feel more valued, gain the support they need to progress their careers and make use of a ‘safe space’ where they can talk to a trusted mentor, about personal and work related challenges. Despite these benefits of mentoring, it is a rare resource for many women in male dominated sectors, which alta was designed to address.

On-line mentoring platforms, such as alta, have several advantages in comparison to face-to-face mentoring, including the exchange of knowledge, development of individual capabilities and sharing of identification with the mentor’s expertise. There is a body of academic research that highlights the benefits of on-line mentoring platforms. These include online mentoring transcending organisational and geographical boundaries, making it widely accessible and a benefit to under-represented groups; increased interaction between mentors and mentees; easier access to information; and feeling supported. It is also important to note, however, that online communication can be more impersonal and if mentoring is provided solely online, the support provided by the mentor can be less useful. This makes blended mentoring schemes that combine face-to-face and online facilities, such as alta, ideal.

Online women’s spaces can be less of a challenge as they offer a ‘virtual’ and convenient means through which women can connect and support one another. They can help address marginalisation, isolation and exclusion and ensure that they are comfortable expressing their needs in a ‘woman to woman’ environment. They can also be a means by which to challenge the male dominance of workplaces.

Given the current situation with many people working from home due to Coronavirus, how can a mentor best be utilised?

The alta mentoring platform offers mentors and mentees the opportunity to connect via the platform and to join the alta ‘community’, thereafter leaving mentors and mentees free to choose how they conduct their mentoring, e.g. face-to-face or virtually.  Alta members are, in this time of unprecedented crisis, able to enjoy the benefits of the alta on-line mentoring platform. It enables alta members to stay connected and to reach out for help and support when it is most needed.

The value of on-line mentoring has never been so important and it may also become a time for mentors and mentees to take stock of where they are in their careers and where they would like to go; a time for reflection and a re-assessment of where they are and where want to be. Mentoring is a great way to do that. It also gives mentors the opportunity to reach out to other women and even take on some additional mentoring, offering help to those women who most need their support. Mentors can therefore best be utilised via the alta platform, at a safe distance but offering comfort and advice to women who may be feeling especially isolated, vulnerable or lacking confidence if their roles have been furloughed. Or they may simply want to reach out and turn the current situation into a more positive one.

What successes has alta seen?

Alta is embedded into the Royal Aeronautical Society’s careers service and meeting its commitment to achieving gender equality throughout the industry. It is now part of the mentoring ‘offer’ of the founding partners (Airbus, The Royal Air Force and the Royal Aeronautical Society) and in addition, just over 300 individual women have already signed up as mentors and mentees from across the industry. A number of high-profile industry organisations have also joined (e.g. GKN, Safran Landing Systems, Collins Aerospace, Airbus) each making a financial contribution to the scheme, to support its associated member networking events and activities.

A number of additional high-profile organisations are also in the process of signing up. Alta is gradually bringing together competitor companies in the industry, as well as professional women who would otherwise not be in contact. A number of alta networking events have also been held since its launch, including a ‘speed mentoring’ session and a social event in London and an alta promotion/networking event at the UWE Bristol. The team feel it is also important to retain face-to-face mentoring and networking events when the current lockdown is lifted as this enables women to re-focus on their career and personal development as well as make new friends and contacts.

What challenges has alta come across?

During the research phase of the project, the project group, comprising academics and industry partners, operated mostly by consensus, but some challenges between the academic and industry worlds were inevitable. For example, one of the main challenges arose from assumptions around timeframes that needed to be negotiated. While the academic team were used to developing long-term projects, the business partners were used to implementing projects in a matter of months. There was also an on-going process by which participants came to understand – and shape – the role of the researchers within the project as a whole, as well as their own role as project co-owners. As it was the first time most participants engaged with this type of project, finding one’s own role within the project group was a process rather than a given. While the researchers were mostly accustomed to doing research on people, the other participants were accustomed to having people (e.g. consultants) provide a service for them.

Since its launch, the challenge has been to roll alta out to the industry, without saturating the market. The decision was taken to approach a small number of industry employers at a time and open up the scheme to their female professional employees, without inundating the system. This approach has proved fruitful, but it has meant that alta has grown more gradually than we would have liked. Other challenges have involved the initial pilot roll out of alta, to the founding partners, and realizing that more work needed to be done. For example, after piloting, some minor changes were made to the matching questions.

There is a need to gain further funding support for alta, going forward, which will prove to be more of a challenge due to the impact of Covid-19 on the sector. In spite of this, the aim is to maintain the platform, with its free access, to individual women and to encourage organisations within the industry to offer their financial support at a time when their female employees really need it. The alta platform is cost-effective and offers a safe and secure site for women to support one another.

Is now a good time to become a mentor or seek a mentor?

During the current pandemic, the restrictions on movement and new ways of working remotely have resulted in a physical disconnect from family, friends and colleagues. For those who already have an established mentoring relationship, this can be a crucial source of support, facilitating an opportunity for both mentor and mentee to discuss concerns and keep connected during this unprecedented time.

Any time is a good time to become or seek a mentor but in the current Covid-19 climate, it has never been so important. Mentoring via the alta platform is not only beneficial to the mentees who utilise it, but also for the development of mentors. Even more importantly, alta offers the opportunity to commence and continue safe mentoring, at a social distance, and to help to overcome feelings of isolation. It offers a space and time for reflection and the continued building of the alta community.

A huge thank you to Susan, Stella and Rosalind for their input in this blog. If you would like to find out more about the alta mentoring platform you can watch our webinar on the subject here, and visit the alta website here.


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.

Supporting women in male-dominated industries: Stella Warren

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1) What is your role at UWE Bristol and what projects have you been working on?

I am a Research Fellow in the Bristol Leadership and Change Centre with a background in applied social research. For over 20 years I have been involved in a wide range of research projects with colleagues in both marketing and HRM in the Bristol Business School. My expertise includes gender and inequality in organisations; the gender pay gap; women working in male-dominated industries, leadership and inclusion, social marketing and the understanding of psychological pathways for behaviour change in health. I am one of the founder members of alta, a mentoring scheme for professional women in aviation and aerospace. I also teach research methods and supervise student research projects at both undergraduate and postgraduate levels.

2) Why is supporting women in male-dominated industries important to you?

Europe has an increasingly ageing workforce and an ongoing reduction in the working age population. Alongside this is a skills shortage in some economically critical industries, especially engineering which could be addressed through the recruitment and retention of more women. For example, in the UK, women comprise just over 12% of engineers, compared with other EU countries, such as Latvia (30%) and Sweden (26%). Over the last few years my research has focused on the male-dominated aviation and aerospace industry in the UK where women make up just under 10% of engineers and 4% of pilots. One issue women face in this industry, and male-dominated industries in general, is a lack of support and progression, which can result in women leaving the industry, or not joining in the first place after four years at university, contributing to the phenomenon described as the ‘leaky pipeline’.

3) What is your top tip for women who want a career in a male-dominated industry?

Get yourself a mentor! Some organisations offer mentorship for graduates, or to ‘fast track’ particular employees, but if you find you’re not eligible for a formal mentoring scheme, find someone who is willing to mentor you informally, someone who is familiar with your industry, or maybe someone who has had experience of particular life stages, such as returning to work after career breaks …and if you’re in the aviation or aerospace industry, join alta – it’s free!

4) What is your top tip for businesses looking to recruit more women?

Take a look at your senior level employees, including board level. Are they representative of your workforce? It’s difficult to be what you can’t see. Supporting your female employees, through a mentoring scheme for example, can help them to feel valued, assist them in getting into leadership positions, and could go a long way toward encouraging women to return to the industry, increasing the retention rates of women in the industry. Also, be prepared to offer flexible or reduced hours working for all employees.

Watch our Future Impact Webinar recording on ‘Supporting women in male-dominated industries’ here.

Take advantage of degree apprenticeship SME funding with UWE Bristol

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15 May 2019 15:00 – 17:00

Register here

Are you interested in upskilling your workforce and does the cost of training seem a barrier to accessing local talent?

This event provides an opportunity to hear first-hand accounts from existing businesses who have apprentices at UWE, and how to make it work. In addition to this, we will be highlighting upcoming degree apprenticeships and further opportunities for your business to train your employees at degree level with the funding available.

UWE Bristol is the only university in the region with funding from the Education and Skills Funding Agency (ESFA) to support non-levy employers and has secured funding to support apprentices from Small and Medium-sized Enterprises (SMEs).

David Barrett, Director of Apprenticeships at UWE Bristol, will welcome you to the event and alongside the Degree Apprenticeship Hub team will be able to help identify your training needs and suitable solutions.
Spaces are limited for this event, so please register below.

If you have any questions about this event or degree apprenticeships please feel free to contact Ellen Parkes.

We are looking forward to meeting you and beginning the degree apprenticeship partnership journey.

The event takes place in the University Enterprise Zone on Frenchay Campus from 15:00 – 17:00.

Register here

BLCC Annual Review 2018-19

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We are delighted to share with you the Bristol Leadership and Change Centre Annual Review 2018-19.

This annual review has been compiled to give an insight into some of the key projects we have been involved in over the past 12 months, as well as new and emerging initiatives. Find out more about the events we run here at UWE Bristol Business School, some exciting conferences taking place later this year and our latest publications.

As ever, there is always much more that could be said but hopefully this will encourage you to find out more.

Contents

Applied research and external engagement                                         

Leadership and followership in a complex and changing world   

  • Building Leadership for Inclusion
  • The Transforming Construction Working Group (TCWG)

Cultures of leading and organising 

  • Assembling life in the Borderlands
  • Post Occupancy Evaluation of the Bristol Business School Building

Behaviour change and social influence    

  • ‘Revaluating’ Physical Activity in Schools
  • Taking forward Wheels, Skills and Thrills
  • End of life care and advanced care planning

Leadership and organisational learning and development

  • Empowering entrepreneurship of prisoners
  • Organization Development for Malaria Elimination
  • The Bristol Leadership Challenge
  • Leadership for Improving Frontline Talent

Teaching and Learning    

  • Leadership and management courses
  • Leadership and Management Degree Apprenticeships

Seminars and events  

  • Developing Leadership Capacity Conference
  • Becoming enterprising: a collaborative workshop
  • Coming up in June 2019- Unlocking Performance through Employee Engagement
  • The 18th International Studying Leadership Conference- December 2019

Publications 

  • Studying Leadership -Traditional and Critical Approaches (Second edition)
  • Origins of Organizing
  • Field Guide to Leadership Development
  • How Leaders Learn to Boost Creativity in Teams

Keep up to date with BLCC activities and news by following us on twitter @UWEleadership and reading the BLCC blog.

View the BLCC Annual Review 2018-19 online here.

Facebook Usage and Mental Health

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Originally posted on the Bristol Leadership and Change Centre blog here.

Dr Guru Prabhakar’s co-authored paper has been published in the International Journal of Information Management (Impact Factor: 4.5).

Facebook Usage and Mental Health: An empirical study of role of non-directional social comparisons in the UK.

This paper explores the relationship between the nature of Facebook usage, non-directional comparisons and depressive syndromes. The extant research on linkage between social media usage and mental health is inconclusive. There is small but significant causal linkage between increased non-directional social comparisons and depressive symptoms among the users.

This study hypothesizes that one of the mediating factors could be the social comparisons that Facebook users conduct whilst on the site. Dr Prabhakar’s paper therefore explores the link between non-directional social comparisons on Facebook, with increased depressive symptoms in 20-29 year olds.  In brief, a positive correlation was found between passive Facebook use and non-directional social comparisons.

The findings of the research have implications at three levels: individuals, firms and medical practitioners. The individuals shall benefit from the finding that passive Facebook usage would lead to increase in social comparison which in turn results in depressive symptoms. The passive usage behaviour includes logging into the sites and monitoring others’ profiles without any interaction. Over a period of time, this might result in depression.

The issues surrounding social media usage and mental health in the UK have also been highlighted recently in the media. For example, only a few days ago the BBC published the following article:

Mental health: UK could ban social media over suicide images, minister warns

Follow this link to view the full paper:

Nisar, T. , Prabhakar, G. , Ilavarasan, P. and Baabdullah, A. (2019) Facebook usage and mental health: An empirical study of role of non-directional social comparisons in the UK. International Journal of Information Management, 48. pp. 53-62. ISSN 0268-4012

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.