What impact will Big Data have on the office?

Kerr big data impact

Britain’s Healthiest Workplace survey 2017 has revealed that employees across all industries lose an average of 30.4 productive days every year due to underperforming in the office and taking time off as a result of ill health, OnRec reports.

But could Big Data analysis predict and prevent future problems?

As a recent article by The Conversation discusses, the emergence of new technology could do away with annual workplace surveys, potentially providing companies with more continuous measurement, instead of highlighting past problems at the end of the year.

However, it notes that the use of devices like fitness trackers can provide limited glimpses of an individual’s well-being and that “concentrating on individuals without also considering organisational factors is likely to be less effective in the long term.”

But there are ways of monitoring well-being risks as they emerge. In this digital age, employees provide vasts amount of data every single day as they work. Businesses could analyse data from log-in and log-off times, email traffic, use of work mobile devices, use of work-based systems and web access, to identify work patterns that relate to well-being.

For example, increasing workloads could be highlighted through rising working hours, fewer breaks, an increase in sick days, and logging in at the weekends or during holidays.

As well as needing the right tools to store and analyse quality data, the success of Big Data in the workplace will also be impacted by the organisational culture, in particular the legal and ethical considerations that have taken place before employee data is captured in this way.

The organisational culture surrounding Big Data could determine whether it has a positive or a negative effect on the company and its staff.

Positive

To create the right culture, businesses will need to focus on being transparent with employees about how and what data will be collected. Employers should involve their staff in producing a code of conduct or best-practice guidelines, agree what data will be stored and how it will be used, and ensure everyone in the company has the option of opting out of the programme.

This will ensure there is a culture of care and trust and that the solution will meet the needs of the workers, as well as the organisation.

Negative

When discussing the collection of data, there will inevitably be concerns surrounding a ‘Big Brother’ environment, which could lead to a culture of fear and distrust. And this will instantly create an environment that impacts employee well-being, even though the aim of collecting the data is to improve this area.

Such an atmosphere could be created by excluding employees from the data policy and not explaining why or how the data is being used — which could cause workers to worry that the data will be used to get rid of them, instead of providing insight into well-being — and will focus less on using the data to change the working environment.

While Big Data could have an influential role in improving well-being at work, it is clear that businesses need to first establish the right environment.

The experts at Kerr can help design a workplace that puts employee well-being first. Get in touch today to find out more.