Workplace Trends

Move Forward, Go Ahead, Try To Measure It

We know people sit too much, particularly while at work. But how do you encourage an active workplace and people to ‘sit less and move more’ and is there a link between the lack of movement and the office itself? Indoor Positioning Systems (GPS for inside buildings) may be a useful tool to investigate the relationship between peoples’ movement and the physical environment of the office. However, there are questions around the accuracy of these systems, how much data is needed, and whether the data can be combined with other workplace data.

This session at the upcoming Workplace Trends Research Summit with Dr Brett Pollard of Hassell, presents the results of a 4-year research project, undertaken in a real-world office, that investigated whether Indoor Positioning Systems can be used to capture office workers’ movement behaviour and if there is a relationship between these behaviours and features of their office. Brett will show best practice techniques for using high resolution data streams to evaluate workplaces and promising opportunities to help people move more at work and be part of an active workplace.

Many people, especially office workers, sit for much of the day, with potentially serious consequences for their heath. This lack of movement was exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic, especially amongst those working from home and continues even after returning to the office. In response, the message from health authorities around the world is clear; ‘sit less and move more’. However, the effects of many interventions aimed at helping office workers to move more and sit less, quickly fade, or result in sitting being replaced with prolonged standing, which also has serious health impacts. A crucial step in the development of more effective, longer tasting interventions could be to locate where in the office movement behaviours occur and investigate the influence the office environment has on these behaviours. However, commonly used devices such as accelerometers provide limited, if any, location information, while surveys and observations only provide brief glimpses of location and are open to recall, observer and other biases.

In cities across the world, Global Positioning System (GPS), Wi-Fi and mobile phone data are increasing being used to study utilisation, travel patterns, movement behaviour and their relationship with the urban environment. However, GPS doesn’t work well inside buildings, Wi-Fi lacks the required accuracy and people don’t always carry their mobile phones while in the office.

Research from various disciplines suggests that Indoor Positioning Systems (IPS) may be useful for investigating movement behaviours in the office environment. Yet little is known about the use of IPS in offices, including their accuracy, how they compare to accelerometers, data collection periods, and whether IPS data can be combined with spatial and environmental data.

Using data collected in a real-world office, this 4-year research project sought to answer two interrelated research questions: 1) Can IPS data be used to measure, analyse, and describe the movement behaviours of office workers in an open-plan office? and 2) Is there a relationship between these behaviours and the physical environment of the office?

The methods and results of this project provide much needed guidance for those considering the use of IPS and other high-resolution data to evaluate office workplaces and other indoor environments. The findings also show some unexpected links between office workers’ movement and features of their office. Links that could be harnessed to create offices that help people to move more while at work, creating an active workplace.

In this research project, six studies were conducted in a 1,220 m2 open-plan floor of a commercial office tower using multiple sources of high-resolution participant and environmental data. Data was collected from multiple groups of participants using an Indoor Positioning System and accelerometers while the environmental data were collected using Indoor Environment Quality sensors and a Spatial Metrics Calculator. The millions of individual data points were processed, analysed, and visualised using R, the Tidyverse and other R packages.

Find out the outcomes and recommendations from this project at the Workplace Trends Research Summit on 19 April 2023 in London and online.

Dr Brett Pollard, Senior Researcher, Hassell

Brett Pollard is a Senior Researcher at the multidisciplinary design practice, Hassell. He is passionate about creating healthy places that have a positive impact for people and the planet. Brett also believes in the power of research and collaboration to create innovative solutions for complex problems.

He holds a PhD from the Faculty of Medicine and Heath at the University of Sydney, a Master of Design Science and is a registered Architect and Landscape Architect. Brett also promotes the social and environmental benefits of cycling, and has clocked up over 30,000km riding to and from work.

Early bird rates for the Workplace Trends Research Summit on 19 April 2023 are currently available for a limited time only. For full information on the event click here, or to go direct to our booking page click here.