Should I have a change of scenery

– My work environment is loud and distracting, I can not concentrate.
– How bad is it on a scale from 1 to 10?
– Nine.
– Let´s get back to this when it is 10.

Sounds familiar? It is difficult to measure or quantify how the work environment affects motivation, creativity and wellbeing at work. How poor should things get before anyone takes action? On an individual level, getting ill might bring short term help. But doctors can do little beyond prescribing medication, sick leave or therapy.

The superior and company management are better set to take concrete steps to improve the work environment. There are atmosphere and wellbeing surveys, and strategy, vision and brainstorming sessions on how to remove obstacles from productive work. List of potential measures is boundless, from green walls to complete restructuring of the physical workplace and possibly also the organization and work itself.

Can you measure how you are doing at work?

Surveys are the most common way to measure emotional and cognitive load. Interviews, questionnaires and pushing smiley buttons are informative, but focus on a specific moment. Accuracy gets better when repeating surveys often, but subjective comment is always limited. It is affected by many things beside the question asked. A person might give a positive answer just because of being on a good mood or wanting to please the reader. A comment might turn negative, not because of the new tech at the meeting room, but because of being envious about the new car of a colleague.

Physiological measurement devices tell about stress and mental load, but different devices are not all fitting well to measure the knowledge worker´s life. Studying the brain activity would require a laboratory setting and thus be very far from the office. Heart rate measurement in various ways best tell about physical load, and with good algorithms also about recovery. The activity trackers do not describe mental load.

The Moodmetric smart ring is well suited to measure emotional and cognitive load. It measures electrodermal activity that is a phenomenon known in psychological research for over hundred years. The measurement results are available real time on a smartphone screen making it possible to follow own reactions in different places and situations.

A day of a knowledge worker consists of meetings, writing, jamming technology, idea creation, solving problems alone and in a group and challenges requiring fast actions. The Moodmetric measurement gives a stress level reading of 0–100 that is comparable between wearers. The data points out what creates the biggest mental workload. High numbers indicate stress or excitement, low numbers tell about winding down.

The measurement data is stored and can be easily shown to an occupational health specialist or worklife coach. It can for example be demonstrated that the Moodmetric level for an oversensitive person working in an open office is constantly at 100. This indicates extreme cognitive load which might have severe consequences when going on for a long time. If people are physically, mentally or emotionally uncomfortable in the office, they are unlikely to be successful or satisfied with their jobs. The employer understanding the importance of workplace wellbeing could in this example react on time and provide the person with a better suited place for work.

People are happier and more productive when they work in an environment that suits them. The issue is how to understand when the person is in an optimal space. Objective measurements should be taken to use by the side of the subjective ones. People need to be given enough power to affect their own work. Office moves and all the related changes must be managed effectively. Remember that all kinds of spaces are not ideal for everyone and leave room for individual solutions after the transition phase.

Moodmetric is involved in several projects to make knowledge work better. Real time measurement data tells without questionnaires, where the mind is at peace.