What Can Psychometrics Teach Us about Sitting Behaviour?

August 30, 2013

Earlier this month, I was in the Netherlands visiting some of our key partners. As always, there were some interesting conversations and I gained intriguing insights into new product developments and concepts. Amongst the many topics we explored, there was one particular comment that triggered a fascinating discussion and I have been thinking about its possible significance.

The conversation was about developments relating to the BMA Smart Chair, which I have blogged about elsewhere. The technology provides data about sitting behaviour, chair use and user habits. Sensors in the chair monitor how the user is sitting and, as well as buzzing to prompt the user to change poor postures, they also record posture data.

The latest development, Smart Cloud, polls user data from each chair at 15 minute intervals giving almost-real-time statistics about how the chair is being used.

BrainCogsA chance comment from one of the project team triggered my lateral thinking – and this blog!  He said that they were starting to anticipate sitting behaviour according to the character of the individual.  All users are trained to set up and use the chair before recording begins but “people in accounts”, for example, tend to follow the training and sit (and move) well, whilst “sales people” adopt all sorts of postures. For the purposes of this article, I have simplified the comments but let us assume for a moment that character types really do point us to sitting behaviour.  We can then see where that hypothesis might take us.

For nearly ten years, we have worked with The Colour Works to develop our recruitment, teamwork and customer relationships by understanding how different individuals think, behave and interact. As a result, I have a lot of experience, albeit on an unqualified level, of some of Carl Jung’s psychology concepts and behavioural dynamics. I know, for example, that different character types respond differently to particular types of communication.


Not one of our customers!

Following this thinking, we could use a psychometric assessment to identify the character types of chair users (and my guess is that this would not need to be too in-depth or sophisticated). With the data created, we could then tailor the posture training to suit not only their learning style and attitude but also their likely sitting behaviour. It is still just a hunch at the moment, but I believe this could be really significant.

I am now planning some practical case-study research into how this thinking could be optimised and used.  In the meantime, I would love to hear from anyone who knows of any previous work in this area or who agrees (or disagrees!) strongly with my thinking so far.

Health Spa Thinking in the Workplace

August 13, 2013

friends at the spaI have just returned from a week at a Health Spa and I have been ruminating about how much the rationale behind such establishments is moving into mainstream employment.

When I first visited Inglewood Health Hydro (now closed down) about 30 years ago, there were only a few “health farms” in existence and Champneys (the most established UK brand today) was just getting started. In those days, everyone came for a week and the diet for the first three days was a cup of hot water with a slice of lemon in it, 6 times a day. If that was just too demanding for you, you could “wimp out” by exchanging the lemon slice for orange!

At that time, some of the treatments still being offered today (Indian Head Massage, Reiki, Reflexology, Aromatherapy, Shiatsu) were considered by many to be rather “new age” and certainly, amongst my politically-incorrect twenty-something friends in the eighties, “a bit girlie”! Over the years, science and knowledge (and menu!) have evolved but the fundamental thinking has always been about a holistic approach to health and wellbeing.  By contrast, I think it is fair to say that this thinking was almost unknown in employment circles until comparatively recently.

Step forward to the present day and health spa guests are able to spend their visit selecting a combination of activities to help with reducing stress, losing weight, adapting diet, getting fitter or just “chilling out”. Since the emergence of the metrosexual, the activity and treatment programme is no longer really perceived as gender-biased, whether it is a hot stone massage or spin class, a yoga session or a facial.

As they address the issues of obesity and an ageing workforce, the most enlightened and well-resourced employers are also taking a holistic approach to health and wellbeing. Offering healthy eating initiatives, cycle purchase programmes, improving ergonomics, subsidising gym access or even slowing down the lifts to encourage use of the stairs – these initiatives all enhance the lives of those participating.

Of course, the biggest challenge is convincing those who are not tempted by such opportunities.

My ideal solution? In a perfect (unlimited budget) world, I think everyone should be given the opportunity to experience a week involving a couple of hours’ exercise and an hour’s massage every day, interspersed with some relaxation, a few other treatments and, of course, a healthy, nourishing and tasty diet.

I realise this is unrealistic so, in the meantime, I have started saving for my own next visit!

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