Archive for September, 2013

Office v. Open Plan

Offices.  Open Plan.  Always seem to be the bone of contention in the modern work environment.  I know which side of the fence (or should I say ‘door’) which I firmly sit on – even though I am perpetually on the other side (much to my chagrin).  Psyblog has rounded up a bunch of research in this area, presented here: http://www.spring.org.uk/2013/09/6-psych-tips-for-creating-the-ideal-workspace.php#utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+PsychologyBlog+%28PsyBlog%29 and below …


 

The perfect office space: beautiful curves, natural views and greenery.

There you are, sitting in the office, as usual, working away.

Look away from the screen for a moment and what do you see? How tidy is your desk? Is it an open-plan office? Is there a view out of the window? Are there any plants in sight? Did you personally choose the decorations near your desk?

All these factors and more have interesting psychological effects on how people work and how good they feel about it. So here are six tips, based on psychological research, for creating the ideal workspace.

1. Avoid open-plan (if you can)

Open-plan offices are supposed to encourage communication and team-spirit. At least, that’s the theory.

According to a survey which analysed data from 303 US office buildings, there’s some truth to the boost in communication, but no evidence it increases community spirit (Kim & Dear, 2012).

On top of this, the small benefits in communication are massively outweighed by the disadvantages of working in open-plan offices. Most have worked in these and know exactly what they are: noise, distraction and lack of privacy.

Unsurprisingly, people working in private offices are significantly happier with their working environment.

Not that most people have much choice about this either way and I guess many do their best to create their own sense of privacy using headphones, cubicles or hiding under the desk—whatever works.

2. The great messy/tidy desk debate

Does a messy desk help or hinder? Is the untidy desk really a sign of an untidy mind?

Well, research has found that order and disorder in the environment have different psychological consequences.

An experiment (described here) found that messy desks tended to encourage more creativity, while tidy desks encouraged conformity and general good moral behaviour.

So, both messy and untidy desks have their place, depending on the type of outcome you are looking for.

3. Curvy is beautiful

While we can’t use psychology to solve the messy/tidy debate decisively, we can with curvy versus plain old straight.

In a study by Dazkir and Read (2011), participants were shown some stimulated interiors with loads of straight edges and some with loads of curves.

People rated the curvy environments as making them feel more peaceful, calm and relaxed. So, curvy wins.

Just the same effect was found in another experiment which found people more likely to judge curvy spaces in general as more beautiful (Vartanian et al., 2013).

4. Room with a view (or a picture of a view)

Most of us know that a nice walk through nature has a calming effect on the mind. Indeed, there is a study showing that a walk in nature can boost memory by 20%.

But what about bringing a little nature inside the office space?

This has also been tested in a study by Berto (2005), who found that just viewing pictures of natural scenes had a restorative effect on cognitive function.

In fact, the benefits of viewing landscapes likely extend to reducing short-term stress as well as benefiting overall health and well-being (Verlarde & Teit, 2007).

5. Plants

If walks in nature and natural scenes can calm the mind, then surely plants should work as well?

Indeed they do, research by Raaaas et al. (2011) found that after being exposed to an office setting with four indoor plants, people’s attentional capacities were restored in comparison to the control condition, which had no plant-life.

6. Decorate

The lean, clean, efficient office space has been seen as the model environment in which to really get some work done.

But, like the tidy desk enthusiasts, the office minimalists are also taking a kicking in the research.

An experiment by Knight & Haslam (2010) looked at the effects of bare offices as compared with those either decorated by the experimenter or decorated by the people occupying them.

What effects, they wondered, would office decoration have on people’s well-being, their attention to detail, their management of information and so on.

The answer is that decorated offices won out over their bare counterparts. When people were empowered by being allowed to do their own decoration, they produced higher productivity and experienced enhanced well-being.

As one of their participants remarked, echoing, I’m sure, the feelings of many:

“…it’s so nice to come into an office with plants and pictures, it makes a place feel more homely, even a glass box [of an office] like this.”

 

 

 

 

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This is the Future for Healthcare

 

http://www.forbes.com/sites/bruceupbin/2013/02/08/ibms-watson-gets-its-first-piece-of-business-in-healthcare/

IBM‘s Watson, the Jeopardy!-playing supercomputer that scored one for Team Robot Overlord two years ago, just put out its shingle as a doctor or, more specifically, as a combination lung cancer specialist and expert in the arcane branch of health insurance known as utilization management.  Thanks to a business partnership among IBM, Memorial Sloan-Kettering and WellPoint, health care providers will now be able to tap Watson’s expertise in deciding how to treat patients.

Pricing was not disclosed, but hospitals and health care networks who sign up will be able to buy or rent Watson’s advice from the cloud or their own server. Over the past two years, IBM’s researchers have shrunk Watson from the size of a master bedroom to a pizza-box-sized server that can fit in any data center. And they improved its processing speed by 240%. Now what was once was a fun computer-science experiment in natural language processing is becoming a real business for IBM and Wellpoint, which is the exclusive reseller of the technology for now. Initial customers include WestMed Practice Partners and the Maine Center for Cancer Medicine & Blood Disorders.

Even before the Jeopardy! success, IBM began to hatch bigger plans for Watson and there are few areas more in need of supercharged decision-support than health care. Doctors and nurses are drowning in information with new research, genetic data, treatments and procedures popping up daily. They often don’t know what to do, and are guessing as well as they can. WellPoint’s chief medical officer Samuel Nussbaum said at the press event today that health care pros make accurate treatment decisions in lung cancer cases only 50% of the time (a shocker to me). Watson has shown the capability (on the utilization management side) of being accurate in its decisions 90% of the time, but is not near that level yet with cancer diagnoses. Patients, of course, need 100% accuracy, but making the leap from being right half the time to being right 9 out of ten times will be a huge boon for patient care. The best part is the potential for distributing the intelligence anywhere via the cloud, right at the point of care. This could be the most powerful tool we’ve seen to date for improving care and lowering everyone’s costs via standardization and reduced error. Chris Coburn, the Cleveland Clinic’s executive director for innovations, said at the event that he fully expects Watson to be widely deployed wherever the Clinic does business by 2020.

Watson has made huge strides in its medical prowess in two short years. In May 2011 IBM had already trained Watson to have the knowledge of a second-year medical student. In March 2012 IBM struck a deal with Memorial Sloan Kettering to ingest and analyze tens of thousands of the renowned cancer center’s patient records and histories, as well as all the publicly available clinical research it can get its hard drives on. Today Watson has analyzed 605,000 pieces of medical evidence, 2 million pages of text, 25,000 training cases and had the assist of 14,700 clinician hours fine-tuning its decision accuracy. Six “instances” of Watson have already been installed in the last 12 months.

Watson doesn’t tell a doctor what to do, it provides several options with degrees of confidence for each, along with the supporting evidence it used to arrive at the optimal treatment. Doctors can enter on an iPad a new bit of information in plain text, such as “my patient has blood in her phlegm,” and Watson within half a minute will come back with an entirely different drug regimen that suits the individual. IBM Watson’s business chief Manoj Saxena says that 90% of nurses in the field who use Watson now follow its guidance.

WellPoint will be using the system internally for its nurses and clinicians who handle utilization management, the process by which health insurers determine which treatments are fair, appropriate and efficient and, in turn, what it will cover. The company will also make the intelligence available as a Web portal to other providers as its Interactive Care Reviewer. It is targeting 1,600 providers by the end of 2013 and will split the revenue with IBM. Terms were undisclosed.

http://www.forbes.com/sites/bruceupbin/2013/02/08/ibms-watson-gets-its-first-piece-of-business-in-healthcare/

 

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