Research & Projects

We developed research projects based on the Healthy Workplaces Model and framework to investigate various aspects of the relationships among work and work environment factors, need satisfaction, and health, well-being, and productivity.

The Design of the New Hobby School of Public Affairs

Consultants: Cristina Banks, PhD, Alan Witt, PhD, Sally Augustin, PhD

The Interdisciplinary Center for Healthy Workplaces (ICHW) informs the design of the new Hobby School of Public Affairs (Hobby School) at the University of Houston under the direction of Dean Jim Granato. The project consists of two stages: pre-design data collection and design plan consultation.

Pre-Design Data Collection - Completed

Our contribution is to conduct investigations of members of the Hobby School community and key stakeholders in order to set the foundation for how the design of the new building will be guided by a clear focus on the Dean's vision and goals of the school. The purpose of the first step is to understand the vision of the School in its new form that will further inform how the building and its occupants will operate. The building structure, look, and feel will be designed to realize the School's vision by supporting occupants' work activities and goal achievement to the greatest extent possible. After the vision is understood, we will conduct a comprehensive job analysis to understand what work occupants of the building need to do to achieve their best work, including both work and non-work activities.

Design Plan Consultation - In Progress

Our contribution is to consult with and collaboratively decide on the architectural and interior design features of the new Hobby School building. The role of ICHW is to provide science-based consultation on design features that will support effectively the work activities of the Hobby School community consistent with the findings of Steps 1 & 2 of the Pre-Design Data Collection project completed by ICHW. The primary outcome of this project is a building design and construction plan, jointly created by ICHW and Facilities Servicse and Construction, that promotes the Dean's vision and goals of the School to the greatest extent possible within the given budget.

Workplace Health Assessment: Cross-cultural Comparisons between Norway and the United States

Key investigators: Siw Tone Innstrand, PhD, Christina Maslach, PhD, Cristina Banks, PhD, Kirsi Heikkilä-Tammi, PhD

This cross-cultural project has been awarded a Peder Sather Grant in the amount of $25,000 to develop an improved survey tool (a Healthy Workplace Index) as well as an integrated and comprehensive model of healthy universities. Having worked together on the “Exploring Basic Psychological Needs and Health Among Academics” project, Dr. Siw Tone Innstrand from NTNU, Dr. Christina Maslach and Dr. Cristina Banks from UC Berkeley will continue to collaborate to create a more general model for healthy and sustainable working, learning and living environments by incorporating previous knowledge and performing cross-cultural comparisons of Universities in Norway and the United States. The project will develop a revised and expanded measure, based on items from the Norwegian KIWEST survey and existing measures of the psychosocial needs identified by the HealthyWorkplaces’ prior student survey and focus group interviews. Data will be collected within three universities, in the US (UC-Berkeley), Norway (NTNU), and Finland (Univ. of Tampere) and combined into a shared database for statistical analyses. The resulting outcome of this study is expected to generate the first cross-cultural, comprehensive workplace health assessment that links physical and psychological environmental factors to health, well-being, and productivity.

Literature Review: Environmental Variables and Organizational Outcomes

Students who have worked with us on this project include: Max Pittman, Helen Lee

The built environment is a research area virtually unexplored within Industrial/Organizational (I/O) Psychology, despite having a major demonstrated influence on work behaviors. In this review, we focus on how the physical environment influences ten major I/O points of research: health and well-being, comfort, absenteeism, stress, burnout, performance, attention, creativity, satisfaction, and organizational commitment. Our review spans 40 years of research, but with a specific focus on the past ten years to illustrate the validity of the findings and theories discussed.

The Healthy Workplace and Gen Z: User Perceptions, Experiences, and Design Solutions

In this study, we aim to translate the seven "drivers" of need satisfaction (drivers are perceived conditions in workplaces that facilitate positive need satisfaction outcomes: privacy, flexibility, predictability, equity, comfort, connection, and safety) into correlates in the built environment; such an understanding would help to inform design recommendations for healthy and productive offices for knowledge workers. This research will be undertaken using a focus group methodology. Broadly speaking, we are interested in the following questions: How are workplaces currently experienced and perceived as productive engaging spaces for learning and creativity? What types of learning-related activities do members of Generation Z (described below) engage in on a daily basis, and what qualities or features of their respective workplaces support these activities?

Thus study builds on and extends previous research we conducted (see Designing for the Healthy Office) to understand more generally the relationship between workplace design and the drivers of worker well-being and productivity. In this study, we investigate the above questions within the context of a specific demographic group (Generation Z) and work context (knowledge work), the latter of which is predicated on learning, creativity, and knowledge transfer as essential components of employee productivity.