Workplace Design in the Digital Age

Lead Research Organisation: University College London
Department Name: Anthropology


I have not been asked to submit a full research proposal, the broad area of study has already been
defined - "Workplace Design in the Digital Age". Instead see below for thoughts regarding three
areas of the industry I am particularly interested in, which I would further discuss with the
supervisors from both UCL and AECOM prior to developing one (or indeed another idea altogether)
Firstly I am interested in the growing take-up of wearable technologies, and the notion of the
'biological CV'. This is the idea that in high-stress industries, wearable technologies may become
increasingly accepted, with real-time tracking of workers biological data allowing managers to be
aware of who is struggling beneath the surface. Think bankers on the trading floor, surgeons or
pilots. There is both an interest here in the area of wellbeing in the workplace (giving people breaks
when they need them), and in risk-prevention (blocking a traders account when he/she is
experiencing high stress levels, and is therefore are more likely to act irrationally). This could lead to
job applicants in these areas presenting interviewers with a biological rather than academic CV.
Secondly, during my time at AECOM I submitted a reasonably successful idea for the companies
'Global Challenge'. This was suggesting that large corporates such as AECOM should bring the
structure of the 'gig economy' inside, with the creation of an app allowing a colleague with the
necessary skills to offer their help to a colleague in need anywhere across the globe, in any
department. The idea being that a graphic designer with some time on their hands in Sydney could
lend a hand jazzing up a presentation for an accountant in Madrid, or a fire engineer in New York
could translate a report for a consultant in Abu Dhabi. I am interested therefore in how companies
can use apps and social media to use their workforces' full skillsets, and forge collaboration on the
level of the individual.
Thirdly, with growing numbers of people working remotely, collaborating with their teams and
clients virtually, I am interested in what this means about trust. Across the world their seems to be a
growing trend of people suspicious of what they read online, from 'fake news', to comments made
by bots, to identity theft, and a growing tendency for people to place less trust on what they don't
see with their own eyes. What does this mean then for remote collaboration, and what effect does
email and instant messenger technologies have on developing networks of trust across a


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