How We Work

Technology can make completing tasks in the modern workplace both easier and more complicated. Automation boosts productivity but at the potential cost of dividing attention and increasing stress. Real-time mobile communications collapse vast distances yet may undermine employee accountability and trust. Through the lens of informatics, these effects become clear, giving rise to remarkable technologies that put work in a whole new light.

Improving health outcomes

Business grows more data driven — and information dependent – every day. Amazon profiles its users to provide personalized service. Facebook sits atop a trove of information worth billions of dollars in advertising. The provision of healthcare relies entirely on the ability of databases to organize electronic medical records. In addition, the concept of “work” is no longer tied to a specific geographic location. Today, software development teams are spread around the world, and doctors diagnose and operate on patients from afar. The Department of Informatics provides a unique perspective on the entire spectrum of issues and opportunities that arise from data-driven, dispersed work teams. For example, department researchers are collaborating with state officials, pain specialists, primary care physicians and ER doctors to improve the design of the national Prescription Drug Monitoring Program database to help address the opioid crisis. Integrating PDMP information into electronic health records and personalizing the data will help physicians better understand the risks associated with prescribing certain medications to individual patients, simplifying their work and improving overall health outcomes.

Tackling workplace stress

Long-distance arrangements present numerous hurdles to efficient and effective collaboration, and they require the development of novel technologies and new ways of getting a job done. Yet while new technologies can increase collaboration and efficiency, they can also invade our privacy and overwhelm us with constant connectivity. Aiming to strike the right balance, researchers in the Department of Informatics are exploring ways to detect and reduce workplace stress. Combining data science techniques with wearable fitness devices and other environmental sensors to determine workplace stress, the researchers are prototyping mobile apps that use biofeedback with gamification to discretely intervene and promote relaxation in the workplace. And it is not all about personal wellbeing either: employers benefit from a healthier and more productive workforce.