12/08/2020 • 3 min read

Transforming Space to Study Solutions

Haworth’s self-directed commitment to ethical research

by Haworth, Inc.

Our global headquarters was designed to be an inspirational, living laboratory. Visitors come from around the world to visualize and experience how to transform their work environments into spaces where people can thrive.

Upon entering the building, visitors can step into a light-filled atrium and see people working solo or in small group meetings on comfortable couches or chairs. Inside this three-story living lab is a dedicated area where Haworth researchers study behaviors in detail. Using highly controlled experiments, researchers generate insights into how people best work and collaborate. The results of this research are shared in white papers and academic journals.

“It’s really taking the essence of work down to a kind of microscopic level that we can see really what the influences are. We’re peeling back those general assumptions to understand how things work.”

Beck Johnson
Senior Research Specialist at Haworth

Ethical Research

People are often surprised that our research lab follows the same rules as a federally funded lab in terms of ethics regarding the privacy and informed consent of those who participate. Study subjects are informed about what they can expect, as well as any potential risks or benefits as a result of their participation.

Our members are not required to participate in research studies just because they work on-site for the company.

“Haworth has a review board that is very similar to an institutional review board that you would see at a university or a research institution,” said Beck, who helped develop the policy. “If you want to study something that involves Haworth members, then you have your project reviewed.”

What may be surprising about our Human Performance Lab is that it doesn’t look like a traditional lab with microscopes and white coats. The space transforms depending on what is being studied.

Biometric Tools

In one experiment, for example, the team studied how a panel at varying heights blocked visual distractions to see how well people could complete a task.

“We don’t use actual furniture but rather foam core or another material to create a barrier,” explained Beck. “It looks more like a maker space than a lab where things are bolted together. It’s a little messy.”

For example, in this study, the research team used biometric measurement devices to augment what they were observing, including:

  • Galvanic Skin Response Sensors—Typically put on the hands and wrists like electrodes, these sensors track the changes in sweat gland activity that are reflective of the intensity of a person’s emotional state.
  • Electroencephalogram or EEG—This device is used to assess brainwaves and cognitive states. Participants typically wear a helmet on their head that records the electrical activity of the brain.
  • Mobile Eye-tracking—Participants wear goggles with tiny cameras situated in front of each eye. On the bridge of the glasses is the “world camera.” The technology is used to map where and at what people are looking, and how long they are gazing in a particular spot.

The research rules and procedures for the Human Performance Lab are similar to what Beck Johnson adhered to when she worked in academia for 13 years. Checks and balances are required for research institutions receiving government funding for their work, but Haworth opted to voluntarily set up the same policy. It’s one more reason why our research is valued by customers.

“Everything we do is about supporting people to do great work,” says Beck. Watch this 1-minute video about Human Performance in workplace.


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