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How to join us

Vacancies for post-doctoral research staff

  • none at present

Prospective PhD students

  • I have no vacancies for graduate students to start in Autumn 2022. The next deadline for applications for a start date of Autumn 2023 will be December 2022.

Our research

eWorkLife research lies in the area of Human-Computer Interaction (HCI). Our research ambition is to systematically establish the relationships between the design of information and communications technologies (ICTs) and behavioural outcomes, and leverage these relationships in the design of novel interfaces and systems to support people in managing their work and wellbeing.

Remote work and digital self-regulation for effective productivity

New digital technology permits flexible working for many knowledge workers, a situation that became an overnight reality for millions of workers as a result of the COVID19 pandemic. It also enables 1.3M Britons to work in the ‘gig economy’, where workers find and arrange work on crowd platforms like Amazon Mechanical Turk and Uber.

Greater flexibility over when and where work is done comes at a cost: juggling work with other activities and obligations. Constant switching between these different spheres can be overwhelming. Studies in cognitive science, human-computer interaction, and social sciences have yielded insights into the costs and benefits of digital living. But integrating these disparate ideas to inform the design of practical training and support tools for people who struggle is a challenge.

A project in this area could:

  • Explore the impacts of digitally enabled flexible working on wellbeing and work-life boundary management by extending work by Cecchinato and Lascau and by the iWARDS project and EWORKLIFE.
  • Explore whether the myriad of apps promising to help us master our to-do lists and avoid digital distraction really work by extending work done by Borghouts
  • Remote working has lead to a rise in the number of virtual work teams and a simultaneous increase in isolation and the fraying of social bonds. Tools for leveraging the potential of virtual work teams are lacking. A project in this area could explore the feasibility and effectiveness of digital games in developing trust, a key component of high-functioning virtual work teams, building on research done by Ansgar Depping and Evelyn Tan

Smart and adaptive personalised soundscapes for managing workplace disruptions, enhancing productivity and wellbeing

The increase in working in shared spaces such as open-plan offices, coffee shops and busy homes means that external noise and distraction can be a significant detriment to people’s focus, leading to reduced productivity and increased stress. To counteract distractions in their environment, workers will often create “personal soundscapes”, be that music, nature sounds or simply noise cancellation, through headphones. Digital platforms extend and refine the power of music to regulate emotion, by making an almost-unlimited selection of music ubiquitously available to users. (This scale of choice can be problematic because it can make difficult the task of selecting, remembering or identifying music that could be appropriate.) Streaming platforms with playlists categorized by mood and activity provide personalized tools for “building microspheres of mood” and providing “pleasurable relief from ambient anxiety, boredom, and drudgery” (Anderson 2015). Digital music is used to manage employee and customer affect (Plourde 2017). Listening to nature sounds via a smartphone can create feelings of calm and manage stress and anxiety without distracting users from tasks (Newbold et al. 2017). However, listening to music or soundscapes may make it difficult to transition between different types of work and there is a danger that increased focus may reduce break-taking and lead to overworking. Moreover, some background environmental sounds need to be retained to enable collaboration and positive interactions with colleagues in a shared workspace; the sound of a group of colleagues chatting can signal an informal meeting or break.

A project in this area could:

  • Explore how to alter people’s personal soundscapes to help them manage the ambient sounds around them, promote focus on both “deep” and “shallow” work, and support wellbeing through break-taking. We need to understand how workers manage and use sounds from the ambient soundscape to support their workplace interactions while maintaining focus on their work tasks. The use of soundscapes may support both deep focus, by limiting distractions, and shallow focus, through negating boredom.
  • Investigate how, where, when and why people’s moods and emotions are shaped by music in daily life, and how people use different technologies to achieve this. We need to know how to adapt people’s personal soundscapes to transition between different kinds of focus and to breaks. We also need to know how these personalised soundscapes may impact not only one’s personal productivity and wellbeing but also how it can support interaction with others.

Digital coaches for productivity & well-being

It is commonly assumed that self-tracking (personal informatics) systems provide the opportunity for people to reflect on their data, leading to the identification of actionable insights that enable people to change their behaviour i.e. that they can help people form goals and provide them with opportunities to make positive change to their lifestyles. However, concerns over data privacy and a lack of data-analysis competence can lead to users disengaging resulting in difficulties in gaining insights from the data, meaning that these technologies often fail to lead to real behaviour change.

How else can technology support reflection and action to improve productivity and wellbeing? Conversational user interfaces such as chatbots, and customizable and flexible self tracking tools can support engagement and reflection, direct people to personalised content and deliver behaviour change interventions to improve mental wellbeing.

A project in this area could:

  • Explore how digital technologies can support work planning tasks by extending work by Ahmetoglu and Lascau.
  • Explore how digital technologies can facilitate engagement and reflection, and provide support for action taking in wellbeing settings, extending work by StawarzAyobi and Ptakauskaite.

Got your own idea for a PhD project?

  • I’m happy to supervise students who have their own idea if they align with my own research interests.

Funding

Who would you be working with?

Check out the people page to see current and former members of the team, and to see our current collaborators.

How to apply

Full details of the application process are online here

Help with your proposal

Know what kind of contribution you want to make:

Use Seven Research Contributions in HCI by Jacob O. Wobbrock to help you think about what you want to do.

How should you structure your proposal?

The following advice is based on Andrew Derrington’s PIPPIN magic formula for structuring a research proposal.

  1. Briefly state the PROMISE. What will your programme of research deliver?
  2. Say why it is IMPORTANT. What gap in the literature does it address? Or which applied problem does it aim to solve?
  3. State up to 3 sub-PROBLEMS. What are the things you need to find the answer to in order to deliver on your promise?
  4. Introduce your PROJECT. Briefly say what sort of approach you will take.
  5. Next decribe how you intend to IMPLEMENT your programme of research. Which methods will you use to find the answer to your 3 sub-problems.
  6. And finally, say what will happen NEXT. What is the potential impact of your project?